Writing Movie “WRONGS”
By Jim West
Directed by Ryan Coogler
Written by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole
Black Panther was first introduced to us in Captain America: Civil War when the king of Wakanda, T’Chaka is assassinated in front of his son’s eyes. Picking up where ‘Civil War’ left off has us see Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa aka Black Panther) return home to Wakanda to assume his father’s place on the throne. The film also stars Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, and the tremendously talented Andy Serkis. There are lots of infused quasi culture that mimics many countries in Africa, and yet not serving to any single nation as Wakanda itself is fictional. The cinematography is beautiful and the special effects are top shelf. The story moves along at a good pace and even mimics a James Bond film with its stopover in South Korea for with a team that easily draws parallels to characters from that universe. The females in this film are strong and empowered. Fight with conviction and bravado usually reserved for male actors. Kudos to the writer’s on these aspects of the film.
Here comes the spoilers.
Marvel has had a dismal track record when it comes to their villains and with this film they seem to have taken measures to step up the writing in this regards. It is refreshing to finally have a villain that has real motivations behind their character that drives them towards their actions and also makes viewers almost empathize with the villain. The idea is solid, but the delivery of Killmonger’s backstory is handled poorly by fast dialogue by Martin Freeman and lack of a montage showing young Erik’s life growing up fueled by his desire to return to Wakanda. We get to see a young boy find his father killed by the Black Panther. He shows little emotion here, and we have to just accept the fact he has went through life with relatively no struggles as he was gifted enough to be in US Black Ops forces and highly skilled and trained. To me that journey of adversity is key to how the audience can begin to connect with him. This is where the writers missed a huge opportunity with Michael B. Jordan’s portrayal of Killmonger. Showing his character growing up to face racism, oppression, and struggles in the impoverished neighborhoods of L.A. would lend credence to his desire to help those oppressed to rise up with the help of Wakandan technology and weapons. Take a minute of film time to show the audience this characters history and backstory and therefore his actions carry more invested emotional weight. He wants to help but more so in an aggressive manner much akin to how Magneto wants to help mutants in the Xmen series. As with Magneto you empathize with his character’s tragedy in his youth in a concentration camp that defines who he is as a villain. This is exactly what this film needed for Killmonger to be just as effective on an emotional level.
Overall the film is paced well with solid performances from the whole cast. I am happy to see Marvel is taking some strides to make villains better than the past films have served up. This is definitely a step in the right direction for Marvel. It is just that the writers have to serve the backstory well or the convictions of their villains will continue to fall short of epic.
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