WARNING: SPOILER ALERT!!!
Last Saturday night (17/2/2018) I and some friends went to watch the new Black Panther movie. Admittedly I’d had some reservations, primarily because it was a mainstream Hollywood movie so they might fuck up the story and dilute the unabashedly pro-‘black’/ Pan-Africanist vibe in the series. Not to mention our money is still going to the overwhelmingly ‘white’ Hollywood CEOs and whatnot. However, I was pleasantly surprised. I have the full Black Panther TV series (only 6 episodes but whatever) and the movie didn’t stray that far from it, so I’m happy.
Things I loved:
- Wakandan vibranium & tech prowess is unknown to the rest of the world. That means Wakanda is a kind of haven from predatory foreign businessmen & politicians.
- The scenery. Honestly it would’ve been nicer if the hologram (of nomadic shepherds on hillsides that the world sees) had been the country’s real appearance instead of the ultra-urbanised city with pointlessly tall skyscrapers. That would’ve shown a nice complement rather than contrast between nature & civilisation. But the challenge scene, the tribes’ attire, ancestral realm and interior of the palace were absolutely stunning.
- The complete absence of Wakanda sucking up to non-African cultures, religions or people. They knew of Christianity & Islam and favoured their old worship of Bast. They wore their own clothes & cultural artefacts (or were they borrowed from other African cultures? I don’t know of any Mursi lip plates or Fulani giant earrings in the original series. But it looked good anyway, and really accentuated the tribes’ individuality & symbolised real-life African attire). They didn’t accept foreign aid or allow foreigners in for any reason, not even tourism.
- T’Challa snogged Nakia! You don’t know how gratifying that is for a relatively light-skinned ‘black’ guy who loves dark-skinned women! YES!!!
The only thing that could’ve made it better is getting Lupita to play Storm instead of that piece of shit Halle Berry. No offence.
- Action! I love me a bad-ass ‘black’ action scene. The Panther was smooth as hell, pretty much unflappable (even despite Okoye’s claim that he freezes in battle), and the special effects were better than I would’ve expected of a Marvel movie. Nice!
Just a few things that jarred me a bit:
- T’Chaka didn’t adequately explain why he abandoned N’Jadaka/Erik in USA. I understand killing his dad N’jobu, even if it was OTT for a fellow Wakandan, but leaving the son? While knowing how much Wakandans prize revenge so N’jobu would’ve passed that vengeance onto N’Jadaka? That was stupid, especially for a Black Panther.
- When the CIA guy revived in Shuri’s lab, why was she so eager to tell him about the inner workings of the country? Considering he wasn’t even supposed to be there in the first place? Why didn’t she tranquilise him or something?
- Ulysses Klaw wasn’t the primary antagonist. However, N’Jadaka/ Erik really gave me food for thought so I count this as a good thing. In some respects he could’ve been a proper Black Panther and had some noble motives, but in others he was a typical American, especially by attacking those he considered “his own people.” Which I think symbolises the difference of opinion among the conscious ‘black’ community, and exposes a trap a lot of us fall into. Why would we think liberation means the same thing to all ‘black’ people or that we all have to do the same thing to attain it? Good call Ryan Coogler.
- Why did T’Challa accept N’Jadaka’s challenge to the throne? He may have Wakandan royal blood and be a damn good fighter but he was raised in the USA, he only knows about Wakandan culture second-hand, he openly stated his hatred of them (self-hate?), and the challenge is held at specially appointed times – one of which had already passed. In my opinion if T’Challa was trying to save face he should’ve just laughed his ass out the door and called him a complete waste of time – OR to avoid the later conflict congratulate him for killing Klaw. But that wouldn’t make for good drama, I know.
- Ulysses was incredibly underpowered. In the series he was far deadlier, enough that T’Challa actually struggled in hand-to-hand combat even in costume. Klaw’s prosthetic arm was effectively a shape-shifting Swiss army knife stocked with blades, projectile weapons, lasers and more, plus he was a world-class assassin and had a deep hatred of Wakandans because a previous Black Panther had killed his colonial great-grandpa. He should’ve been showcased more, to show why Wakanda had such a hard time bringing him to justice.
- I know Angela Bassett’s not really an action woman but it would’ve been cool to showcase her character’s (T’Challa’s mother Ramonda) skills. And Shuri’s, since she was always sparring with T’Challa in the series and wielded the Ebony Blade. Oh well, that’s what a sequel’s for. There will be a sequel, right…?
- When the CIA guy tried to talk in M’Baku’s palace M’Baku and his tribe shut him down. I get the self-assertion over ‘white’ people but that was a bit of a cheap shot. It would’ve been more impressive if he were… you know, more physically imposing.
If they really wanted to assert themselves they shouldn’t have let him in at all, let him stay outside in the cold or something. And screaming like apes/ monkeys? Come on, they could’ve done better than that.
- You could say I don’t have the right to say this given my only-just-emerging appreciation of music, but I wasn’t sure what to make of the tunes. They didn’t sound typically African to my ears, more like traditional African/Western fusion. Maybe I need to hear it again (good excuse to watch the whole film again!).
- What happened to the CIA guy at the end? I seriously hope he wasn’t allowed to stay in Wakanda or return to his normal life in USA with brand new inside knowledge.
Agent Ross, that was the CIA guy’s name.
OK I’ve critiqued it. Can I join Cinema Sins now?
Despite those discrepancies I thoroughly enjoyed the film and recommend that ‘black’ people watch it, and anyone else who wants to see a good film this side of 2018.