“You Are A Good Man, With A Good Heart. And It’s Hard For A Good Man To Be A King…”
Whilst it is now common practice for Disney to hire critically acclaimed and subversive filmmakers in the ilk of Taika Waititi, Shane Black and the Russo Brothers to helm tangent releases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe post The Avengers, the decision to choose Ryan Coogler as the leading light behind Black Panther, the eighteenth release within the ever-expanding superhero franchise, is a real stroke of genius, a talented filmmaker with the likes of Fruitvale Station and Creed in his back pocket and most importantly, a director who knows full well the balance between script and spectacle when given the chance to helm pedigree franchises and big budget releases. Utilising an astounding array of raw talent to convey the first standalone depiction of the superhero widely recognised as the first character of African descent in American mainstream comics, Coogler’s latest stars Chadwick Boseman (Marshall) as T’Challa, the titular king of the fictional East African nation of Wakanda, who reprises his scene-stealing appearance in Captain America: Civil War as he returns to his homeland in order to address the ceremonial tradition of becoming his country’s ruler after the untimely passing of his father, King T’Chaka, but with the emergence of a long lost royalty successor, T’Challa’s reign is immediately threatened and challenged, resulting in the possibility of detrimental effects to the outside world that the Wakandan way of life has always refused to become an integral part of.
With eye-widening spectacle in abundance, a successful blend of drama and humour, and a cultural exploration unlike any world before it, Coogler’s latest is one of the most fist-pumping releases in the MCU, a joyous ride of popcorn entertainment with an array of substance and depth, with Coogler’s movie undeniably the most thematic based superhero release since Nolan’s 2008 masterpiece, The Dark Knight. Working on a script by both Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, Black Panther explores a wide range of captivating ideas, beginning with T’Challa’s sudden rise to power and moving through notions of power sharing, the isolation from the perils of the outside world and with the introduction of Michael B. Jordan’s (Creed) physically imposing, Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, societal comments regarding the empowerment of the powerless in a world overran with tyrannical rulings and unjust treatment of the voiceless. Celebrating the world of Wakanda in gorgeously designed detail after only being passingly mentioned throughout previous Marvel releases, the visual splendour of the country and the exploration of otherworldly technology is thoroughly entertaining and indulgent, with Letitia Wright’s (Black Mirror) Princess Shuri essentially a hipper, suavely comical Q to Boseman’s Bond-esque hero figure, with a superbly measured action set piece in South Korea demonstrating the blockbuster scale of tools the people of Wakanda are used to and reluctant to let go.
With Andy Serkis (War For The Planet Of The Apes) fleshing out his role as the ruthless arms dealer and all round nasty piece of work, Ulysses Klaue, after his minor stint in Age of Ultron, the character’s hatred of Wakandan privilege and greedy need for the power of vibranium, the strongest metal on Earth and the core of Captain America’s indestructible shield, allows for the introduction of Jordan’s Killmonger, the primary antagonist of the piece whose hidden familial ties and lust for revenge sets him on a path of destruction and idealistic plans of world changing possibilities, a narrative point which aside from failing to adhere to the bog standard cliche of world domination is too a scheme which remarkably does seem inherently understandable, offering a conflicting battle between who and what is truly on the side of what can be deemed sufficiently right or wrong. With the CGI at times a tad iffy and an opening twenty minutes which somewhat disjoints the pacing of the action which follows, Black Panther is no means a superhero masterpiece, but with an organic cultural sensibility which opens the door to engaging and overly exciting new characters and a empowered outlook on the Wakandan way of life in which the most brave and bad-ass just happens to be led by The Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira as Okoye, an actress so brilliant in last year’s All Eyez on Me, Coogler’s addition to the Marvel franchise is a riveting and overly cool action adventure, and with Infinity War to come, 2018’s superhero calendar has started with a superhero sized bang.
Overall Score: 8/10
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Have we possibly found the worst film of 2016? Even more so, the worst film of the decade? Gods of Egypt, the latest creation from the mind of Alex Proyas, director of cult classics such as The Crow and Dark City, is indeed a shocker of a movie, a film so inherently terrible, it makes last years’ Jupiter Ascending look like The Godfather, and begs the question how on earth such a flop ever managed to get past the cutting room. With a 140 million dollar treasure chest at his disposal, Alex Proyas has succeeded in presenting the biggest waste of a budget since Newcastle United in the January transfer window and in a time where big budget movies are the norm in gaining financial gain, Gods of Egypt may hopefully emphasise the notion that bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better. Want to know how bad Gods of Egypt is? Gerard Butler is the best thing in it. That’s right. Gerard frickin’ Butler.
In regards to the plot, of which is somewhat ludicrous and inherently stupid, after murdering his brother and taking the reign of power across Egypt, Gerard Butler’s Set banishes nephew Horus, played in an awfully camp fashion by Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, whom is regarded as the rightful heir to the throne of power but is left blind and abandoned in the wastelands, unable to seek revenge and claim back his rightful title as king. After the intervention of a mortal however, Horus is given the opportunity he seeks and sets about reclaiming the throne of Egypt and to return his lands to peace, finally ending the reign of his power-hungry uncle. Think Exodus: Gods and Kings meets Barney the Dinosaur and that would be a telling review of Gods of Egypt, a film so flimsy, so ear-cripplingly awful when it comes to dialogue, and a film so woodenly acted it could be mistaken for a foreign ad on TV where its’ main star in the form of Coster-Waldau is so out of his depth it begs belief why on earth he doesn’t just stick to Game of Thrones, a series in which he is very good in yet when placed upon the big screen, gets acted out of the park by the one-man shouting army that is Gerard Butler. It just makes me cringe thinking about it.
If Coster-Waldau could be forgiven in any sense, then Chadwick Boseman most certainly cannot, with his performance so unintentionally both terrible and laughable at the same time, it would be hard not to see him be invited to the Razzies come awards season. It is perhaps the single worst performance I have ever seen in a movie, a performance so cringey, it gave me the shakes every time he spoke, particularly in one scene where there is not one, but thousands of Chadwick Boseman’s, all of whom are utterly, utterly terrible. Aside from the masterclass of shoddy acting, the effects are borderline offensive, something you could expect on a Nintendo 64 cartridge, the jokes fall flat on every occasion, and worst of all, everyone in my screening knew how bad it was. Looking around during the film’s unholy two-hour run-time, I began to take bets on who would leave first with myself being 11/10 on to leave before the credits rolled. Gods of Egypt isn’t just bad, it’s a monstrosity of blockbuster proportions and easily the worst film of the year so far. By. A. Mile.