I thought the Battle of Wakanda was tactically stupid

Now a military historian confirms it. Of course, if you view it as an opportunity for a lot of pretty people to pose dynamically as they converge on a foregone conclusion, then maybe it makes sense.


  1. says

    When either side has space flight, actual combat would probably reduce to dropping rocks on things from orbit.

    CJ Cherryh’s Pride of Chanur books portray a world in which combat happens at relativistic speeds, with passengers mostly along for the ride, waiting for the light-speed delays of events to sync up. That’s heavily influenced (I believe) by Joe Haldeman’s epic The Forever War in which being a space warrior devolves to sitting in a can of goop waiting for the computers to roll the dice and see if you survive. [No spoilers]

    The Wakandans should be forgiven for not being strategic geniuses; after all their political system depends on election-by-combat, speaking of unpleasant stereotypes it could have been written by H. Rider Haggard.

  2. euclide says

    The Expense (book and TV) is another example of a mostly plausible space war with realistic physics and not completely wrong xenobiology.

    But since most action movies (science fiction, super heroes or whatever) basically ignore simple newtonian physics, expecting anything realistic is kind of hopeless

    By the way, the Thanos strategy was kind of lame too.
    He could have start to destroy some big cities from orbit to lure the heroes outside of wakanda, see what happens and use the time stone to act at the right moment. No need to lose his ground troups

  3. microraptor says

    This is a big problem for science fiction in general. Most battles are fought out using tactics more appropriate for the ancient Greeks: two armies converge into melee range and just sort of muddle around against each other.

    Cool looking on the big screen, but utterly ignorant of the last two thousand years worth of tactics.

    In some ways, it actually makes sense: Wakanda is a very isolationist country that’s depended on its overwhelming technological superiority to keep hostile nations from attacking it in the first place. It’s probably been centuries since they actually fought in a real war and therefor would be inexperienced when it came to things like battlefield engineering and combined arms tactics.

  4. consciousness razor says

    Wakanda was invisible and its location unknown, but this is inexplicably irrelevant to the alien forces who drop right at their doorstep. Impressive tactics! Apparently, the writers just didn’t know what to do with the Wakandans, other than hack-and-slash at home. So a few minutes of that crap is jammed in, I guess to appease fans who would ask “what about Wakanda?” even though there are already half a dozen other plotlines to sort out.

  5. harryblack says

    I love the idea of using popular movies as teachable moments to impart knowledge that will likely stick!
    Anyone saying ‘Its just a movie’ is missing the point of this.
    I hate however, teaching future imperialist commanders how to more effectively subjugate people and further the agenda of corporation driven nations.
    So for that reason, I give this 6 nerdy soldiers out of 10.

  6. microraptor says

    @ consciousness razor: That, at least made sense from the standpoint that the aliens had already demonstrated that they had some means of detecting the Infinity Stones from long range, given how they’d instantly homed in on Doctor Strange and Vision earlier.

  7. consciousness razor says

    microraptor: It’s not too impressive that they could detect something in New York or Scotland. No special, magical, unexplained detection abilities would be required, since those places aren’t obscured from the outside world. Of course there’s no way to rule out that they can simply do it, with mystery magic that’s never established in the narrative. But that’s basically the problem: it’s a cheap move, and it doesn’t make for a compelling story.
    Why didn’t Thanos and co. pull this trick in several earlier movies? Why take a different approach (torture) to find the soul stone, in this very movie, which seems to establish that they can’t detect them with their mystery magic? Or is the soul stone different? What makes it different? None of this is explored, of course. That would take time away from the dumb action scenes.

  8. unclefrogy says

    battle scenes are just the same as car chases interesting choreography maybe with lots of near misses and big crashes but filler mostly and seldom add much to the plot that could not be indicated while the action takes place off stage. The theater is not being filled by clever speaches or dramatic personal confrontations.
    any more now then they did in the days of great westerns and war movies
    uncle frogy

  9. chrislawson says


    That review completely misses the point of Verhoeven’s adaptation. To wit: “I still haven’t figured out why our guys all wear SS uniforms, or why Kevlar technology has been lost. I have figured out why we have the various newreels. It’s to provide exposition, and cover the fact that Verhoeven doesn’t know how to do transition scenes.” Nope. The reviewer expected a straight reverential adaptation of what he considers to be a good novel. He couldn’t figure out why the military wore fascistic uniforms! I mean, it’s a real puzzler.

    Saying Verhoeven doesn’t know how to do transition scenes is just petulance. By the time he made Starship Troopers, V already had 25 years experience and 11 movies under his belt (admittedly some of them goddamn awful), none of which used newsreels or similar gimmicks for transitions.

    Essentially when the reviewer complains about the MI being “laughably bad”, he doesn’t get that Verhoeven was meaning to make their tactics idiotic as a satire of America’s optimistic military belligerence. Check out the scene where the troop without any air support decides to march right through a tall narrow canyon in the middle of enemy territory while Michael Ironside keeps looking up at the canyon rim suspiciously — it’s cut for comedy, not drama or action.

  10. jack16 says

    Space war fails economics. Whatever they want they don’t have to come here to get it.


  11. christoph says

    @Marcus Ranum, #5: Good thing I didn’t see it yet. I usually wait a few months (or years), then find a copy of the DVD in the remainder bin at Walmart.

