I Saw Black Panther


And it was OK. I am generally sick of movies in which the final resolution is two people in spandex beating the crap out of each other.

Here’s a though that is not good to have, when watching this scene:

“Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony!”

I kept giggling at random through the rest of the movie.

The costumes are beautiful and so were the actors. As usual for one of these comic book-derived movies, there were ideas and moments that were really good, but damn I’d like to see one of these movies in which the hero (for example) recognizes that Killmonger is a valuable talent and a potentially strong ally – he’d be an impressive person to have on one’s team, not decorating a compost heap – then negotiates an arrangement with them that is beneficial to everyone. Of course, that’s never an option because of the simple manichean view of the world that Hollywood wants us to absorb so we can be good militarist subjects.

Any movie with armored rhinos or polar bears is good – that’s just a general principle.

Anyone remember Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards? That’s how to resolve this sort of final conflict. Whenever I see people using hand to hand weapons in a civilization that has powerful projectile weapons; I start pulling my hair out. I know it’s not sporting to disintegrate your enemy while they are hundreds of yards away, but a king’s job is to be a good strategist not a passable brawler. Further, unless you’re a civilization that has surreal medicine, you do not want blades to be any part of how you select your monarch. Blades leave deep, debilitating, permanent marks. During the samurai era, Japan had so many ex-samurai who were missing eyes and other critical body-parts that they had to build a whole infrastructure to warehouse them. It comes back to my point about violence as the means of choosing the king: you wind up choosing strategically incompetent thugs, mostly.

The eye candy is amazing and I found myself wondering how many hours of weight-lifting we were seeing. A great deal of hard work and dedication was on display all around.

Normally I loathe the role of “clever sidekick” but Letitia Wright was perfect. If you put her character, Shuri, on a team with Kate McKinnon’s Holtzmann from Ghost Busters they would rule the world and it would be a good thing and there would be no need for big sword-fights to decide who was awesome.

My preferred ending would have been for the two would-be kings to kill each other off and for the women to take over and establish a less pointlessly violent succession, then nominate Okoye as the new guardian-and-designated-kicker-of-asses and make her the Black Panther. Civilizations need kickers-of-asses but not on the throne.

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I am mad at myself for not recognizing Isaach de Bankolé in his role.

Comments

  1. cvoinescu says

    Any movie with armored rhinos or polar bears is good – that’s just a general principle.

    So you liked The Golden Compass?

  2. says

    Not ragging on your first paragraph – I know people complain about the glut of superhero movies, but this is nothing new. Hell, it’s nowhere near as how many Westerns that were pumped out by Hollywood from its birth to the 60s.

    As for Shuri, I want to see her in her own movie, that’s how much I enjoyed her in this one.

  3. says

    Tabby Lavalamp@#2:
    Not ragging on your first paragraph – I know people complain about the glut of superhero movies, but this is nothing new. Hell, it’s nowhere near as how many Westerns that were pumped out by Hollywood from its birth to the 60s.

    Yeah, Hollywood has always been more interested in cranking out entertaining crowd-pleasers than trying to do art, or anything provocative (what I call “interesting”) In the 40s, we’d already be up to Star Wars episode 245, because they’d be churning them out like cliff-hangers as fast as they could produce them. Special effects and the time-cost of special effects production have done we weird thing by making Hollywood’s production system get “bumpy” and it has come to depend on these mega-feeding-frenzy movies that drive an entire years’ profit/loss… That’s dangerous, in my opinion, but so far they seem to be making it work.

    I’d like to think it as not exactly that I am complaining about the glut of superhero movies; I’m registering that I am bored by them and am increasingly unlikely to spend my money to see one. Whether that equates to the big studios realizing there are a few fringe-cases who want different content, or not, I guess that’s the future we’ll be exploring collectively.

    As for Shuri, I want to see her in her own movie, that’s how much I enjoyed her in this one.

    Yes! Maybe a movie entitled, Shuri Sorts Out The World. OK, I guess I’m not going to make it in Hollywood.

  4. says

    cvoinescu@#1:
    So you liked The Golden Compass?

    I liked the armored bears. I hear there was a whole movie going on around them, but I was too busy digging the panzerbeorn.

