In 1988, veteran filmmaker Martin Scorsese released “The Last Temptation of Christ” to worldwide controversy. The film portrayed Jesus Christ as a savior who didn’t have to be a savior: a God-man fully capable of giving up his divine mission so that he could live out his licentious thoughts and wed Mary Magdalene.
The film was protested and condemned by leading religious figures and institutions, and it was banned in many countries for what was deemed its blasphemous message.
A constant question that swirled around the film upon its release was: “Is it a bad movie that is only garnering positive reviews because it is breaking religious taboos, or is it actually a brilliant movie that is getting a bad reputation because of its irreverent approach towards sacred subjects?”
In our culture — fully born and bred with racial conflict, and with a youth and academic culture quickly selling everything to invest in identity politics — the recent Marvel Comics blockbuster “Black Panther” could be, and has been, assessed and approached by the same standard and skepticism by some.
Is the movie actually good and worthy of the praise it is getting, or is it a rather mediocre film that is profiting off of the current wave of unsteady race relations in the country? It is a question worthy of pondering.
The early expectations for the film quickly came to fruition with its release. The movie dominated the box office on both its opening and sophomore weekends and is expected to do so again for a third week in a row.
So, does the film live up to the hype? . . . Well, no. However, that isn’t because the film is lacking in any way.
The film is tightly written, well-acted and cast, full of great action sequences and has believable and endearing characters that are put into situations rarely discussed in modern cinema.
The interplay between politics and the conscious and subconscious messages of the film is worthy of discussion. Furthermore, the film could be a touchstone for much personal conversation and debate for months to come.
The film doesn’t live up to the hype because no movie could live up to the expectations that have surrounded this film. It is a bar of which even the revolutionary classics of cinema would fall short, and there is no reason to attempt to place any such burdens on this great film.
What we get from “Black Panther” is better, though. With it we get a movie that may last into posterity. In many ways, it could represent a new turn in cinema, even if it is momentary or short-lived.
With this movie, the viewer gets another expansive view into the eclectic and continuously growing Marvel Universe. A universe that now has “Black Panther” joining the pantheon of its greatest movies, alongside “Captain America: Winter Soldier,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and “The Avengers.”
It isn’t the revolutionary and mythic “greatest comic book movie ever” that nerds and culturists everywhere are proclaiming it to be. However, it is a film that is worthy of the accolades that are being placed on it.
Go out and see “Black Panther” for yourself and develop your own opinion. Don’t just buy into the hype, whether it be real or imagined.