Black Panther (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

Black Panther (2018)

Film: Now even though this is technically a rewatched film, I’m going to label it a To Watch Piler… why? Well I received a free ticket to see this at the cinema, and unfortunately it was a Mum’s and Bubs session, which means the house lights were on the whole time, so any scene that takes place at night is almost unseeable, especially when the lead cast member is wearing all black!

Black Panther is one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, which all join together in a story ten years in the making which will all be resolved in 2019’s sequel to Avengers: Infinity War. Black Panther has been an important character in the Marvel comics universe since his first appearance in Fantastic Four comics in 1966, and has been an important member of not just that team, but also the Avengers as well as having several impressive comics series’ himself.

The film was directed by Creed director Ryan Coogler from a script that he co-wrote with Amber Lake’s Joe Robert Cole, and what they created caused a massive bag of excitement for its positive role models.

Black Panther tells of the country of Wakanda’s new King T’challa (Chadwick Boseman), who has ascended to the throne after the death of his father (in the film Captain America: Civil War) but the road to his regency isn’t smooth.

First, whilst being watched by his people, including his mother Ramona (Angela Bassett), potential wife Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and sister Shuri (Letitia Wright – the real revelation of this film), he must prove his worth as a leader in battle, but all the while, machinations are happening outside of Wakanda that may still threaten his rule.

A man calling himself Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) has teamed up with arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) but what is there nefarious plan, and how does it effect the rule of the Black Panther.

This film initially reminds me of a superheroic version of a James Bond film, much like Captain America: The Winter Soldier did. It has exotic locations, improbable inventions and a wry sense of humour as Boseman performs his African James Bond alongside Wright’s ‘Q’ and Forrest Whitaker’s ‘M’ as they face off against an eccentric bad guy with a sidekick with a bizarre weapon, not to mention a bevy of women, all of whom are defined by their skill, brains and asskickery rather than their looks.

The design of the film is magnificent: quite possibly the best a Marvel film to date has to offer, and the colours jump from the screen and are a nice tribute to the beauty of many African cultures, but occasionally the CGI effects fail. Ok, they don’t actually fail, but there is a standard of effects that some blockbuster films seem to think is ok which occasionally don’t sit right, due to the physics of gravity or the extension limits the human body has. I get it’s a movie based on a comic, but if you are selling it as real, it shouldn’t look like a comic. Also, there is some CGI animals that just don’t look quite right.

Ultimately, the one thing I find about this film that doesn’t work is it’s just an introduction. The Black Panther storyline is reminiscent of the first Iron Man’s story of the rights of ascension in a technological world, and serves really as just frosting on the cake that is actually film that could be called Wakanda: A Prelude to Infinity War, as it sets up one of the battlefields for the next Avengers movie, just as the first Thor and Captain America films were really just a way of getting the punter ready for a more complete film experience with the first Avengers film.

In saying that though, I don’t want to discount the amazing work it did with having a sympathetic bad guy and a great set of role models for various groups that in pop culture don’t get as many as the white male population.

This film, even though it is a fun film, in 100% sticking to the Marvel formula so if you are expecting TOO much different from the stations that the hype train stopped at whilst this film was at the cinemas, you will be disappointed.

Score: ***

Format: This film is presented in an impeccable 16:9 image with a matching DTS-HDMA 7.1 audio which is absolutely amazing.

Score: *****

Extras: As one expects with Marvel films, they have a pack of extras ready to role, some about this film, and others to advertise other product, but why wouldn’t you do that with a captured audience?

There is a Featurettes section which contains 4 parts: Crowning a New King which looks at the character of Black Panther and his world, The Hidden Kingdom Revealed is an introduction to the fictional African nation of Wakanda and making it a ‘real’ place, The Warriors Within looks at the actors who play the various Wakandans throughout the film and finally, Wakanda Tevealed: Exploring the Technology looks at the cool toys in the film.

The usual Marvel Gag Reel is present which seem to get less and less funny each time, as the actors seem to almost be acting the gags.

