Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Black Panther: Wakanda Mess is This?


When Black Panther came out, I was in India. I almost saw it there, but I really wanted to wait until I got home to see it with my son, Jeremy, as he is my Marvel/superhero fan who also happens to be black (and age 35) and so I thought he might relate to this kind of macho black man superhero movie. I mean, I knew there was going to some political stuff I might not be overly fond of (since I had read this was kind of a very liberal/black power/ bash white people movie, but it was getting crazy great reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and everyone was gushing about it being the best movie ever made. So, I thought, I have to see this, ignore my personal conservative political biases, and enjoy maybe a really cool movie. I asked Jeremy to wait till I got home to see it and he agreed.

So we went to see it. When the movie ended, I looked over at Jeremy and he looked back at me and said, "God, that was boring as fuck. I couldn't wait for it to end." I was shocked! Of all people, I thought he would like this flick. Yes, I was really bored as well, but I am not a big superhero movie person and what do I know of superhero films. But, Jeremy bored to death? Wow. We left the theater and he just huffed and puffed on the way to the car about how Marvel could make such a bad film, the worst of any of their productions. I didn't get into too much of what I thought of the film because I was still trying to process the convoluted mess that this movie was and how it could possibly be considered a good movie and how anyone could have liked the messages in it, even if they were strong liberals or Black Lives Matter supporters.

SPOILERS AHEAD

Let me break Black Panther without referring to all the actors and actresses names and all because I don't feel like going back and researching all that. All I can say is there were good actors and actresses in this film, but they had such a crappy script that I can't blame them for the wooden and dull acting that was exhibited throughout the movie. Now, let me go to the bizarre plot, plot holes,  and bizarre ideation.

Wakanda is this place in Africa, a kind of Brigadoon, which has kept itself secret from the rest of the continent and the world for a couple thousand years by a lucky landing of a metal in their land called Vibranium which is such an amazing compound that it jettisons this country into far superior technology than anyone else has on the planet. Hence, they have space age like cities and spaceships and superior science and medicine. However, there is no explanation how they survived the early years shut off from the world when they are a landlocked nation with no ports and clearly no transport in and out of products from other places. Oh, wait, yeah, they didn't need anything from the outside world because Vibranium somehow solves all problems. But, where did they develop the educational levels to develop the Vibranium without any input from the outside? I guess they were just a genius people and didn't get ruined by white colonizers.

Yet, wait, how come such highly advanced people still have a monarchy which the leader can only become king if no one kills him in a battle to death with spears on the edge of a cliff? How, if this is how you stay in power, in all those couple thousand years, no despot took over and completely screwed up the country? And, why, oh, why are black men fighting to the death in a fight that looks like it was set up by slave masters from Django? Why isn't this embarrassing for the black community?

And speaking of spears, why is the all female guard force using spears as their main weapon? Haven't they got anything better considering they have Vibranium to make weapons with? And why are they using rhinos in battle?

Before I go on, let's talk about what Wakanda is. Why are a bunch of black Americans pretending to be Africans in a fake African country? Aren't they kind of appropriating the hell out of African culture? And why do Wakandans speak Xhosa, a language of South Africa, thousands of miles away? Why don't they have their own language? Why are the people wearing tribal costumes from around Africa when Wakanda has shut themselves away from all the rest of Africa? Why has Wakanda allowed the rest of Africa to be colonized by evil whites and carried off as slaves to America all without lifting a finger to help them? Why don't they have their own culture and art?

Why does Wakanda look like a postapocolyptic city with huts welded onto the skyscrapers? Why do we not see beautiful neighborhoods, universities, and shopping malls that make us drool to want to live there? Why do we only see huts on the outskirts (this is supposed to fool people into thinking they are a third world country so no one will bother with them; so why not use a hologram instead of making people live in huts and use wooden toilets? Or are those happy rural farmers a nod to the beauty of rural African life?), an ugly city from the air, and one shopping street selling colorful African handbags that looks exactly like a crowded tourist marketplace in a present day African city?

Why is neighboring gorilla worshiping tribe up in mountains that look like the Himalayas when they are supposed to be located relatively near Wakanda in the imagined area of Rwanda or Uganda? Why the heck aren't blacks upset that this this tribe worships a gorilla and goes around making gorilla sounds? Isn't that racist as heck? And, WHY, is the gorilla god called Hanuman, the real name of the revered Indian monkey god? Speak of cultural appropriation! Was the writer so lazy he couldn't make up a name and just googled "monkey" and "god" and came up with Hanuman and so, yeah, whatever.

