Movie Review: Isle of Dogs

Wes Anderson. Dogs. Stop-motion. That is all you need.

After the dog population in the city of Megasaki reaches its peak, the mayor orders the deportation of all dogs to a waste disposal island. Desperate to see his dog Spots again Atari, the adoptive son of the mayor, flies to the island to get him back.

I have said before that execution informs originality. We have reached a point in storytelling where all narratives are essentially repeats of each other. The way we are able to differentiate one story from another is how we tell them. Christopher Nolan put a realistic crime-drama spin on Batman. Son of Saul was a Holocaust story shot entirely from behind a man in Auschwitz. Sicario was a Drug War thriller in the guise of a suspenseful horror movie. All these stories have been told before, but we remember them because of how they were told.

It is impossible to forget a Wes Anderson film. Even if you hate the guy, his work will remain at the back of your mind because his style is so unique. His precision and attention to detail is unparalleled. The sets, cinematography, and editing have this character that defines Anderson as an artist, and it has been there since his rise to notoriety. Moonrise Kingdom, Royal Tenenbaums, and Grand Budapest are wholly distinct and you will never forget them.

Isle of Dogs is Anderson on steroids. Given the medium, he has complete control of how everything looks including the props, characters, and sets. His technical signatures make the transition with plenty of tableaus, wide static shots, and humorous editing all present and accounted for. Isle is pure auteur cinema and the only limit was Anderson’s imagination.

More importantly, the movie is entirely handcrafted. Stop-motion is the pinnacle of cinematic art. One minute of footage can take hours of coordination and posing by animators and Isle is 101 minutes long. The faces of the characters, which were hand sculpted, had to be changed for every expression and the individual strands of dog hair had to be pressed in. The art form alone makes Isle worth your consideration, as well as any other stop-motion film. Seriously, give these movies your attention.

Again: Wes Anderson. Dogs. Stop-motion. Go see it. However, Yoko Ono voices a minor character. If you like the Beatles, that may be a problem.

Muh book:

http://a.co/0KBwIxA

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Movie Review: Ready Player One

I remain of the opinion that nostalgia is creative poison. It certainly has a place in the creative process, but the constant celebration and veneration of the past leads to artistic stagnation. I get it; the 80s were awesome unless you had AIDS or a mental illness. Ronny Reagan was in office, all the best movies were coming out, and pop music was tolerable. However, the more you dwell on the past, the less you grow and evolve. Like Deadpool and Robot Chicken the joke gets old really, really fast. There is no better tool for inspiration than nostalgia, but if you use it as a crutch for creativity, you are not creating a damn thing.

When I first heard about the book Ready Player One (RPO), it sounded like a perfect nightmare, and that was before I found out Will Wheaton was apparently a character. Seriously, the guy is more hated than Voyager and Discovery combined, and that is not taking into account his opinion of gun owners. That alone kept me light-years away from the story, more so as I learned about the narrative over time. I resigned myself to ignore the film adaptation until I heard Steven Spielberg was directing. After that, there was nothing that could keep me from buying a ticket.

The story of RPO is Willy Wonka meets Tron. There is this massively multiplayer online world called the Oasis that everyone plays and they are competing to find a set of three keys to gain control of the world and the fortune of its creator Halliday, played by Mark Rylance. The clues to complete the challenges and acquire the keys are in Halliday’s past and Wade, played by Tye Sheridan, has been searching for the solutions for five years. At the same time, the IOI Corporation is sending its employees into the Oasis with the goal of capitalizing on the game’s economic and societal value.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover RPO was not a laborious cringe-fest like the book. The celebration of nostalgia is there in many forms, but in ways that work for the story. Character avatars, props, and background elements play a role in the narrative. Everyone is obsessed with the past because they do not like the present and the story is more or less about how Halliday kept himself grounded in the past. Because he was incapable of interacting with others he created a world built on the foundation of nostalgia to interact with like-minded individuals. All the references are in service to this idea and do not weigh down narrative as pointless window dressing.