  5. says

    powerful projectile weapons

    They appeared to have antigravity. So, that’s basically the most powerful weapon you can have, ever. “Oh look I can create pinpoint fusion points more or less wherever I want them.” Free power too. And you can use it to drop things on stuff. “Oh, look, I just accelerated a brick over quite a distance and now it’s gone and hit your head at 16k/s. Well, the shockwave of the brick turning into plasma did, anyhow.”

  6. malefue says

    When have warriors ever looked like bodybuilders, is my question with all these films.

  7. Reginald Selkirk says

    My random thoughts:

    I saw Black Panther and thought it was entertaining.

    But this is probably a limited time offer. Soon it will cease to be Black Panther, the movie and become Black Panther, the universe, which is a part of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. I watched it without following the comic book for decades, or watching a dozen other movies to prep for it, and that was OK. Soon that will be not OK, and anyone attempting to step in without doing the prerequisite preparation will be hopelessly lost. ‘Easter egg’ references to past movies, comic books, companion universes will become routine and disorienting to those not prepared.

    The idea of an African country which was not broken by colonialism is a fascinating alternative history premise.

    The idea that a single metal is going to be the basis for every single technological advancement seem rather far-fetched.

    That such an advanced civilization would choose their leader solely based on one-on-one combat skill seems very dumb. That the other characters would be surprised and upset by the wholly predictable outcome of this is odd.

  8. invivoMark says

    I felt similarly let down by Black Panther (although it was a beautiful movie and I’m glad it’s doing well).

    But the new season of Jessica Jones is pretty great. I’m over half way through the season and I think there have been, maybe, two punchy fight scenes? And they were short and to the point.

  9. says

    I got the impression that this part of the movie was a relic from the early days of Wakanda, when leaders from every tribe gathered to swear their allegiance to the throne and that, customarily, it was purely pro forma. Much like the English coronation ceremony involves every peer in the realm making a personal oath of fealty to the new monarch, and how the Crown Champion would issue a ritual challenge to take on in combat anyone who doubted their right to the throne. There seemed to be a bit of surprise that the Mountain Tribe had not appeared at T’Challa’s ascension, and genuine shock when M’Baku accepted the ritual challenge.

    It seemed that Killmonger’s victory threw the country into a constitutional crisis: succession by combat was the law and tradition, but it hadn’t actually been invoked in who knows how long. And because it was considered a quaint historical relic, no one had bothered to change it. I suspect that T’Challa and the Council changed that awfully quick.

  10. Dunc says

    “Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony!”

    How’s that Electoral College thing working out for you?

  11. Pierce R. Butler says

    “Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony!”

    Do NOT disrespect the authority of the Watery Tart!

  12. cartomancer says

    Sounds to me rather like an attempt to inject something of the grandeur of myth into proceedings. The trial seems reminiscent of the legend of the King of Nemi (rex nemorensis in Latin) – a high priest of Diana at her sacred lake about twenty miles south of Rome. According to a very archaic piece of Roman (or possibly even pre-Roman) religious ritual, the priest was always an escaped slave, who took over the office upon taking up a branch from the sacred tree of Diana and killing the previous incumbent in single combat. Following the successful completion of this farcical aquatic ceremony the victorious new priest then had a job for life – and probably a much shorter life to enjoy it in, now he was the target for anyone else who fancied having a go. The whole institution was probably a symbolic representation of the trials and tribulations actual kings had to endure – usurping power and constantly fearing usurpation in their turn. By the time the Principate rolled round the office was pretty much obsolete, and the priest at Lake Nemi hadn’t taken over by means of ritual combat for centuries. Until that charming young Caligula decided it was high time he revived the tradition.

  13. chigau (違う) says

    Marcus #4

    I liked the armored bears.

    I liked the scene where the good bear slapped the bad bear’s mandible off into a snowbank.
    ’cause I really need some more wake-up-screaming-nightmare material.

  14. John Morales says

    Hm. chigau, what’s this thing about some cartoon for kiddies?

    (Yeah, I know, this post is about a cartoon for black people — um, African-Americans.
    Guess I shouldn’t comment until it hits free-to-air so I can watch it)

    But the new season of Jessica Jones is pretty great. I’m over half way through the season and I think there have been, maybe, two punchy fight scenes? And they were short and to the point.

