Review: Black Panther

 

Well, it’s already smashing records so it doesn’t really matter  what I say about it, not that that’s going to stop me…

Black Panther is possibly the most hyped super-hero flick of all time, and remembering the circus that travelled with Wonder Woman, that’s really taken some doing. That level of exposure risks disappointment, especially amongst fans of the Black Panther comic, as well as drawing the ire from those who may be less than comfortable with the ideas it represents (a hidden African nation that resisted slavery and exploitation, and so prospers to become the most socially and technologically advanced civilisation on Earth) It’s never going to please everyone, so Ryan Coogler did what all good directors do: he read the story, understood what it was about, and then went on to deliver something that was as true to original as he could manage.

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Sure it was missing a few bits (there was little mention of T’Challa’s intelligence, which is as least as important as his physical prowess), but the story was tight and the action was evenly paced. The dialogue was nothing to write home about, but it did have those nice humourous touches that Disney/Marvel do so well. The special effects were top notch and the setting were amazing; a lot of work has gone into imagining a world that blends African tradition with hi-tech wizardry, and they pulled it off beautifully.

Performances were creditable all round, though I don’t think anyone stood out in particular for me, which is probably not a bad thing when I think about it.  The African accents were … passable, but the occasional ‘Americanism’ crept in here and there, which sort of took you out of the moment. Annoying, but infrequent enough that they aren’t really going to ruin anyone’s enjoyment of the movie.

Most super-hero films avoid making any sort of political comment; Black Panther dives straight in, and for that reason I’m expecting it to see a lot of flack in a few weeks when the hype’s died down. DC tried to go political with the somewhat hastily prepared Black Lightning, exploring the plight of black people in city ghettos, but avoiding any exploration of the underlying causes.  Black Panther doesn’t shy away, and that’s commendable. I’m not sure it represents a bold new direction for the genre, but it’s certainly the most entertaining and memorable super hero flick to date.

I’m going to give it ten out ten.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Sequels are hard; sequels to surprise hits are even harder. You weren’t expecting to knock it out the park, so now you have to look carefully at your first outing and try to find what made it so successful. The Kingsman crew looked hard, found the formula and delivered pretty much the same movie with a different cast. Don’t get me wrong: I really enjoyed it, but it did follow the same old comic-spy plot that you found in the original Casino Royale (not the Daniel Craig one; the other one … with Peter Sellers and David Niven). The car chases are outlandish, the villains are as mad as box of frogs, and the fight scenes are breathlessly over the top. I don’t think I’ll be giving too much a way if I do a bit of scene setting:
So, a year after our hero, Eggsy (ably played by Aaron Egerton), joined the Kingsman Agency, the whole outfit is wiped out by a psychopathic drug lord (well, she would be, wouldn’t she). Eggsy and the only other survivor, Merlin, seek the help of the their American counterparts, the Statesman organisation (same idea, different hats) to bring down the drug lord and save the world from … well, you’ll work it out when you see it.
As a “raining all bloody Saturday” kind of a movie, it works. It’s entertaining, it’s funny, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. I think it’s what you’d call a bit of a romp. The plot was predictable, the acting was up to scratch, though no one’s going to get an oscar out of it. I think that Julianne Moore gave a creditable performance as the villain, so it’s a shame she didn’t get more screen time; likewise, Halle Berry was woefully underused. They should have at least got her out of the office once in a while. And I am glad they found a way to resurrect Colin Firth.

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The whole Statesmen thing didn’t really seem to go anywhere though, and I did wonder why they were there.
Still, what made the film (and this was probably the plan) was the action sequences. The choreography was flawless and they were fantastically unbelievable. Well, worth seeing if you like that sort of thing (which I do).
But aside from that, I don’t think there was too much here to write home about.
I’m going to give it six and half out of ten. The action sequences saved it.

Film review: The Dark Tower

I’m not much of a horror lit fan, so I don’t read much Stephen King, but now that I’ve seen The Dark Tower, that’s going to change.  I mean, it’s not as if he doesn’t write other stuff.

The movie is a bit difficult to lump into one particular genre: it’s sort of like High Noon, Lord of the Rings, Excalibur and Stargate all rolled into one; quite a feat considering it’s a shade over two hours long. Idris Elba plays Roland, the last of a band of gunslingers charged with protecting the Dark Tower, a rarely-seen edifice that stands at the centre of the universe and protects it from the evils that lie beyond. Matthew McConaughey plays Walter (yes, you read that right), the despicable and sharply-dressed sorcerer who wants to destroy the Dark Tower and so release untold horrors into the cosmos. Into this eternal struggle comes Jake, a boy with vast psychic powers, more than enough to destroy the Dark Tower, or save it.

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Get the gist? Good; it’s not that different from a lot of things you’ve seen before, so it’s not so much the story as the way it’s told, and this film tells it brilliantly.

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