The only problem is Halliday’s story is a subplot. The challenges bring to light his character, but not enough is explored. The most we get is he has a one giant regret and acknowledges his personal shortcomings. There is also backstory of Halliday forcing his only friend out of the company and we do not get any more information beyond characters talking about it. That is where RPO caught my interest and it went nowhere. Exploring Halliday’s character would have given the film more meaning beyond little hints of what it is trying to say.

The rest of the movie is standard Spielberg stuff. You have the hero down on his luck, the comical super villain, and all the schmaltz that has come to characterize his work since Third Kind. You cannot deny his films are fun and RPO is a relative delight to watch. I say relative because it does not feel very fun all throughout.

The opening race challenge is a perfect example. It should have been exciting, but the lack of score drained the life from the scene. Intense visuals can only get you so far. It is not just a lack of score, but also a lack of soul. All this cool stuff is happening on screen and I did not feel anything. Maybe it is just me and my hatred for nostalgia, but there was a moment at the climax that should have made me happy beyond comprehension and I felt nothing. All this cool stuff on screen and it amounts to things happening.

It should be noted that the special effects and animation are well done. Motion capture can be difficult to translate given how humans do not move at 24 frames a second. My one gripe is the visual style makes everything and everyone look the same. It can be difficult to tell characters apart because they look like the same humanoid with different physical features. The art styles that define certain characters in their respective titles were ignored outright and you could not tell them apart. Tracer is not supposed to look like Chun-Li, neither is Jim Raynor and Master Chief. It would have been visually interesting if they looked like they do elsewhere.

So, Ready Player One is difficult to recommend. Though I struggled to find the emotional value of the film, I did not hate the experience. It was cool seeing characters I recognized crammed into one movie and it was not a nostalgia cringe-fest like the latter seasons of Robot Chicken or Pixels (God help us). It all comes down to the fact that Spielberg makes some of the most watchable films out there, even if they are boring or horrifying. If you have a free weekend and Annihilation is not playing anymore, get yourself a ticket.

Muh book:

http://a.co/0KBwIxA

Movie Review: 7 Days in Entebbe

When it comes to modern warrior cultures, Israel is right up their with Russia and the US. Since the country’s birth in 1948, it has been in constant conflict with neighbors, and enemies from within. Israel is small and outnumbered and yet its people remain to this day. They never start fights, but when enemies act up, they are punished with expert precision. Like its contemporaries, Israel also has the capacity to build bridges. It made peace with Jordon, ceded the Sinai Peninsula back to Egypt, and gave up the West Bank and Gaza Strip to Palestine. There are many historical examples of the country’s resilience and 7 Days in Entebbe is about the most well known.

After terrorists hijack an airplane full of Israeli citizens, the IDF plans a high-risk operation to rescue them. At the same time, the government contemplates resorting to peaceful negotiation.

With a subject like Operation Entebbe there was only one way the filmmakers could have gone about it. You have the actual raid on the airport, but there are the broader ideological elements that tie everything together. The Palestinians hate the Israelis, they hate the Palestinians, and the German Antifa think Israel is a fascist state (irony is too small a word). There are a lot of moving parts and regardless of your stance on the issue, it is important to give both sides their due.

7 Days has a lot in common with Spielberg’s Munich. Both films take into account the underlining ideological conflict and show where both sides are coming from. Israel is defending itself because it wants to exist, whereas Palestine is on the offensive to regain what they lost. 7 Days takes this idea and devotes most of the runtime to fleshing out both sides of the conflict through the characters. By the twenty-minute mark you know where everyone is coming from and why.

The problem is the movie does not stop reminding you where they stand. Between both sides negotiating and planning for the inevitable raid, we are told over and over that Palestinians are oppressed, Antifa are hypocrites, and Jews are people too. We get it, but instead of exploring these ideas to their logical extreme, nothing changes and all we learn is “Don’t fuck with Israel.” I do not disagree with this sentiment, but the filmmakers missed a huge opportunity to say something interesting.