    Yeah. I personally rather liked the first (Daredevil) — slow as it was, quite liked the second (Jessica) because of the gimmick, gave upon the third (some black guy who is invulnerable and operates in a black milieu), was saddened by the next (Iron Fist who was an angsty wuss but magical as required so it was OK) and disappointed by the ensemble effort (Defenders against cut-rate-Ninjas).

    So, thanks for warning me about the (presumably angsty but non-punchy) Jessica.

    (You and I have different ideas about comic-book heroes, obviously)

    (And let’s not get into the bullshit Punisher, who was great in Daredevil but was not very punishy in its own series. I kept watching, and fast-forwarding, wondering when the Punishing would get going. It never really did. What a let-down!)

    Bah.

  15. says

    That such an advanced civilization would choose their leader solely based on one-on-one combat skill seems very dumb.

    It can’t be any worse than a system that put a screaming orange id into the White House.

    gave upon the third (some black guy who is invulnerable and operates in a black milieu)

    Luke Cage is a black man who is bulletproof. That’s a very powerful image, especially in the age of Black Lives Matter.

    The show did screw up by killing off Mahershala Ali’s Cottonmouth so early. He was one of the best, most charismatic villains in the entire Marvel television and movie universe.

  16. says

    Okay so… I also saw Black Panther, and I have to disagree with you on this one…

    I’ll start by admitting my bias, however… I absolutely love… well… the idea of these superhero movies, and while DC is failing miserably (aside from Wonder Woman, the DC Cinematic Universe has been a disappointment… which angers me, because, in terms of comics, animated direct-to-video films, and TV series [both animated and live-action], DC is still doing extremely well… and since I got into superheroes as a kid through Batman and Wonder Woman in the first place, my heart is with DC), Marvel is doing a pretty good job, IMO. And, honestly, I not going to allow myself to succumb to “superhero fatigue” until DC actually manages to give us a cinematic universe worthy of competing with Marvel (which, sadly, may mean abandoning their current one, taking a break, and starting over with a complete reboot… with a much younger Batman, especially, who actually follows his no-kill rule… although I would hate to see Wonder Woman rebooted because she’s been really good).

    I thought Black Panther was the best of the current superhero films with the best villain (in both Marvel and DC). I do see your criticism about the way Wakanda chooses it’s ruler (and the fact that it has a ruler), but that’s lifted directly from the comics. They aren’t going to deviate from the comics that massively, so… you know… you have to take the film in the context of it’s source inspiration. But I felt like Black Panther did the whole formula better than any of the previous MCU films and far better then the DCEU films (Wonder Woman included). He actually had a history, was complex, and had a point. And he was very well acted. He was a villain you could sympathize with… you could understand where he was coming from.

    Shuri having her own film would be phenomenal, though, as long as all the other women in the Black Panther film were in it, as well. The women overall were the best part of the film.

  17. invivoMark says

    John Morales @15,

    Let me clarify. I don’t dislike punchy-fighty scenes in general. I dislike them in Marvel movies and TV.* They are always completely lacking in suspense, they contain nothing interesting, they are completely interchangeable, and the outcomes are predictable.

    *Except for Iron Fist. But that’s because the choreography Iron Fist was so bad that it was kind of funny.

  18. says

    Because they are played by actual humans, the characters in the movies are aging. RDJ can’t realistically play Iron Man for that much longer even though his lifespan as a hero is longer than someone like Batman because his suit does all the physical work.

    Another limitation that the movies have is the number of characters that can be portrayed. The TV shows help and they are technically part of the MCU (though they tend to only occasionally mention the larger universe and the movies ignore the shows entirely*).

    Because of this, I’m open to some merging of characters in the movies. In particular, the character who is the successor to Iron Man in the comics… Ironheart. There is no reason Shuri can’t become Ironheart in the movies.

    While that would take away an opportunity to introduce a young African-American genius to the universe, we can still get that if they decide to do a Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur movie (and they really should).

    * While there are probably issues doing so, having the Netflix heroes missing when New York gets attacked now makes no sense.

