Black Panther (2018)

Posted by Mrs Giggles on February 18, 2018 in 4 Oogies, Film Reviews, Genre: Action & Adventure / 6 Comments

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Black Panther (2018)
Black Panther (2018)

Main cast: Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa/Black Panther), Michael B Jordan (N’Jadaka/Erik “Killmonger” Stevens), Lupita Nyong’o (Nakia), Danai Gurira (General Okoye), Martin Freeman (Everett K Ross), Daniel Kaluuya (W’Kabi), Letitia Wright (Shuri), Winston Duke (M’Baku), Angela Bassett (Ramonda), Forest Whitaker (Zuri), and Andy Serkis (Ulysses Klaue)
Director: Ryan Coogler

As a superhero, Black Panther never had a grand origin history, as let’s face it, he was created by white people in a time when it was perfectly fine to stereotype black folks by associating them with jungle fever and such. Now Stan Lee claims that he is always fond of that character, conveniently enough when this movie is out in the big screen, but compared to other black superheroes like Blade, poor Black Panther has always been that hokey black version of the Phantom guy living in Wakanda instead of Bangalia.

Also, Wakanda is an ethnostate with a literal wall to keep foreigners out, which is hilarious when you see the same people who rag on the current US immigration policies also praise this fictitious kingdom because they believe that it conforms to their “WE WUZ KANGS” fantasies. More significantly, this kingdom cannot exist given its current background: this place flourished due to an asteroid filled with vibranium crashing into that area ages ago, and the Wakandans kept the existence of this asteroid and the metal secret; vibranium is somehow used to create a technologically advanced nation that would be right at home in a sci-fi movie and somehow these people manage to build foundries, factories, medical equipment, etc solely from vibranium without trading with neighboring countries for anything. No country is completely self-sustaining, so Wakanda cannot exist except in the fantasies of people who don’t pay attention to mundane details of reality. And it must be a huge asteroid, as these people are still mining the vibranium by train-loads even today.

Anyway, this whole thing comes into play because when T’Challa’s father got killed in Captain America: Civil War, he now formally gets crowned as the new King of Wakanda, and top on the list of priorities handed down to the new king is to maintain the isolationist stance of the kingdom. The first half of Black Panther deals with the rituals of coronation, complete with the whole “Ooh, how can I be as great a king as my daddy?” and oh-so-predictable dream scenes of him conversing with his dead father in a dream world and getting the usual greeting card advice from the dead sod. Our new king also has to deal with a leftover menace from his father’s reign: Ulysses Klaue, the only guy to have stolen some vibranium and taken out a big chunk of Wakanda with some explosives in the process. He also has to convince his independent ex-squeeze Nakia to be his consort – she has always been against Wakanda’s isolationist stance, and she’d rather join their spy force the War Dogs to help those in need around the African continent. T’Challa himself struggles with balancing tradition and what he feels to be a more relevant, progressive stance of opening Wakanda’s borders to help the world with their advanced technology.

Remember Ulysses? The trouble runs deeper than apprehending one-armed Gollum and stumbling into CIA agent Bilbo Baggins in the process – among Ulysses’s henchling is a former CIA operative Killmonger who specializes in destabilizing nations after taking out their leaders. Killmonger has his own personal reason to be part of Gollum’s gang – his father was killed by T’Challa’s father. To be fair, Killmonger’s father betrayed Wakanda by informing Ulysses where to strike in order to steal the vibranium, and the death was an accident, but Killmonger isn’t so understanding. He wants to be the new Black Panther, and he wants to use the bombs and other weapons of mass destruction in Wakanda to take out the “oppressors” and “colonizers” (this movie’s terms of endearment for white people), and to instate a new world order in which he rules from his throne.

Black Panther, understandably, is like hell, no.