The cinematography of 7 Days puts you on the level of the characters, up close and personal in the anxiety of the situation. Thanks to great performances, you feel like you are right there with the characters. This is where the film plays to its strengths. Everyone feels real and human with clearly defined motivations that are made all the more personal by how close you are to their struggle.

Where 7 Days falters with its style is the raid scene. The actual engagement was about an hour long with more layers beyond what was shown. All we get is about ten minutes of action before it cuts to the end. Given the style and the raid, there was more than enough opportunity for intense action. Apparently, the director has the experience, but from what I saw, I am not convinced. It was an even bigger disappointment because we spend so much time on the planning phase of the operation and see only a small part of it. The church battle at the end of Anthropoid was an ordinary shoot out, but it is one of the best new action scenes in recent memory.

Divisive though it may be for some people, 7 Days in Entebbe is a good example how to handle a subject like the Arab-Israel Conflict. It presents both sides of the argument using an event that was a microcosm of the political/ideological war that’s been going on since 1948. If you like Munich and want something similar, go see it while it is still in theaters. Nobody else did.

Muh book:

http://a.co/0KBwIxA (amazon)

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/805662 (smashwords)

Editorial 36: I Built a Thing III

I apologize for the recent lack of content. I have been pretty busy this past weekend at a book fair, shilling my story, and hanging with friends. Furthermore, nothing came out that really struck my fancy. Red Sparrow looked like another boring spy movie, Death Wish was a remake, and A Wrinkle in Time was clearly not made for me. This week shows promise and I have another Netflix review in the works. In the meantime, I built a thing.

I am of the opinion that every movie, book, and videogame is an experiment by creators. Rather than do the same thing over and over, they attempt something new with follow-up projects and sequels. Whether it is to test new mechanics or challenge themselves, experimentation in the arts is key to future success. When I decided to start building scutums, I went through trial and error to nail down a process that produced the best results. Even after I succeeded I knew I could do more and change up the formula to make it better.

There were a number of elements I wanted to address with this new Centurion Scutum (CS): weight, handling, appearance, and painting. With the commission I was given after my first, I found using thinner panels cut down on the total weight and made the shield easy to carry. However, I used fence slats that were 4” wide, which made them 1.5” bigger than the cross beams holding them together. The steps on the beams are 2.5, leaving enough room for overlap, thus more protection. More overlap made the panels flimsy because they do not have enough support from the beams. I should have double pinned them to the steps, but there was a risk of cracking the beams. Instead I made sure to cover the steps in extra glue to secure the panels.

To solve this problem I decided to make the new panels 3” wide. On top of that, I wanted to give the CS a curve and the top and bottom. I do not know if it is historically accurate, but I borrowed the design from the show Rome where Verinus and other Centurions used a curved variant of the scutum. The problem was the segmented design would throw off the curve. Because they are staggered across the beams on the steps, the line of the curve would break between each panel.

This was partly why I elected to paint the scutums after assembly rather than before. I knew if I applied a pattern on the panels laid flat, the inside edges would be hidden by the overlap, covering an otherwise complete design. Because this new shield was an experiment, I elected to test this theory. I also added a laurel crown around the eagle and reversed the blue/white color scheme. I was inspired to make white the primary color from a painting of Caesar in combat on foot, which he did on occasions like at Pharsalus. Apparently the painting was of the Battle of Alesia, but I do not know if Caesar was actually with his men during the final battle.

After assembly I took account of the results. The curve was inconsistent, but only at the two side panels and not to the extreme I suspected. One problem I found was the pattern. Not only were the designs broken up across the panels, parts of each one were hidden under the panels or too far apart to look correct. All that survived was the thunderbolts, eagle, and SPQA. The stars and laurel were more or less destroyed. Lastly, the total weight of the CS was significantly reduced at the cost of making it smaller. It could still provide adequate cover, but a little more would have been better.

With these failures I have learned a lot. I feel more confident about painting, determined the proper size of panels, and I now know that I can make a curved variant that does not look terrible. Moving forward I understand more about the construction process. There is always room for improvement and I cannot wait until I am inspired to try something different again.