  12. twarren1111 says

    I recall a Star Trek episode where war was decided by simulations and the ‘losses’ were accounted for by the people voluntarily reporting to be vaporized.

    Am I sexist bc as long as Black Widow is in the movie, I’m happy? She’s named after a spider…does that give me a pass??

  13. microraptor says

    @consciousness razor: I agree that it wasn’t compelling. Infinity Wars was, IMO, one of if not the worst movie in the MCU to date. I just found the aliens’ ability to track the Mind Stone to Wakanda without difficulty to be consistent with their previous efforts in the film. The difference in finding the Soul Stone was that they didn’t even know the planet it was hidden on, which had space magic to protect it from discovery. That had it’s own set of problems: A) why did Gamora, who didn’t want the Stone, bothered to look at the map before destroying it and B) why had she felt the need to share that information with someone that had a video camera embedded in their head.

    The answer, of course, being that the movie would have been a lot shorter if she’d been smart enough to do that.

  14. wzrd1 says

    Lemme see here. We’re discussing lousy military tactics and strategy in a movie that is based upon a couple of series of comic books (actually, if trivia memory serves, about a half dozen stuporhero titled comic book series).

    A realistic military engagement would be boring to a comic book movie audience and even for a regular moviegoer audience.
    Weeks of planning, at a minimum, obstacles for vehicles, obstacles (such as minefields and channels to put the adversary into a killing zone) for infantry, protective fighting positions that face the adversary well, but poorly, if captured, create a threat to nearby defenders, interlocking fields of fire, area weapons, precision weapons, all planned in layered defense in depth. Each layer being an exercise in bloodletting and lost equipment
    On top of the magical force field, of which there is only one. I’d have had a secondary one closer in, where the inverse square law adds to its power, it being much closer to the sources of the field.
    But, phalanx formations? Um, nope, maybe not as exciting to a movie audience, but from personal experience, having large groups of people trying to kill me was exciting enough, making it devastatingly exciting for them was my absolute goal. That meant, never letting the bastards get even close to close to us, not giving a sporting chance at a donnybrook, it meant mugging at a hellish level of violence from afar, as often and as hard as possible.
    And the only magical stones we had to protect were the boulders between our legs – well, boulders if we let that armor flap swing too far southward…
    Although, I did find it odd, originally, why earth had a pair of magic stones…

    I’ll not even go into a lack of a minimum of quadruple diamond defense in depth for the head stone afflicted hero. Someone who, in previous films, had essentially, all of the powers of a god that could’ve whomped Thor down in a New York minute, but suddenly lacked and significant ability to protect himself.
    Against a mugging, by muggers armed with glowy spears. Something I could, even today, defend against using my cane. They’ll tire of getting back up after I blocked and tripped them or took an overstrike into overbalance.
    As well as the inch and a half or so sized bruise, when I used that cane, right after using it as a staff, as a foil.
    One proper strike to the xiphoid process discourages closer approach.
    Hint, I do that to call the elevator, all day long, going to and from support calls.

    Frankly, I was more entertained with the very first Avengers movie, when they slipped past the censors, the phrase “mewling quim”, that, in context and fact of language dropped the c-bomb on a woman and entirely escaped the folks who normally demand that be removed, lest the audience’s tender sensibilities be offended by insulting a part of the female reproductive system mewling, while a sizable part of an island was demolished, the shitari were essentially rendered extinct (my opinion, as to their military capabilities).
    But, it was an interesting romp on Manhattan Island. And a romp it was, jelling at the end, somehow, magically, Tony, the dilettante, suddenly grows advanced military skill set analysis abilities and applies them practically. How? The magic of the screenwriter.

    Don’t even get me going into martial arts high energy, showman moves, like circling around an adversary’s neck, to take out a surrounding pack, then dropping your ride. One gets one of those per fight and is too tired to even look at your watch.

    Hulk clobbering Thor, after dropping the armored, flying whale, in the train station, when both take a breath, cute. Stupider than a bag of rocks, but cute.

    These films are escapism from reality, hence, why they’re unrealistic.

  15. davidnangle says

    chrislawson: “That review completely misses the point of Verhoeven’s adaptation. ”

    If you wrote a fictional hit piece on JS Bach, slamming his fertility or his fashion sense or something, but you made the focus of your fiction how bad Bach was at writing music, you’d look like an idiot, wouldn’t you? Your piece would be worthy of derision, regardless how we felt about the rest of Bach’s aspects.

  16. voidhawk says

    Agree with the historian that opening the shields was a shrewd move, otherwise when it failed, they would have been swamped from all sides.

    What they didn’t do was secure the breach. I would have surrounded it in a ‘V’ shape, funnelling the lizard creatures into a wall of death, with a secondary line of defence behind them to fall back on to attack stragglers who made it through the line and to relieve the exhausted frontline. Meanwhile, concentrate all ranged weaponry on the area immediately inside or outside the shields, depending on where the flying vehicles were located. Basically, open a breach in the shield, then turn it into a meat-grinder.

  17. lotharloo says

    If anyone is curious, this is Napolitano video that says Trump obstructed justice. Youtu.be/KrFaSrkJrZU