Don’t be put off by the use of “colonizers” and “oppressors” in this movie. Unlike the comics from Marvel, which often presents a crude and unintelligent version of social justice due to the company hiring minimally talented bloggers and failed novelists for cheap to write those things, this movie presents a more reasonable look at the race situation in the US. I say the US, because if there is one boo-boo the screenwriters John Robert Cole and Ryan Cooger have done here, it is to apply an American sociopolitical landscape broadly over the entire continent of Africa.  T’Challa’s sister Shuri, for example, has no reason to call Bilbo Baggins a “colonizer” when Wakanda has always belonged to four major black tribes and it has never been colonized by white people. That fact that she does just jars me out of the movie. Wakanda is not America! “White privilege” is a phrase that can only apply to countries where white people dominate, such as the USA, but in countries where white people are not the majority, much less the dominating force – like large swathes of Africa and the fictitious kingdom of Wakanda – folks in those places going all “white privilege” and “colonizer” is just ridiculous.

Aside from that, this movie is actually very reasonable and fair. Through T’Challa, it rejects the more violent and extremist views of segregation and violence; instead, he and his sister as well as Nakia are all for building the black community all over the world through improving the education and economy as well as to share resources for the betterment of the global community. A bit idealistic, perhaps, if you’re cynical like me, but after seeing some of the more ridiculous screes of social justice coming from Marvel in the past, this movie’s reasonable stance is a cause for celebration.

My relief aside, I have to also give this movie lots of love for being an old-school Marvel superhero movie. Remember those old days when the movies more or less standalone just fine, and every line uttered by the main characters is not a joke? Black Panther is that movie. Humor is used judiciously and hence is more effective when it shows up. This movie follows the rest of the Marvel formula: shirtless scenes of the male main character, family issues, drama about responsibilities that come with great power, et cetera, but with some notable, delightful fresh twists to the old tropes.

One, Black Panther is easily and genuinely the most feminist movie to date in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the past, the people behind those movies talked big about diversity, equality, feminism, et cetera, but the female characters still are limited to girlfriend and sidekick roles. Here, T’Challa kicks ass, but his abilities are augmented by the vibranium-flower-power steroid juice all Black Panthers take. General Okoye and Nakia, on the other hand, are wholly human but trust me, these ladies charge into battle with courage and grace that makes my heart go all warm and melty inside. The Dora Milaje, the royal contingent of all-female warriors, are up there with the Amazons in Wonder Woman: these ladies simply rock. Of course, this movie doesn’t make a big deal about them being women – it’s just me who is so, so happy to see so many kick-ass woman sharing the screen with kick-ass men, side by side, shoulder to shoulder. Even Shuri, who plays the Q to T’Challa’s James Bond, is no slouch, as she has no problems using weapons of her own creation to join in the fray. Wakanda forever!

Two, the cast is all around adorable. Chadwick Boseman cements my adoration of him in this role. The ladies, as I’ve mentioned, are all delightful to watch. But perhaps the most impressive is Michael B Jordan’s villainous character, who is probably the strongest-drawn bad guy to date. Killmonger and T’Challa actually share similar sentiments about wanting to help black people all over the world, and both are frustrated by how Wakanda has all this powerful technology at its disposal to do so, only to just sit there and go all isolationist. But Killmonger’s desire is entwined with the need to repay the people he considers the oppressors with violence, while T’Challa wants to help all who are oppressed, regardless of these people’s skin color.

Three, this movie is some of the best choreographed martial fight scenes in these Marvel superhero movies. Sometimes things get confusing for three seconds when both T’Challa and Killmonger duke it out wearing similar Black Panther costumes, but I can catch up easily shortly after.

And finally, this movie restores my faith in the Marvel Cinematic Universe after the last few movies simply lost focus and concentrated on one-liners regardless of context and shoving pointless appearances of sequel baits and cameos by the director’s and script writer’s favorite celebrities down my throat. Black Panther wants to tell a story, and it tells it so well in the most exquisite kick-ass way possible. It doesn’t always get things right, and there are quite a number of scenes here that can be too hokey for words due to their whole “dream world, woo-woo, shaman, and oh my god, Forest Whitaker makes me cringe so hard in this movie” shtick. All in all, though, it gives me jungle fever. I can say that, right?