Now, let me go to the start of the movie where for twenty minutes I could barely see the black actors on the screen due to horribly low lighting used in the filming. Then we find our heros in Oakland, California. It appears the brother of the then king was sent as a spy to the United States (Why? We have no damned idea) and, although Wakanda is extraordinarily wealthy, the king's brother is forced to live in a ghetto, which we know is a terrrible ghetto because his apartment is crappy and his son is outside playing basketball with a hoop made of a plastic crate. No wonder this guy is pissed off. Anyway, he marries a local woman and has a son (who she is and what happened to her we have no idea because she is not around) and he gets angry at the way black people are treated in California and so he plots to get the Vibranium and use it to help save all the oppressed blacks in the world. Mind you, it is insulting as heck to represent the entire black population of the United States as a ghetto with no successful blacks anywhere around. If I were a black American, I would be pretty offended that Wakanda and the film producers did not think blacks in this country have achieved a damn thing; no doctors, no lawyers, no politicians, no famous people, no great educators, no well-renowned achievers of any sort, no black colleges, black actors and actresses, no great sportsmen, nada ... blacks in America are total failures (albeit due to white oppression).

Now, the king of Wakanda finds out what his brother is up to and kills him and then takes off, leaving the orphaned kid to fend for himself. Why he does this is never explained as more than a careless mistake. What, was the kid not a full Wakandan, so he wasn't welcome in Wakanda and worth caring about? So, poor halfbreed Killmonger, who learned of this mystical kingdom of Wakanda from his daddy, finds a book in Wakandan that explains everything. Killmonger somehow gets highly educated, joins the military special forces, becomes a killer and decides to go to Wakanda and become king and use the Vibranium to give it to all the black people on the planet to fight their white oppressors. So, speaking fluent Wakandan or Xhosa, whatever, he returns to the kindom and fight the present king, T'Challa for rulership. He wins in the brutal fight and T'Challa is supposed to be dead. I don't think it is necessary to get into all the other silly stuff - the bizarre Korean segment or the drinking of  blue juice to get power and see your ancestors and the whole actual Black Panther suit thing  and how T'Challa somehow survives what should have killed him and is brought back to life to fight against for the kingdom - but what IS interesting is that T'Challa represents Trump and Killmonger represents Obama!

Yes, T'Challa wants to protect the borders and culture of Wakanda and Killmonger wants to go global. Yet, Killmonger is the bad guy and T'Challa is the good guy. Umm...isn't that kind of opposite of what one would expect for the political message? But, no worries, because T'Challa does become more enlightened and decides, even if he doesn't arm all blacks to wipe out the white people, he is going to help blacks with Wakandan technology. So, he lands his spaceship back in the same Oakland ghetto that Killmonger played basketball in and leaves his sister there to build...get this...a community center. And, you know that they are going to live up to helping those poor, completely helpless blacks of Oakland because we already see that they have a REAL basketball hoop instead of a crate. Thanks, Wakandans! Black Americans have no hope unless they get help from Africa and these special Wakandan Africans who have no clue what they have experienced and are dealing in the present with because Wakandans have lived in  isolation all their lives, never been colonized, never been slaves, and never dealt with oppression.

I could go on and on; there is so much more nonsense in this movie it is just unbelievable. It was a failure in every aspect. Not even the good-looking men gave me enough eye candy moments; where is Tyler Perry when you need him to spice things up a little?

Why was this not a really awesome film with a great script, superb acting, an amazing secret country, fascinating visuals, and a great message?

I have no problem with an all-black film. I love a good Bollywood movie from India and many of them have not a white person in them. I love being immersed in another world, another culture. Same for my love of Colombian and Mexican telenovelas. I am happy to see a whole other culture doing their thing. Wakanda could have been a superb place with a strong, unique black people and I could have rooted for them, even rooted for their specifically black culture. And, I would have loved an amazing new superhero in Black Panther that I could have been as drawn in with the character as I was with Blade.

But, sadly, Black Panther was "Wakanda Llight" and for all those shouting "Wakanda, forever!", all I can say is I hope, if there is a Black Panther Returns, Wakanda will get a full makeover with a new director, new videographer, and, for god's sake, new scriptwriters.

Criminal Profiler Pat Brown
April 19, 2018 

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