  19. says

    invivoMark @18
    “I don’t dislike punchy-fighty scenes in general. I dislike them in Marvel movies and TV.”

    I hope that doesn’t include punchy-fighty arena scene in Thor: Ragnarok.

    Or the first hallway fight scene in season 1 of Daredevil.

    I will allow not liking any other ones, but I will punchy-fighty you over those two.

  20. invivoMark says

    Tabby Lavalamp @20
    I haven’t seen Ragnarok yet. It’s on the list, though.

    I liked season 1 of Daredevil, but alas the fight scenes all blend in for me. I hated season 2, in part because the fight scenes just got ridiculously banal. For instance, pretty much every time Matt and Electra would wind up in the same scene, they’d just start punching each other for a while, even though neither had any intention of seriously injuring the other. It got to the point I started mumbling at my TV, “domestic violence doesn’t make a good replacement for ‘hello’.”

  21. says

    I’m reading back over my comment at #17 and… holy wow… whole passages are missing. What happened?

    Let me fix a few things…

    First is just missing punctuation…

    I’ll start by admitting my bias, however… I absolutely love… well… the idea of these superhero movies, and while DC is failing miserably (aside from Wonder Woman, the DC Cinematic Universe has been a disappointment… which angers me, because, in terms of comics, animated direct-to-video films, and TV series [both animated and live-action], DC is still doing extremely well… and since I got into superheroes as a kid through Batman and Wonder Woman in the first place, my heart is with DC), Marvel is doing a pretty good job, IMO. And, honestly, I not going to allow myself to succumb to “superhero fatigue” until DC actually manages to give us a cinematic universe worthy of competing with Marvel (which, sadly, may mean abandoning their current one, taking a break, and starting over with a complete reboot… with a much younger Batman, especially, who actually follows his no-kill rule… although I would hate to see Wonder Woman rebooted because she’s been really good).

    Needs an ellipses after the end of the first parentheses “(my heart is with DC)”… so…

    “I’ll start by admitting my bias, however… I absolutely love… well… the idea of these superhero movies, and while DC is failing miserably (aside from Wonder Woman, the DC Cinematic Universe has been a disappointment… which angers me, because, in terms of comics, animated direct-to-video films, and TV series [both animated and live-action], DC is still doing extremely well… and since I got into superheroes as a kid through Batman and Wonder Woman in the first place, my heart is with DC)… Marvel is doing a pretty good job, IMO.”

    And now… missing passage:

    I thought Black Panther was the best of the current superhero films with the best villain (in both Marvel and DC). I do see your criticism about the way Wakanda chooses it’s ruler (and the fact that it has a ruler), but that’s lifted directly from the comics. They aren’t going to deviate from the comics that massively, so… you know… you have to take the film in the context of it’s source inspiration. But I felt like Black Panther did the whole formula better than any of the previous MCU films and far better then the DCEU films (Wonder Woman included). He actually had a history, was complex, and had a point. And he was very well acted. He was a villain you could sympathize with… you could understand where he was coming from.

    Let me fix that…

    “I thought Black Panther was the best of the current superhero films with the best villain (in both Marvel and DC). I do see your criticism about the way Wakanda chooses it’s ruler (and the fact that it has a ruler), but that’s lifted directly from the comics. They aren’t going to deviate from the comics that massively, so… you know… you have to take the film in the context of it’s source inspiration. But I felt like Black Panther did the whole formula better than any of the previous MCU films and far better then the DCEU films (Wonder Woman included).”

    I also feel tht Killmonger has redefined what kind of villain superhero films should have. He just barely beat out Heath Ledger’s Joker for me as the best superhero film villain.

    “He actually had a history, was complex, and had a point. And he was very well acted. He was a villain you could sympathize with… you could understand where he was coming from.”

    (Not to say Heath Ledger’s Joker wasn’t complex or very well acted. He was, and that’s why I loved him so much. I think Killmonger took at that to the next level as a villain, while adding an actual backstory and… you know… not being an “Agent of Chaos”.)

    I think Killmonger set a strong standard for superhero film villains. We’ll see if others can match up.

    ——————————————————

    Sadly, I can’t edit my initial comment, but hopefully this clears it up a bit. Sorry about that… heh…

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