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Cantankerous muffin who loves boys that sparkle, unicorns, money, chocolates, and fantastical stories.

6 responses to “Black Panther (2018)

  1. amousie

    I enjoyed the movie. Felt that it should’ve been two movies because the Killmonger arc deserved more space. He should’ve sowed the seeds of civil war for movie 2.

    I get the resonance. Can applaud it even. But the worldbuilding didn’t work for me either. I wanted a lot more nuance and for a civilization which was supposedly isolated it had too much of a colonized African continent feel. I also have problems with the we allowed Europeans and African political in-fighting to devastate the continent because we have a non-interference philosophy even though we’ve been superior for almost a 1,000 years bit. At least they gave the Amazonians a flimsy excuse that they hide themselves away because they were sick of men. Yeah, it didn’t really work for me there either.

    Not sure how much of the origin story is the comic books and how much belongs to the movie. But yeah, technology in isolation without any war to propel said technology since many technological advances seem to come from military spending seems unlikely. It’s nitpicking really because the fantasy doesn’t really stand up. On the other, couldn’t we pull apart most fantasy stories?

    To me, one of the most jarring things was Bilbo Baggins. Token white guy and a CIA guy at that gets to be a hero for the “good” guys. That’s some interesting messaging there for such a small part given the overall messaging of the movie.

    I was mostly jarred by the whole civil war thing. Just not enough story there for me to believe that this isolated nation would descend into armed conflict so quickly. Seriously after a 1,000 years of not really caring. Again see desire for a second movie to make that happen.

    Women did kick butt. I liked how it was just normal. Wished that the uniforms didn’t focus so much attention on breasts aka here, point your spear or your bullet right here if you want to kill me.

    Loved the armored Rhinos. Yes, I’m a sucker although how they armored themselves wasn’t explained. Must be more nano-technology.

    Finally I do wonder how someone who gets stripped of powers that they more or less always have could fight against someone who’s made to make do with being normal. There’s be a lot more pain involved. Your reflexes, balance, etc would be off. And from a fantasy standpoint why would any culture give that enhanced power to only one person? More importantly, why wouldn’t they build a suit with a fail-safe in case the King became a mad King?

    Yeah, yeah. It’s not a fun story, if you can’t nitpick it. Overall, good story. I probably could’ve done without the origins pieces of it and gone straight to story. Then had slow reveals throughout a series of movies, but that’s just me. The flipside is that I think the people involved in the movie succeeded quite well at their vision and what they wanted to do. Will look for more from them.

  2. Hey, long time no hear! You know, the fact that the entire nation descended into civil war just – what? A week after outsiders like Killmonger found out about the vibranium suggests to me, that, in the long run, Wakanda is doomed as that metal is way too powerful to be peacefully shared among many.

    Regarding the Dora Milaje costumes, they were actually patterned quite faithfully to the old African tribal women warrior armors, or so places like tells me. The emphasis on “old”. There is no reason why a 21st century army will resort to spears and old-fashioned armors, even if said spears are modified to be more powerful than the average spear. That’s why I compared Black Panther to the Phantom – both are rulers of a nation in present day, a nation who for some reason is content to let ONLY their ruler wear and use all the cool and powerful gadgets. In real world, rulers and kings don’t charge into wars. The actual Black Panther would be a Dora Milaje, not T’Challa!

    Bilbo Baggins is a necessary evil, I feel, because he is going to be some kind of intermediary between T’Challa and the rest of the Avengers for the upcoming movie. That and perhaps to defuse accusations of the movie demonizing white people.

  3. amousie

    Life has been kicking me so I’ve had to cut back on expenses and keep a rather low profile. Hope you’ve gotten some real quality time with your sister.

    Agreed that if an outsider can produce civil war in less than a week, the society is pretty much doomed, especially after one announces themselves to the outside world or even understanding the details of the outside world like for example the IMF, investor state bank tribunals, and all of the other legit ways that outsiders use to get access to say resources that they covet regardless of what the locals want. Speaking of which, what’s the population of this country?