(Muh book: http://a.co/gR6nlr7)

Editorial 35: I Built a Thing II

For about a year and a half, my parents have been building an apartment in the back of their house. With all the construction, they ended up with a surplus of scrap wood that I collected for future use. As the months went by the wood remained in a pile taking up space. I am not one for being an inconvenience, but I could not think of what to do with the material until I found inspiration.

If you read my book “Back to Valhalla” (check it out (http://a.co/bTui8sN)) you  can tell I am a fan of Vikings and Norse Mythology. I find their way of life and beliefs fascinating. Their morality and concept of heaven hinged upon dying in battle and most of the Norse Pantheon are personifications of war. I would not have written a book about it were it not awesome.

However, when it comes to rating warrior cultures, the Romans take the cake. Their training, tactics, and impact on the world are a treasure trove of military history. For such an antiquated period, Rome had the most modern conception of an army. They had a salary, unit organization, and equipment designed to be as efficient as possible when meeting a foe.

The most important piece of equipment was the shield called a scutum. It was cumbersome and awkward, but was an essential component in the legionary’s arsenal. It was so effective at crowd control when up against groups of hostiles that police riot shields take after the scutum. Next to the late Imperial Era body armor, the Roman shield is iconic, and I wanted to build one.

For practical use or otherwise, I wanted to make a scutum. Maybe I would use it at a protest to bash Antifa thugs in the teeth or for exercise; I did not have plan. My only concern was putting one together. After two first attempts I did not bother documenting because I was embarrassed, I figured out a system to put build a scutum that was functional and semi-faithful to the original design.

The first problem was the curve. Your standard Roman shield is rounded plywood, but I did not have sheets that size or the tools to bend it into shape. To compensate, I made a stencil for two curved crossbeams to hold panels or fence slats to simulate the curve. To protect the user I settled on a shape and length to hold nine panels between 2.5” to 4” wide. I also took an artistic liberty and made the beams with ½” steps in a fashion similar to a Viking long ship.

Next came assembly. The beams were positioned nine inches from the top and bottom ends of the panels and pinned with shaven chopsticks. I wanted to use bolts, but 22 metal bolts with nuts can be expensive and one of my goals was to use materials that were already available. The pins were also glued in place with expanding epoxy. The carry handle was placed at the center on the third and seventh panels with two pins. Once the glue was dry the panels were sanded down.

The final step was painting and I cannot paint to save my life. Using stencils I drew beforehand, I had a better time of it. I also learned to never touch spray paint ever again. Scutums were usually pained red and gold, but I wanted the shield to look contemporary. Many argue America is the new Rome, so I decided my shield should reflect that sentiment. After masking off the gaps from the back, I settled on a dark blue field with gold trim.

Borrowing from history for the main design, I picked a Roman eagle perched atop the acronym SPQA. Originally it was SPQR, “Senatus Populusque Romanus” or “The Senate and People of Rome.” Latin Nazis will correct me, but in my case I switched “Romanus” with “Americanus” to fit the contemporary aesthetic. Beneath that I added a pair of thunderbolts and crowned the whole thing with 13 stars, representing the original American Colonies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weight and handling aside, I was very happy with the end result. I finally figured out how to build a semi-faithful scutum while making it artistic. Whether it would be useful in a riot or reenactment remains to be seen, but I feel good knowing I accomplished something.

I shared my work on social media and people were more or less impressed. A friend of mine wanted one and I could not help but oblige. Being of short stature she did not want the scutum to weigh a lot and requested I paint a Gorgon head on the front in reference to the Aegis of Athena. To capture the detail of the design, I drew out a Gorgon on paper, and traced the lines onto the wood with a thick piece of wire. I then followed the indention with white paint across five panels. After finishing the design I went back to touch it up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My friend and I settled on a price for my effort and I am working on getting the shield to her in the near future. I really enjoyed building these scutums and I want to make more. If you like my work and want your own, please use my email below. If you want a design other than a scutum or a particular color scheme, I would be willing to work with you. Prices may vary depending on labor and transportation required.

