"Black Panther" is one of the most universally acclaimed superhero movies of all time, at one point even enjoying a 100 percent Rotten Tomatoes critics score, but that perfect track record has since been dinged by nine negative reviews. But if everyone seems to agree that this latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is pretty damned great, what on earth are these people complaining about?
To save you the time and trouble of digging into all that sourness, we've combed the Negative Nine to see what these crabby critics have against America's current cinematic sweetheart. It turns out there are a few things they seem to agree on, with one of those being the need to defend their opposing views. They think other critics are afraid to speak against the herd, or go against the cultural significance of this film by criticizing it.
"The peer pressure that film critics put upon each other to uniformly agree and unite on a film like 'Black Panther' because it's the right thing to do is detrimental, hell, self-destructive, for the future of the journalistic field," wrote Jordan Ruimy of World of Reel. Victoria Alexander of FilmsInReview.com was fearless as well, writing, "I am not intimidated by fear of being called a racist because I did not like 'Black Panther.'"
Nine brave souls had the courage to speak against their critical counterparts. Below are their five biggest complaints that everyone else is -- in their mind -- either too blind to see or afraid to admit (or something or other), followed by some inexplicable comments that still have us scratching our heads.
While there was some faint praise heaped upon the women of the film, it seemed to come to the detriment of the film's lead actor, Chadwick Boseman. Jordan Ruimy described Boseman's work as a "rather stilted, uninteresting performance," saying he was overshadowed by both Letitia Wright as sister Shuri and Michael B. Jordan as the villainous Killmonger. "Boseman knows he can't wise-crack his way through the film in the fashion of, for example, Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark, and the responsibility to be at all times sincere weighs on him," wrote Irish Independent's Ed Power.
As another chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, these cranky critics complained that "Black Panther" stayed within the basic structural formula of an MCU film. That formula leads to expectations, like the inevitable fight sequences. "The hand-to-hand fighting and battle sequences are now so formulaic and predictable in Marvel films that the adrenaline just doesn't kick in," wrote Saskia Baron of The Arts Desk. Jordan Ruimy backed this claim, writing, "You know a final showdown is coming in every one of these films, so much so that the adrenaline just can't kick in anymore, and you feel numb or unpersuaded by what is supposed to feel thrilling and undeniably contentious."
Vicky Roach of Australia's Daily Telegraph echoed those sentiments, adding that its more than just the fight scenes. "The plotting is predictable and the action sequences for the most part unengaging," she wrote. Ruimy agreed, running it down: "Cue the climatic battle, where a down and out T'Challa has to overcome a hellbent arch nemesis, a showdown that leads to final words, a Shakespearian death scene and a lesson being learned by all. It's a tale as old as time and 'Black Panther' achingly sticks with the formula."
Too Many Characters
"Black Panther" has a large cast, and for some critics that proved to be a problem. Avi Offer, writing for NYC Movie Guru, wrote that the film "feels stuffed with too many characters, none of whom come to life enough for you to root for them or care about them as human beings, even T'Challa." Louise Keller of Urban Cinefile was overwhelmed as well. "In the battle scenes I was confused as to who was fighting whom," she wrote, though admittedly, she also had difficult keeping up with the changes in location from South Korea to Atlanta to Wakanda.
Jordan Ruimy had the same struggles, writing, "The choreography in 'Black Panther' is also all over the place. You don't always know what's happening at any given moment, which isn't helped at all by the fact the editing strips away any kind of flow to the action."
With all those characters and settings, it was all a bit too much for several of the Negative Nine. Louise Keller wrote that the film "doesn't know what it wants to be: super hero extravaganza, activist action flick, James Bond wannabe or 'Coming to America.' Certainly, the film had several inspirations, but Vicky Roach saw it more as "a classic case of trying to be all things to all people — and pleasing none."
"The film strains to grind against formulaic expectations, but probably leaned too hard in that direction," wrote Phil Villarreal on ABC Tucson. "[Coogler] strains here, though, struggling to condense the sprawling, globe-hopping espionage saga into a 135-minute running time that somehow feels too short and rushed, as though it were a 'The Godfather'-sized novel shrunken down to movie size, or more worthy of a 10-episode Netflix series."
In the end, it all comes down to a script that disappointed most of the Negative Nine. Louise Keller wrote, "The first challenge is the screenplay. Patience is required to sit through the stilted dialogue as the exposition tries to find its rhythms." Avi Offer agreed, writing, "A few glimmers of wit don't compensate for the pedestrian, dull and shallow screenplay that has no surprises or memorable dialogue for that matter.'Black Panther' ... fails to be entertaining, moving or intelligent."
"There's way too much expository dialogue and there are too many turgid flashbacks detailing the history of the legendary, secretive African kingdom of Wakanda and its relation to the rest of the world to be quite bearable," Saskia Baron wrote quite plainly. Ruimy was even harsher, writing, "It doesn't help that the on-the-nose expository dialogue is frankly laughable and that Coogler tends to overly rely on flashbacks and predictable plotting all the way through his 135-minute film."
"There's also not enough of that handbrake-turn humour and self-referential ironic dialogue that made the first 'Iron Man' and 'Guardians of the Galaxy' movies great." (Saskia Baron)
"There were moments when 'The Lion King' and 'Power Rangers' crossed our minds and not in a good way." (Saskia Baron)
"Fourteen months into the Trump presidency, Black Panther arrives on storm-clouds of hype and with the presumption that, as the first African-set Marvel movie, it will deliver a resounding high-kick to prejudice and decades of hierarchy, racial and otherwise, in blockbuster cinema." (Ed Power)
"Stuck in this convoluted story, T'Challa is forced into James Bond-style espionage and diplomatic housekeeping rather than typical superhero train-stopping, child-rescuing and building-tops posing." (Phil Villarreal)
"To be fair, sometimes a blockbuster can be all style with no substance and still manage to be purely escapist fun and a guilty pleasure, i.e. the first 'Transformers.' That's not the case with this film, though." (Avi Offer)
"The waterfall challenge set piece, for example, feels like something out of Disney's 'It's A Small World' attraction." (Vicky Roach)
"With the #OscarsSoWhite controversy and the lack of diversity in mainstream movies and TV being recognized and addressed, its risky to criticize 'Black Panther." (Victoria Alexander)
"With my feet-on-the-ground view of Africa, to see a storyline about an African kingdom so highly advanced but hidden from the rest of the poverty-stricken continent is a grave disservice." (Victoria Alexander)
"Agent Rust demanded his place in the finale, so Shuri lets him pilot Wakandas' newest purchase, a V-4X-D Ski Speeder from 'The Last Jedi.'" (Victoria Alexander)
"Hell hath no fury as a crazed African." (Louise Keller)
"Jordan makes a fine villain. He has attitude. And dreadlocks." (Louise Keller)