Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Black Panther as celebration

There were two other ways in which the movie improved on the comic books (in my opinion, obviously).

While I initially liked Ross in the books, he gradually got more whiny and more annoying. Learning that he was based on Chandler but named after Ross made total sense, but it didn't help. When Martin Freeman was being such a prig in Captain America: Civil War I was glad to know that Ross tends to receive a lot of aggravation. It felt like he was going to deserve it.

Seeing him terribly vulnerable, amazed, excited, and rising to the occasion later all worked to let me find him likable. Probably him taking the horrifying injury for Nakia should have done it, but really it was everything after that. (One reason I would really like to watch the movie again is see if it was necessary. I'd kind of be surprised if she needed the help. It seemed like she did, but it all happened pretty fast.)

That amazement as Ross viewed Wakandan technology leads to the other correction.

In the books they always referred to Wakanda as the most technologically advanced nation on Earth, but in the movies everyone was expecting them to be backwards. In the world of the movie, it made a lot more sense that they could be so technologically advanced and keep it totally hidden. You literally saw the mechanisms in place that did the hiding and they were remarkably effective and visually stunning.

In this landscape it was also possible to believe that all the Wakandan citizens were doing well with the technology; not just some. Even the Jabari - who had separated themselves from the rest of society - seemed to be doing fine.

I mentioned yesterday that in the books T'Challa was too perfect, and that it made everything else worse. Part of that was that one of T'Challa's strengths was that he was always ten steps ahead of everyone else, but he still needs conflicts for dramatic purpose, so really messed up things happen that wouldn't be predictable. Also he is always in the States being an Avenger but needs to come back because there are terrible problems in Wakanda. Based on the things they say about Wakanda, it should be better run.

Much of that goes back to the problem common to superhero comics in general - why don't all of these powers fix anything? The stories keep getting bigger and bigger and repeat and it doesn't seem to get anywhere, until it becomes so obvious that you reboot everything - it gets frustrating.

In the case of Black Panther I believe there were extra constraints because of a desire to present Africa and T'Challa positively, but then not knowing how to keep that balanced. (Hence too much annoyingly imperfect Ross. Also, there were probably some issues with internalized racism.)

Therefore it is an incredible triumph to see a strong African country not stunted by colonialism. It was a joy to find the Dora Milaje accomplished and fierce, but still able to have personal lives. It was important to see textiles inspired by kente cloth and traditional beading techniques and tattoos and even lip disks. (Ruth Carter is the best and there is more on that at A lot of the cast and crew were American, but the movie is gloriously and purposefully African, and it's needed.

A friend asked me if I had seen anything focusing on the women in Black Panther, because they are so awesome. Everything that did was specifically focusing on Black women, because that is a more significant niche in this case. Black women do not get enough love, but this movie loves them.

(Speaking of the women, does anyone know if Ramonda is still the stepmother, or is she just the mother? I was never sure that her being the step-mother served any purpose except as a red herring to believe she could be conspiring against T'Challa.)

And that makes two more things about the movie that I mentioned yesterday more significant.

I prefer the movie's Nakia not merely because I love Lupita Nyong'o', but because I was glad to have all of the Black women be positive figures. I was glad to have the ridiculous villain be Klaue instead of Achebe not only because I am not sure how his puppet Daki would translate to the screen, but also because it is appropriate here to have a white villain, and to have him fall to the Black villain.

But Killmonger is going to need his own post.

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