Another G+ article rescued from the archives. Save for some markdown it’s what I wrote back in 2018.
So I’ve seen Black Panther twice in the theaters within a span of a few weeks. I also watched Civil War and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on Netflix a day or so ago.
And I want to see Black Panther again. I have the orchestral soundtrack on now.
Granted, CW and GotG2 were pretty good movies.
Superhero battle set-piece aside the conflict in Civil War revolved around trusting people vs. trusting process. Neither is foolproof; even “good” people make mistakes, and committees compromise in both the good and bad senses of the term. The true villain manipulated both process and people. Ironically (MINOR SPOILER) the guy favoring process and consensus abandoned it to take revenge, while the guy believed in people showed restraint. We can’t depend on “philosopher kings”; we shouldn’t. Unlike Steve and Tony, we can see a middle ground: trust but verify. Pick the best people you can but watch them, and pull them out when things go off the rails. Easier said than done, of course. (Easier still to not do, but this isn’t the Politics1 collection.)
GotG2’s clear theme was fathers and family. There was a lot to like here too, from the unexpected depth of the bond between Gamora and Nebula to Kurt Russell’s turn as a genial sociopath and all the character moments in between. That’s why I watch these movies, BTW; the effects are stunning and the stories timeless, but complex characters brought to life by up-and-coming or veteran actors make Marvel movies work.
Ah, but Black Panther still sticks with me:
An entire cast of black actors, except for the token white people, one of whom dies to further the plot.
A story of an Africa that should have been, and may yet be.
A new king who must decide whether to keep his nation’s secrets and its safety, or to reveal its hidden strength to help a suffering world. The villain is a creation of those secrets, and his threat a globe-spanning war with the “right” people in charge.
(MINOR SPOILER) The moment when the rightful king, on the brink of death, refuses to let the world burn or to keep his nation hidden any longer.
Superhero movies, as some critics say, have an inherent fascist bias: only ONE PERSON can SAVE us from these HOODLUMS. It’s here, too, in Civil War (Captain America), GotG2 (Starlord and his heritage), and Black Panther (T’Challa). Particularly in the third case, though, each one of them rejects being “special”: Steve Rogers in his own mind will always be a skinny kid looking out for the little guy, Peter Quill will reject godlike power if others must suffer for it, and T’Challa (while still a king) will risk his nation and his life to right a historic wrong and prevent an even greater one.
My ideal protagonist would receive unprecedented power from just being at the right (or wrong) place at the right (or wrong) time … and give it to the people who need it as fast as (in)humanly possible. While I don’t think any Marvel movie will go that far – need to leave room for sequels, after all – T’Challa is closest to this ideal. Even though T’Challa ultimately hangs onto his throne and his powers he’s ironically the most democratic of the heroes in the MCU. Technology is inherently democratic, even if despots routinely hoard it, because anyone in theory can pick it up, learn how it works, and use it. The other heroes thwarted evil and averted disaster, albeit by causing lesser disasters that came back to haunt them. T’Challa at the end of the film is poised to do good.
The struggle over that fantasy world, between a good man who inherits bad decisions and a bad man trying to do “good” in his warped way, is worth sitting through again.
Plus there’s that (French?) U.N. representative at the end: “What can a nation of farmers offer the world?” And all our characters quietly laughing at him.
David Raley - 2018-04-03 20:33:37-0400
The villain of Black Panther was interesting. Someone smart questioned whether a man who spent his whole life tearing things down could transform into a leader who builds a new future, and maybe the inability to escape the bonds of the past or find another way is what made him a monster.
It reminds me of themes explored with the character Lester Nygard (played by Martin Freeman) in the tv series Fargo. Being put upon doesn’t make someone a hero. How a character goes about addressing the imbalance could though.
Frank Mitchell - 2018-04-03 21:19:38-0400
On Tumblr someone proposed a Miyazaki-like alternate script where Killmonger was the protagonist (and not a psychopath). Like in Princess Mononoke the two sworn enemies presumably would find common ground. It’s an interesting thought experiment. Much like Poison Ivy, psycho boy is not wrong. Unfortunately like (classic) Ivy, this Killmonger’s rage blinds him to any outcome in which his enemies — only 3/4 of the human race, in his case – survive. It’s kinda in his name.
Erik’s tragedy is he never really had a chance to be anything else. As the ghost/vision of his father said (paraphrasing), “Look what I’ve done.” Although it wasn’t just his father and his dream of world-wide revolution; his uncle abandoned him, the society in which he grew up kindled his rage, the CIA gave him the tools to achieve his vengeance and ample practice killing. (Much like other real-life terrorists I could name, but again this isn’t Politics1.) Erik can only see his own suffering, mirrored in people who look like him and blamed on anyone who doesn’t. Swap skin tones and that’s almost exactly how the current mess began, and a few decades or centuries later the new oppressed would rise up against the new oppressors.
But, as T’Challa realized in Civil War, vengeance only destroys. (Who said, “If you set out to take revenge dig two graves”?) The cycle has to stop. Crimes may need to remain unpunished, especially if the original perpetrators are dead. (Also a useful principle in the real world, but this still isn’t Politics1.) T’Challa had led a mostly privileged life, true, but he has enough perspective to break with the past and enough compassion to build a better world. Or try, anyway, until Thanos fucks it up.
As I said in a previous pontification, it’s a nice fantasy. In the real world nobody with that kind of power is that virtuous. Or else someone would have assassinated T’Challa the moment he proposed revealing Wakanda’s secret to the outside world.
David Raley - 2018-04-04 17:03:04-0400
Confucius or Kung Fu Tzu, if you prefer.2
No profound commentary on this one. Just … converting these is a pain.
I load the HTML into a browser, copy and paste the content as TEXT,
then insert Markdown to (mostly) reproduce the original.
I really should try
kramdown again, but my
while converting the (admittedly huge and Google Docs derived)
“Year Zero Engine OGL SRD”
was not encouraging.
Then again most of my G+ posts were crap.
I just tried
kramdown on the HTML for the
non-review of Black Panther.
It worked pretty well … more accurately than the process
above, albeit with some HTML gorp at the top and bottom.
Although I would have hand-tweaked it anyway,
to turn a paragraph of italics into a proper blockquote.
Still … why don’t I just do that next time?
(2023-01-17) A reference to my long departed G+ account. I don’t comment (directly) on politics in this blog, because I have unusual opinions for the part of the U.S. where I live, and future employers might take exception to them. ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎
(2023-01-17) Presumably the answer to
Who said, “If you set out to take revenge dig two graves”?↩︎