There is four Deleted Scenes which, like the rest of the film, are quite charming, and honestly, whilst I normally think most deleted scenes are better off deleted, there are a couple of bits here that have some heart that would not have hurt the film at all.

From Page to Screen: A Roundtable Discussion is a really cool look at all the writers of the character, including not just the movie creators, but also comic writers like Don McGregor, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Christopher Priest.

Marvel Studios:The First Ten Years – Connecting The Universe is the first of the Marvel sales pitches on this disc of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There is no doubt it is extraordinarily clever and it is pretty cool when any series of films have a linking world, like Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse and more importantly, Universal’s monster movies of the 40s that had multiple crossovers in the form of House of Dracula and House of Frankenstein. This is a fine albeit short celebration and for a moment, you look at all these separate movies as one big story, rather than a series of films with a, to date, continually unresolved plot device as it’s connective tissue.

Exclusive Sneak Peek at Antman and the Wasp is another one of those aforementioned self-promotional pieces that shows off the next attraction coming to the ci emas, in this case, Antman and the Wasp. The first movie was so charming that I actually am really looking more forward to this that either the sequel to Infinity War or my beloved Captain Marvel movie (in which I believe the main character has been miscast, but prove me wrong, Marvel).

There is also an Audio Commentary by writer/ director Coogler and production designer Hannah Beachler is fascinating as it doesn’t talk about the usual writer/ director stuff, it also explores the design of the entire world of Black Panther and Wakanda.

Score: *****

WISIA: As it is a part of the greater world of the Marvel movies, I will watch it again, but it’s not a top tier Marvel movie for me.

Comic Review: Secret Avengers Volume 1: Mission to Mars

Secret Avengers 1

You’re going to get an idea of where this review is going by my very next sentence…

I REALLY wanted to like this.

This collection combines the first five issues of Secret Avengers, which is an undercover, covert Avengers group. This comic took place right after the amazing Death of Captain America storyline which really shook up the Marvel status quo, as we now had the Winter Soldier as Captain America, and Steve Rogers (Cap’s alter ego) left without that role.

The newly christened ‘The Captain’ in charge of the aforementioned group, which confusingly consisted of Black Widow, the Beast, War Machine, Nova, Valkyrie, Ant-man (not Hank, and not Scott but some other guy) and Moon Night.

In this story, the Secret Avengers find themselves on a … yep, Mission to Mars… in pursuit of the Serpent Crown, a powerful icon that would be deadly in the wrong hands. Unfortunately, something called The Shadow Council is also in pursuit, the weird thing is though, is the guy in charge looks like a certain Nick Fury… and what happens when one of the members of the Avengers turns against them…

This was written by Ed Brubaker, who wrote the Death of Cap storyline and is an amazing writer, but it seems that this comic was a massive misstep. Moon Knight and Black Widow are completely wasted and by sticking them on Mars, are outclassed., and the new Ant-man is, well, a jerk.

The art of issues 1 to 4 is by Mike Deodato Jr , and this is an artist who just gets better every time I see his work. If you look back at his early art, he seemed little more than a post-Image comics stooge whos talent lay in his ability to emulate them, with his art looking like the unwanted child of a marriage between Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld’s early work, but now it’s leaning towards the great John Buscema.

The fifth issue has art by David Aja, who is a spectacular artist who worked on the fantastic Hawkeye: My Life As A Weapon with support from Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano.

The reviewed copy of this comic is a really nice hardcover volume from Marvel, which in addition to the five issues has a bunch of alternate covers.

Visually this story is a treat but the mix of characters is like eating chocolate and fried cheese: by themselves nice, but together, just wrong, and the story suffers for it.

