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Monday, June 11, 2018

Black Panther

Back in February I wrote a post about Marvel’s Black Panther movie, but having had not yet seen it, the post was more about “diversity” than any actual review of the film itself. On Friday I finally got to see “Black Panther” and now wish to share my thoughts on the movie.




Put briefly, when it was over and I was asked what I thought by Marta’s husband, Wally, I think I made a joke that it seemed that Disney’s acquisition of Marvel essentially turned “Black Panther” into a live-action retelling of “The Lion King”.


African music, majestic landscapes, newbie kings finding their way, adoring subjects, rogue uncles and cousins, dead royal fathers, humorous and devoted female loved ones..............just picture Simba sitting on a vast deposit of vibranium and you have "Black Panther." 


As a long time Marvel fan, reader, and comic book collector, friends normally assume that my dissatisfaction with the Marvel movies is rooted in some departure from the classic storylines. This is only partially, or more accurately only comparatively true. My dissatisfaction is based on a lack of originality and depth based on what has been shown possible by the comic books.

Marvel movies have now solidly established a winning formula that they will not depart from for any reason:

Take a character from Marvel and portray them as witty and quippy, run them through a predictable story where the hero’s origin is revealed, a villain is introduced, and the hero nearly loses to the villain only to be saved by a combination of their own pluck and usually unexpected help from loyal friends. Liberally add slick, impressive action scenes, and you have a hit.

The thing that disappoints me is that the Marvel Universe impressed its comic book readers by introducing a panoply of characters…….rich in the same disparities that are reflected by society in general. Some are clever and quippy. Others are stoic. Others are downright somber and dour. They don’t just differentiate themselves from one another by superpower and costume color. There are introverts and extroverts, full-blown heroes and others who tread a fine line. The movie heroes, on the the other hand, are pretty repetitive.

Now when you are on your own and relying on Hollywood hacks for stories, I can understand how this can happen, but when you have decades of a rich history of established and successful storylines already written for you to choose from, and you STILL keep doing the same thing? Well, don’t expect me to praise it.

What is particularly disappointing about “Black Panther” is the missed opportunity to do something different. (Just like “Doctor Strange” threw away its chance.)  If you thought that the Panther was pretty cool in the movie, you haven’t seen anything. In the comics, T’Challa made an impressive debut, and soon after in the Avengers he was later revealed to be more of a ‘spy’ than an altruistic hero…...curious about the Avengers and whether they..... or those associated with them ......were a threat to Wakanda. 

T’Challa had his shit together. He was not some bumbling rookie hoping to be a good king. And the dora milaje were loyal bodyguards. The cavalier way he was spoken to by Danai Gurira’s character was outrageous.

I like fun and I enjoy humor more than most, but not EVERY character in a story has to be clever and funny. That’s why Shakespeare had “comic relief” characters in his tragedies rather than just having Hamlet or Macbeth crack  jokes.

I suggested that the movie would have been much better if they had told the story through Everett Ross’ eyes as he followed Klaw and Killmonger while obediently keeping a careful yet diplomatic eye on T’Challa…... only to have it revealed at the conclusion that T’Challa had the whole situation under surveillance and control from the start and played them all expertly against each other so he could get the stolen vibranium back to Wakanda. THAT is what the comic book T’Challa was like. A super-cool, very thorough ‘hero’ who used physical power and skill, technology, and intelligence to defeat his antagonists….and then, like a panther, slipped away stealthily back into the dark jungle. He was not the two-legged ‘Simba’ shown in the movie.

In conclusion, I can see why Black audiences (who have so long been denied true equality) enjoyed the film……...it truly put a Black character on the same level as Marvel/Disney’s white hero movies: it was just as bad, banal, and hackneyed as they are. Hurray for equality!

5 comments:

  1. Probably one of the best lines: Marvel essentially turned “Black Panther” into a live-action retelling of “The Lion King”
    Even though, I enjoy the marvel movies and find the entertaining at some levels, I do think it’s a repetitive formula that it works in gaining the buck but it’s getting old. Introducing new personalities, perspectives and new ways characters’ stories develop is not such a bad idea! I would have love to see this bad ass character that black panther was in the comic book being portrayed in the big screen, maybe then I can consider him into my list of cool characters.... Although he will never beat my captain America ;) LOL
    -Ana

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    1. See? That's why we get along so well.....

      ......most of the time. ;-)

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  2. There was another movie I saw recently that also felt like it was an overlay of an earlier, less edgy work. Totally different genre. The Shape of Water. It felt like a reworking of The Iron Giant, but with an amphibian-man instead of a robot, and more sex.

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    1. I should do a review of that sometime soon. Very disappointing for an Academy Award winner.

      I love Iron Giant. My favorite animated feature!

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    2. It’s not quite my favorite but way up there. For favorites, it’s probably either Toy Story or Up. I’ve also gotten very attached to How to Train Your Dragon.

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