Thank you.

Email: charliemac92@gmail.com

Movie Review: Annihilation

Alex Garland is one of those creators that have been around forever, but you probably never heard of him. The Beach, 28 Days Later, and Sunshine are just a few movies he has written with frequent collaborator Danny Boyle. It was not until after Dredd in 2012 that Garland made his directorial debut with the excellent Ex Machina. Can he keep up the momentum with his second effort Annihilation or does he have a long way to go?

After being reunited with her husband under strange circumstances Lena, played by Natalie Portman, journeys into the Shimmer, an anomaly her husband was sent to investigate. As her team of four other scientists travels to the epicenter, they discover the environment has changed in ways they could have never imagined.

Take a typical John Carpenter movie like The Thing or Prince of Darkness and imagine it in the hands of Christopher Nolan. What you get is a highbrow kind of science fiction that is also weird and otherworldly with a good dose of guns and gore. Annihilation does not pretend to be smart, but does not out-right explain itself in a fashion not unlike Interstellar. Questions are answered, yet the movie relies on you, the audience, to understand what is happening. At the same time, it uses its complex concepts as an excuse to be as strange as possible.

The Shimmer mixes and matches the cells of organic life. Plants grow in the shape of people, alligators are combined with sharks, and a bear takes on traits of the prey it kills. It is a perfect opportunity for exotic set pieces like colorful fungus and flowers of different shapes on a single stem. The diversity of the changes translates to the characters as they walk through the Shimmer. With touches of body horror and the otherworldly environment, Annihilation becomes a great example of Lovecraftian horror that I do not want to spoil.

Given the visual implications of the film’s set up, it was up to Garland to put the exoticism of the environment on display. As you can see in trailers, the color pallet is rather muted with a hazy filter. While this could be a result of using real film (I have no idea), it works to the movie’s advantage. It creates an atmosphere of dread that becomes confusing when all the color comes into play. The Shimmer and its side effects are bright and rich, luring you into a false sense of security. Everything is alien and dangerous, but it looks gentle and welcoming. Suddenly a rainbow does not look so nice when you see an albino crocodile or plants in the shape of people.

I would also like to make note of the soundtrack. It is very reminiscent of Arrival with a lot of ambient, industrial noise. However, it is synthesized and mixed very well to supplement the tension of certain scenes. The ending in particular has a track that plays very loud for a short period before it cuts at the perfect moment. I highly recommend looking up the soundtrack before getting a ticket.

Annihilation feels like it should be bigger or that it deserves more attention. It is weird, original, and a movie that feels better suited for the summer or fall release schedule. It creates an honest facade of intelligent science fiction while having fun with its concept. Garland once again proves himself and such quality is often reserved for later in the year. Skip everything else this week (I have no clue what’s out anyway) and see Annihilation. It is more than worth your attention.

Movie Review: Black Panther

I have said on more than one occasion that politics in entertainment is reprehensible. It takes escapist media that is supposed to pull you out of the world and reminds you of all the worst parts. Creators and committees have ruined comics, movies, and videogames to push a Left leaning agenda onto consumers. Art has become propaganda and as I have mentioned many times, I have abandoned media I used to enjoy. Try as I might, I cannot escape this topic nor avoid bringing it up.

I was reminded we cannot have nice things with the initial reactions to Black Panther. Most of it was beyond the pale of mental illness from Blue Hairs and Soy Boys alike. Guilt tripping, virtue signaling, and reverse racism are a few terms to describe the press the film received since details first surfaced. While I wanted to write a proper introduction, I was compelled to take a route that will likely backfire. I try to be honest when giving my opinion, but by keeping my thoughts to myself when I feel so strongly, I am essentially lying to you. I beg your pardon as I tell the truth in my own way.