    I thought the warrior women were really cool. I had no issues with warrior women at all. But if you look at the old warrior attire they don’t have accentuated boobage as a stand in for boob cleavage. At least it’s not metal boobage, that really annoys me. Overall I seriously loved them. I did find it interesting that the men had advanced weaponry and cool shields but kept more of a “savage” look. (As an aside I read an article a couple of months back about the strength of women in ancient times and how recent discoveries are re-writing history. Something about the strength in the bone-structure of the shoulders being greater than professional female rowers now.)

    I know what Biblo is there for. I just thought considering the rest of the messaging, the CIA getting a good guy role in an African nation was interesting. If we’re going the SHIELD route, they could’ve made him SHIELD agent. Or at least one of many factions biding for the precious metal. I look forward to a potential bad-guy twist down the road. Will be disappointed if they do nothing.

    It is interesting that the tonic is reserved for leaders aka male rulers. The female warriors are great but no female rulers? And this whole destiny lineage one to rule them bit too. Would this isolated civilization have chosen a male monoarchy?

    That said T’Challa gets it long before he become king so apparently one doesn’t have to wait to get powers. Interesting too that his father didn’t seem to have powers when he died. Otherwise he might have avoided the blast on his own.

    I’m torn on the whole kings don’t go into battle bit because I absolutely went there too. The thing is that that’s a rather modern dealio for military.conflicts. I’m not even sure how that piece translates to other cultures or if there is a size aspect to the civilization in question.

    The civilization piece is tough for me. It’s a 1,000 years back. What would a society look like if it had been isolated from the rest of the world? Certainly the urban center wouldn’t be loosely based on a colonized African city. If there’s no war among the 5 tribes for the past 1,000 then why advanced weapons and armor? How does a society become modern wealthy if they don’t trade their most precious resource? Are they really self-contained in that all the elements required for modern gadgetry that it can be mined within their borders? Do they exploit their own people? What does their class structure look like? etc., etc., etc.

    Nitpicking aside, I find these societal questions really interesting. If we accept this place as a Utopia, what would be required or need to be in place to make such a society work? Considering the map the world and exploit it fetish the white colonist had as stated by Killmonger, how do you keep outsiders from wandering inside the borders? If one goes out and spies like Nadia, how do you keep rumors of its existence from being whispered? Considering also that Islam was working it’s way through parts of Africa about 1,000 years ago, why not even a hint of that culture in a culture which isolated itself?

    I know I know. But I’m having fun (it’s been a bit too long since I did) and you made me think more.

    I absolutely love the questions raised but like many stories that are based in alternative histories there are so many holes. Doesn’t mean that one can’t have fun though.

  4. Wakanda isn’t completely isolated, though. Suri showed some cool high-tech communication stuff in her workshop, and they mentioned that they have spies planted all over the world, along with the Mad Dog covert spy arm they have. So, yes, it’s hard to imagine that the people are so still into their old ways without adopting “outside world” cultural elements or religions. Unless the country is really xenophobic like it was portrayed back in the old comic days when such elements as building a wall to keep foreign elements won’t be seen as an act of white supremacy like today, LOL.

    I have to admit, not much world building here, at least ones that make sure. Like why need spies and, like you said, all those weapons (SO MANY WEAPONS!) if you are an isolationist? Unless Dead Daddy was slowly trying to dismantle the isolationist stance without telling anyone? So many questions. I don’t think they will ever have time to answer it unless they plan to make more sequels – which is likely, as this movie is raking in big bucks.

    I think there is no rule forbidding female Black Panthers – the sister wanted to take up the challenge, and I think she wasn’t allowed only because she was too young and Mommy wouldn’t like it.

