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Non-Review Review: Black Panther

Black Panther is something special.

In a lot of ways, it is a very typical Marvel blockbuster. The familiar formula is in place, and the movie follows the rhythms that audiences have come to expect from these films. There is a certain tempo and structure to the film, the sort of clean efficiency that delineates most of the movies produced under the banner of Marvel Studios. For a film advertised using a remix of The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, it is striking how conservative Black Panther is.

The Panther Strikes!

However, there is a lot to be said for the film’s more understated revolutionary qualities, the depth of understanding that the production team bring to the adaptation. Black Panther is acutely aware of what it means to construct a superhero fantasy epic about an African prince who leads a utopian society in the context of 2017, and there is something reassuring in how confidently and efficiently the film works within that framework. It is not merely that the existence of Black Panther is important, it is that Black Panther‘s assertion of its identity is important.

Black Panther is superior blockbuster by any measure, constructed with a great deal of care and thought about what it means. Much like its title character, there is a sense that the weight of expectation is upon Black Panther, and the most remarkable thing about the film is how seriously it takes that obligation without ever feeling burdened.

Heavy lies the head that wears the cowl.

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Non-Review Review: Creed

Creed feels like something of an unlikely companion piece to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Increasingly, it seems that nostalgia is becoming a dominant force in popular culture. There has always been a market for nostalgia, but the past few years have seen an explosion in the management and exploitation of recognisable properties. It seems like almost everything is being fashioned into a franchise. In the seventies or eighties, it would have been unthinkable to imagine a shared universe built around Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky. Now, the surprise is not so much that the shared universe exists, but that it is good. Creed is a great boxing film.

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If nostalgia is to become a governing force going forward, it is worth reflecting on approaches that work and those that do not. For every franchise that works, there is another that flounders. For every Mad Max: Fury Road, there is a Terminator: Genisys waiting in the wings. The key is to understand this pull of the past and to engage with it; to treat nostalgia as more than just a cynical market force, but to weave a story around it. JJ Abrams has proven quite adept with this, given the success of The Force Awakens at understanding the appeal of Star Wars.

Creed is every bit as successful, engaging with its own legacy and the weight of its nostalgia in a manner that suggests that writer and director Ryan Coogler understands not only what makes Rocky work as a piece of film, but also the gravity that exerts.

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