To anyone who has politicized Black Panther, would you kindly fuck your mother? It is not Triumph of the Will for Black Supremacists or this monolithic achievement for African Americans. No. It is a fucking Marvel movie about Marvel shit that just happens to feature a cast of black people. Tyler Perry movies are full of blacks and he does more damage to African Americans than the KKK. It is not going to do a damn thing for anyone except make Disney money. People are not going to stop being pissed off about stuff, whites are not going to feel ashamed, and it is not going to heal alleged racial tensions.

Do you think anyone outside your autistic cabal gives a shit about seeing a movie to be humbled? Do you think I care about Japan getting nuked twice? Do you think I care about the two million civilians killed during the Vietnam War and the long-term effects of Agent Orange? Do you think I care about Amerindian Genocide or slavery from 200 years ago? Do you think Russians are ashamed of atrocities committed by spreading Communism? Do you think the Japanese feel guilty for Unit 731 or the Rape of Nanking? Do you think the Chinese obsess over the 60 million people that were murdered under Mao?

The past is past. It is gone. It is over. You Blue Hairs and Soy Boys fixate on people and events that happened centuries ago and expect everyone to feel bad about it. If you think events from a racist past afford others and myself exemption from tribulation in the present, you have wasted your intellect, and have no right to dictate how we should feel. The world is not Germany or Britain… or Canada. We do not feel bad for anything except our own mistakes. We will not grovel for forgiveness for what happened in the past. I do not feel bad for anything my country and people have done because I was not there. Nobody was.

Our only concern is the now and right now, you pieces of shit do not know when to quit. The world would be better off if you kept your degenerative thinking to yourselves. You are an evolutionary misstep, inbred homunculi hell-bent on taking us back to the Stone Age. You claim to be “progressive” and “enlightened” when your movement seeks to erase centuries of real progress and enlightenment. But I get it. I really do. You wanted something to believe in, to do your part for a cause, even if that cause is wrong.

Your teachers, parents, and friends drilled into your tiny brains that Patriarchy is real, Capitalism is bad, and white people are to blame. Everyone needs a little fantasy in their life, but it is time for the LARPing to end. If you want to fight actual Patriarchy, go to the Middle East or Africa where millions of young women have their clits sliced off and are forced to wear veils or be stoned to death. Go to Pakistan and try to stop honor killings and gang rapes by the victims’ own family.

You can be a real activist, but we know you won’t because no one in those countries is white. They are just innocent, oppressed brown people in your eyes. You probably think it is our fault they are backward savages. You will never know because you are too busy yelling at us to see a fucking movie to feel bad. You are the reason the Alt-Right exists. You are the reason Donald Trump is our president and you are never going to win. No matter how much you cry, scream, and beg, anything you say means fuck-all. Your collective existence amounts to nothing.

I am not going to see Black Panther to feel ashamed. I am going to see Black Panther because I want to. You can piss me off and push me and others further Right with your sophistry and regression, but I will always enjoy movies, comics, and videogames. Stop crying out your puss and keep your nonsense out of the shit I love. By the way, if you cocksuckers actually read the comics you try to ruin, you would know Black Panther is about as nationalist and patriarchal as Doctor Doom and Namor. Get fucked.

Oh, I almost forgot this was a movie review.

Following the events of Civil War T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman, returns to Wakanda to take his place as heir to the throne. While pursing his country’s interests on a covert mission, T’Challa discovers the mistakes of his father have come to haunt him.

Panther is pretty good in concept and story, but falters in execution. It is not all bad, but the sum of its mistakes keeps it from being as good as Winter Soldier, the benchmark of the MCU. As a character movie and pseudo-origin story, Panther falls in line with the first Thor. It has the makings of a great narrative, but struggled to realize its potential thanks to the botched start-up. Thor was a Shakespearean coming of age story with the finesse of an episode of Agents of SHIELD.

In terms of origin stories it is up there with Ant-Man and Doctor Strange. In fact, it is an origin for both T’Challa and Wakanda because he is its leader. As king, he must embody the county’s principles of nationalism and isolationism. Wakanda stays out of the affairs of the world and hordes its technology because of what it can do in hands other than Captain America’s. T’Challa’s whole personality is defined by these ideals and makes it his mission to uphold them.