SCORE: ***

 

Black Widow: The Name of the Rose comic review

BLACK WIDOW: THE NAME OF THE ROSE



I have always been more of a fan of the low or no powered superheroes who tell low key crime stories: I like my heroes grounded a little. Subsequently, I really like characters like Batman, The Punisher, Captain America, Robin, Catwoman and their ilk… and yes, I know some of them are ‘enhanced’ but those with powers still have a gravity effect to them: no flying, invisibility, they can’t burst into flames etc etc. At the end of the day, if you fire enough bullets into these guys, they are going to die, and I like that sense of vulnerability. Don’t get me wrong, the galaxy spanning stories of Superman or Silver Surfer can be exiting, but I like to think that these guys are defending my neighbourhood, or country.

In amongst these characters is the wonderful Black Widow, aka Natasha Romanov, whom I have been a fan of since I first saw her in Daredevil comics in the 70s when she was ol’ Hornhead’s main squeeze. Thankfully since those days of the female hero not being of any use unless they are the girlfriend of a hero are gone, and the Widow has become a major player in the Marvel Universe, not just due to the many mini-series’ and regular series’ that have been released, but also due to the excellent portrayal by Scarlett Johansson in the various Marvel movies.
*sigh* Scarlett…
This review is of the hardcover collection of the story The Name of the Rose, which collects Black Widow Issues 1 to 5, with some additional bits and pieces from Enter the Heroic Age issue 1.

Story: There is essentially two stories in this collection. The first, Kelly Sue DeConnick’s story Coppélia, is little more than a throwaway introduction to the character, which name drops Captain America and displays an ineffective origin of Black Widow in 8 pages, told through actions rather than rehashing the story we have seen a hundred times over, but essentially, if you don’t know her origin, it appears a little vague. It’s generic, and the art does it no favours, but more on that later.

The main story, The Name of the Rose, is written by New York Times best selling fantasy author Marjorie Liu, who won a comics industry Eisner award for her work on Image Comics’ Monstress.

The story tells of Black Widow meeting up with an old acquaintance name Black Rose, but after the meeting she is assaulted and cut open. She is returned to Avengers HQ where Tony Stark (Iron Man), Logan (Wolverine) and James Buchanan Barnes (the Winter Soldier) watch over her whilst she recovers, but soon, rumours start spreading about Black Widow having files on all her friends, and she she will eventually use them to destroy their lives. Is this true, or is she being manipulated by someone from her past…

It feels to me like this story is one that writers only lend to heroines: the story ends up being about love, and loves lost, instead of just telling a good spy story. It seems to me it’s rare that a spy story would have a tender core to it, and for me it doesn’t quite sit well with Black Widow, who, let’s face it, is a reformed killer.

To her credit though, Widow is shown as a scrappy fighter with a streak of cruelty that leans her more towards the bad guy side of the Marvel Universe than the whit hat brigade!

It’s well written, but I would have preferred a straight spy story a lá James Bond or some of the Bendis/ Maleev stories that in recent years have been told through Daredevil or even the Death of Captain America tale delivered by Ed Brubaker.

The last few pages of this book are dedicated to an illustrated text history of Black Widow as well, me the alternate covers the the individual issues of the comic that came out on release.

Score: ***

Art: Spanish artist Daniel Acuña’s art in this is amazing, as his work mostly is. His work looks like it is done with something like Copic markers and has very few black lines on the interior surface of a subject, instead using darker shades of the main colour to provide those lines. He sites John Romita and Jack Kirby as influences and they are definitely present, along with Hal Foster and Kevin Nolan. 

This being a more realistic spy story than a straight up superhero one, his style suits it perfectly and is a pleasure to look at. A special note has to go to the cover of this collection as the Widow looks a little like Kat Von D, upon whom I have somewhat of a crush.

Unfortunately, the introduction to the story, from the aforementioned ‘Enter the Heroic Age’ comic, is done by far lesser artists Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson, provide a lacklustre first few pages to this collection. Their artistic efforts feel little more than a by-the-numbers ‘how to draw comics’ experience. If you overlook those pages, you’ll certainly enjoy the rest. The whole book loses a point for their efforts.

Score: ****

WIRIA: It’s a cool spy story, with only a touch of superheroics in it, illustrated beautifully… you’ll return to this for sure!