    One thing I noticed about Marvel is that they may talk A LOT about diversity, etc, but most of all that is just talk. Aside from Black Widow, Gamorra, and Scarlet Witch, principal female characters were mostly girlfriends and sidekicks that were treated as negligible. Remember Thor’s now ex-girlfriend? Tony Stark’s girlfriend? I have a hunch we won’t see much of Dr Strange’s girlfriend or that creepy woman who is related to Capt’s first love and has a crush on him in future movies. Black Panther is the first Marvel movie that actually breaks the Marvel mold. Hopefully this is a start of a trend in which we can actually discuss issues like sex and race as portrayed in these movies instead of just wondering aloud like we are doing now!

    (Which is why I’m hoping the DC movie line will get its act together and succeed – I suspect that they will end up portraying realism better than Marvel movies, and hence complement the Marvel movies nicely.)

  5. amousie

    Agreed on all of it.

    Still where does their wealth come from? We’re talking billionaire level wealth which a lot of involvement with the modern world.

    Here’s one thing that really sticks out to me with the origin story and you touched on it briefly. An asteroid that’s big enough to still be mined 1,000 years later without an end in site… ummm, wouldn’t something that size have destroyed life on earth as we know it?

    I have to be honest, I’d much rather they’d found a doorway to another dimension or something. One can go a long way explaining technology and wealth that way. Plus the seemingly never ending supp;y of their metal.

    I’d love to see a real Black Widow movie. Just think she doesn’t even have any super powers. I’d love Wonder Woman to have a strong storyline and not even go where the old-timey comics went.

    I also look forward to another Black Panther movie with even more depth than this one had rather than humor for 7 year olds.

    Even in romance which touts to be about females, females are quite often sidekicks from a story perspective. It’s a narrative which really needs to change.

    Let me know if you end up watching Altered Carbon on Netflix. I haven’t read the book so don’t know how close the series is to that but I found it to be an interesting clutterf**k of a story. So many possibilities to explore in these worlds. Diversity yes and yet resounding no as well. Strong female characters and yet serious violence against women sticking out even in the middle of a very violent show. I watched to the end because Dichen Lachman showed up and she was one of the few actors I really enjoyed from Dollhouse. Probably won’t do a 2nd season.

    Nice chatting with you again. Missed this.

  6. I plan to watch Altered Carbon, but am waiting until the first season ends so that I can binge watch it. I don’t like being left hanging week after week!

    I personally have accepted violence against women as an effective trope in entertainment, because for a long time women are seen as the weaker sex – still are – so acts of violence against them is a fail-proof way of getting reaction out of people. But it has to be done well, though, or else it will stick out too obviously as a gimmick and then I will get cranky. I’d be interested to see what my reaction will be to this one. I’ve heard some views and it’s mixed across the board.

    Back to Wakanda, the wealth thing puzzles me too. If you don’t trade with other nations, then the local currency is kind of useless… do they even need money, or is everything shared among everyone? And I also wonder, if you don’t trade, how do you get resources like wood, concrete, etc to build things? Vibranium can’t be used for EVERYTHING, right… unless it can, I suppose? It gives powers, grows flowers that gives powers, be used to make everything… oh god.

    Joss Whedon wants to direct a Black Widow movie. Please, no. His idea of character development of Black Widow is to have her wangst over how she is barren and can’t have children. NO. And I’m sick of how he always puts in one-liners that kills any emotional undercurrent of a given scene. Get that fake feminist sex fiend away from Black Widow! I’d rather have someone else just do a Black Widow movie without her whining that her female bits aren’t working and hence she can’t function like a “normal” woman.

    Oh yes, my sister are doing okay, but like you, I’m tightening the belt where finances are concerned too. The country’s economy is still not good, unemployment is still high, and my family is impacted to the point that we really have to watch carefully what we spend.

    I’m thinking of stopping my blind purchases of KImani books every month because most of them are just meh, but at the same time I think it’d be a shame to do that since very few people, even the so-called woke ones rah-rah’ing 24/7 about diversity, bother to even look at Kimani books. I’ve already cut down on many book purchases due to the painful currency exchange, and am wondering whether I should shift the focus to “cheaper” entertainment like Netflix shows. Let’s see. The year is still early, and things may pick up.

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