Meewella | Critic

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Tag: Lupita Nyong'o

QuickView: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)

“I am Queen of the most powerful nation in the world! And my entire family is gone! Have I not given everything?”

Queen Ramonda

The shadow of Chadwick Boseman’s untimely death loomed over Black Panther‘s sequel, but Ryan Coogler chooses to embrace it in an elegiac rumination on grief. Shuri has the fullest arc, as her rationality leads to a rejection of her mother’s traditions and an inability to process her grief, but Angela Bassett’s Queen Ramonda is the film’s greatest asset with a devastatingly powerful performance. Unfortunately, the nuanced exploration of these themes is diverted by the needs of a blockbuster franchise film to introduce new characters and hooks. Wakanda Forever opens on the world stage, as Ramonda refuses to share her nation’s vibranium resources, calling out the US military in contrast to other areas of the MCU. War nevertheless comes from beneath the waves in the form of Namor, reinvented here as the ruler of an underwater kingdom created due to colonial incursion into the Yucatán. Namor is a personification of indigenous rage, his cultural grief mirroring Shuri’s personal anger. Beyond that parallel, he lacks the depth that made Erik Killmonger such a fascinating villain — Namor is simply driven by an obsession that war with the surface world is an inevitability. Meanwhile engineering savant Riri’s introduction feels perfunctory in setting up an Ironheart TV show, whilst providing a fleeting Black American perspective — “to be young, gifted and black,” she quotes Lorraine Hansberry, before realising that means nothing to a Wakandan. The costuming remains exquisite in its detail, as does the Ludwig Göransson-produced soundtrack, though it is interesting to find that the film’s essential “blackness” is less immediately noticeable on this occasion, perhaps arriving so soon after The Woman King. The action, however, is the generic Marvel CG-fest with nothing memorable beyond a sequence in which the Wakandan men belay female warriors fighting over the vertical side of a ship. Coogler is to be praised that, with so much crammed into the bloated running time, its emotional core still feels heartfelt rather than hollow. Shuri’s interactions with those who knew her brother throughout the film explore aspects of grief, broadening her understanding, and particularly fascinating are her conversations with M’Baku who proves a surprising confidante. Nevertheless, Wakanda Forever feels hamstrung by its place within the franchise rather than elevated by it.

6/10

MCU Phase 4: Black Widow | Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings | Eternals | Spider-man: No Way Home | Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness | Thor: Love and Thunder | Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

QuickView: Us (2019)

“They look exactly like us. They think like us. They know where we are. We need to move and keep moving. They won’t stop until they kill us… or we kill them.”

Adelaide Wilson

Jordan Peele’s surprising decision to delve into horror for his debut feature produced the brilliant Get Out but I was a little disappointed that he chose to stick to the genre for his follow up, in which a family is terrorised by their doppelganger “shadows”. He again proves himself an expert at crafting tension, opening with a creepily atmospheric prologue, and particularly in a memorable home invasion scene after the shadow family appear standing silently at the end of their driveway. From then on, over-reliance on horror cliché swiftly dampens the experience. Black Panther co-stars Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke are both excellent, the former in depicting Adelaid’s traumatic turmoil and the latter in providing much of the comic relief. Indeed, Us arguably communicates part of its message most effectively through moments of levity around the residual awkwardness of the newly affluent black middle class. Unfortunately Peele is more interested in his chosen imagery as a metaphor for distancing ourselves from those we perceive as “other” and wilfully leaving others behind in order to succeed, and the film unravels the wider its focus extends from its tight initial premise, with a mess of illogical steps, broken internal rules and an unsubtle “twist”.

6/10

QuickView: The Jungle Book (2016)

“Shift your hunting ground for a few years and everyone forgets how the law works. Well, let me remind you. A man-cub becomes man, and man is forbidden!”

Shere Khan

Although commonly labelled live-action, that is not entirely accurate since Neel Sethi is the only actor who appears onscreen, with CGI filling the space around him. A wobbly opening scene concerned me but generally the CGI is excellent, with breathtaking vibrant jungle vistas when the camera pulls back to capture characters in silhouette. The A-list voice talent can be a little distracting, although Bill Murray is an inspired choice for Baloo. Similarly, retaining just a few of the Disney songs is a stranger choice than excising them entirely. Sethi’s Mowgli is believably curious, isolated and angry, Favreau drawing out an impressive performance against empty green screens. It is not a classic, but the original was not Disney at its height either and this stands comfortably alongside it.

7/10

"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2022 Priyan Meewella

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