Esther McCarthy reviews Black Panther and The Shape of Water
Black Panther (12A) ***
Marvel's latest is set in the fictional African nation of Wakanda, a utopia of sorts, where its people co-exist peacefully, enjoying technological advancements and a good standard of living. It’s so good, in fact, that they are focused on self-determination and reluctant to engage with the outside world, which isn't aware of Wakanda’s citizens’ special powers and strength.
Much of its stability as a nation comes thanks to the presence of Vibranium, a precious metal (and so much more) that helps natives develop numerous powers, works as a great defensive material, and even energises the health and transport systems. It’s even helped spawn an elite female fighting force.
A South African criminal (Andy Serkis) seems determined to accumulate Wakanda’s powerful natural resource. But the bigger threat is halfway around the world, a military elite named Erik (Michael B Jordan, excellent), who is determined to challenge the throne and may well have compelling reasons for doing so.
Marvel’s latest, despite the original settings and strong characters, never quite shakes off the sense that it’s another superhero movie geared towards a mass-market audience.
The Shape of Water (15A) ****
Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is mute and feels trapped in a life of prejudice and isolation. She works as a cleaner within a top-secret research facility, but her life is transformed when she and her workmate (Octavia Spencer) come across a classified experiment.
Amphibian Man is an other-worldly creature who is being cruelly treated as part of a secretive scientific experiment. The only friendship he has ever known in human form evolves through his contact with Eliza. But when she learns of the facility’s plans for the creature, Eliza hatches an audacious plan.
The always good Michael Shannon is great in support here as a head of the facility, a nasty and menacing piece of work, in this moving mix of fiction and reality.