His purpose as a leader, however, is challenged when he encounters Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan. Without giving away spoilers, he is of Wakandan descent, but grew up in Oakland, California in the early 90’s. For readers outside the US who do not know, at the time, you could not live in that city without a gun. Killmonger saw the bad side of the African American experience and it colored (no pun intended) his perception of black people in the world. He sees his people as victims of oppression and wants to use his Wakandan ancestry to give them a fighting chance. When he enters the story, T’Challa is forced to reconsider his priorities.

The way the story plays out is very similar to Hamlet with a touch of Dune. T’Challa must contend with matters of state while juggling familial issues. Both T’Challa and Killmonger consult their fathers as spiritual guides to figure out how to approach their goals. The former is content to maintain the status quo, but is forced to question himself, while the latter is basically African Hitler. They are two sides of the same coin and their conflict is about dueling ideologies. Wakanda can either remain isolationist and secretive or use their technology to conquer the world, not unlike the conflict between the Atreides and Harkonnens from Dune.

This makes Killmonger infinitely more interesting as a character. He has a lot of baggage and with good reason. He is what could have been if Wakanda opened itself up to the world while at the same time showing the farthest they could have fallen. T’Challa is fairly basic and simple to understand, making him a tad boring as a character. He only gains depth after finding out the truth of his father and even then it is not explored enough. However, being the embodiment of the status quo, he could not be anyone else. He serves his purpose as the ideological opposition to Killmonger.

Other aspects in the film’s favor are the music and filmmaking. Following the example set by Guardians and Ragnarok, the score is distinct and stands out from the rest of the MCU. With a mix of African and rap music, Panther forges its own identity without the box-standard heroic orchestral beats of previous films. I must also give credit to director Ryan Coogler. He takes any chance he can to be creative with his use of long shots and editing. He also knows how to put together a scene and show off the aesthetics. Although, he needs to work on how he shoots action.

The issues that keep Panther from being as good as Winter Soldier are a lot of little things. Exposition is both dumped on you and repeated throughout. There is an opening intro to explain Wakanda’s origin before it is repeated in short bursts later on. It would have been perfect if we were fed information as the film went on, like how a king is chosen and endowed with the powers of the Black Panther. Instead, for some reason, the film has to remind us every ten minutes. There is also a scene where T’Challa’s sister explains how his gadgets work when we could just see him use them. It is that simple and the scene went on forever.

The bad humor was clearly shoved in at the last minute. I understand the MCU has to be funny, but it should not make you cringe. No one put any work into timing or being clever. Obviously, Panther was supposed to be a more serious film given its subject matter. That would have been preferable if it spared audiences from worse jokes than the ones from Doctor Strange.

Panther also looks very cheap. The sets are not lived in or very practical like background pieces from a very expensive play. I understand Wakanda is supposed to be futuristic, but the furniture and floors were way too clean. Everything looks like a sterile room where no humans are allowed. Furthermore, most of the technology is far too simple to seem useful. There are audio devices that look like contact lenses, EMP grenades the size of golf balls, and smartphones with hologram projectors in bead bracelets. Everything is so small and does not look functional without magic.

This issue compliments the use of CG and continues the “phantom objects” trend where whole pieces of armor and weapons appear from nothing. T’Challa’s costume is stored in a tooth necklace and forms all over his body in liquid form. This is not too far from the comics, but it looks terrible. Every time T’Challa is in costume, he turns into a Blade 2 CG character that looks like a cartoon. When he is out of costume, Bosman clearly does his own stunts. In costume, it is all a computer, not unlike his appearance in Civil War. It reeks of laziness where they did not bother choreographing action scenes with physical stunts the actor could have performed himself. It would have looked great, but all we got was an Unreal Engine asset flopping about.

Black Panther is difficult to recommend. On the one hand it has a compelling story to rival a lot of the MCU. On the other, it is executed poorly with a handful of problems that weigh down the experience. To that end, I recommend it as a matinee or a rental to tie you over for Infinity War.

(Muh book: http://a.co/gR6nlr7)