Scanlyze

The Online Journal of Insight, Satire, Desire, Wit and Observation

The Universal Appeal of Black Panther

This is a reaction piece, not a full review. It will be most sensible to those who have seen the film, but only low spoilers due to some things just should not be spoiled.

I went to Black Panther determined to write an objective review. This isn’t one. Within a few minutes of the film’s start, I had tears on my eyes, and when King T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) returned home to Wakanda, they just started streaming down my cheeks.

The sets, costumes, and city are a great example of “show, don’t tell.” Though there is plenty of exposition of the nature of “as you know” or flashbacks and visions as well.

I have read a lot of reviews saying how this is a black movie, and it is, through and through. But it is more than that. Black Panther pulls you in and I felt like this was my family, my people, my African nation as it should have been without colonization and neocolonialism. This isn’t the world as it is, but in some sense, a vision of the world as it could be.

The fictional nation of Wakanda, being the most technologically advanced nation on Earth, shares many of the dilemmas which the US faced when it was technologically advanced compared with other nations. “If we allow in immigrants, they will bring their problems with them,” as one character tells King T’Challa. Similarly there are issues of arms exports and bringing justice through superior firepower. An interesting and thought-provoking mirror.

Erik “Killmonger” Stevens is certainly the best of the Marvel villains, an area where they have been notably weak in characterization and motivation in the past. A Shakespearean family drama ensues. As well as Killmonger and T’Challa acting as proxies for the African diaspora v. mother Africa.

It’s funny how critics run in packs. I’m curious why the neoliberals aren’t screaming about cultural appropriation because this movie is all about that.

Wakanda is supposedly in East Africa more or less where real life Rwanda and Burundi are today. But people speak Xhosa, a South African language. And the hairstyles, fashions, and architecture and textiles are a mishmash from all over the continent. All overlaid on what is now retro-futurism dating back 50 years to Jack Kirby’s illustrations for the comic.

Of course, Wakanda doesn’t exist in the real world, and more’s the pity. So they had to use inspirations from somewhere. And everything is so beautiful and awe-inspiring that I guess every reviewer in the world is giving them a pass on this and I’m no exception. Of course I tend to be a “world citizen” and “all one people” person so I am prone to want to encourage people to learn and use and do the best of everything, and to make it their own anyway. But that’s another story.

Very strong cast. Chadwick Boseman seems to be channeling a young Nelson Mandela in his regal bearing as a newly-crowned king, his accent, his cadence, and his badassness (Mandala was a hereditary prince of his tribe, and a boxer as well as a lawyer before he was imprisoned on charges of murder and terrorism.) His nemesis, Killmonger, played by Michal Jordan is a Shakespearean anti-hero who almost steals the movie.

There are many strong and independent female characters. Notable is Leticia Wright as T’Challa’s snarky younger sister and master of Wakanda’s vibranium-based technology, Shuri. Danai Gurira as Okoye, general of Wakanda’s Royal Guard, the Dora Milaje, is ferocious as the guardian of the throne. And Angela Bassett brings a regal presence to the role of Queen Mother Ramonda.

There were a couple moments which were immersion breaking for me. One early one which I will spoil involves CIA operative Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) interrogating South African arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis, having great fun chewing all the carpet in sight in his own skin instead of mo-cap), who replies with questions of his own. I suddenly realized I was watching a game of riddles between Bilbo (Freeman) and Gollum (Serkis). As a meta-callout this is amusing but also distracting for me. The second weakness is some rather sloppy CGI which would frankly be better served with Wuxia-style wirework or even simply cutting those few seconds.

The third act suffers from too much action, falling into the typical problem where every Marvel movie has a setpiece battle where they try to top all the previous movies. Not up to the standards of Civil War, but special bonus points for (spoilers) armored rhinos! Remote piloted space ships! Personal force-shields and sonic blaster vibranium spears! Heel-Face Turn and The Cavalry. All in one rather chaotic battle. The narrative and characterization is somewhat lost in the festival of badassness which ensues. But this is a genre standard and the movie can be praised for opening so many new avenues it can be forgiven for the rather predictable final battles. I’d say more but big spoilers there.

Overall, a most lovely movie which will stand the test of time, better than I expected after reading 30+ positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, and a rollicking good time. The movie seems too short at 2:14 so I am looking forward to a director’s cut and one hopes, one or more sequels, including perhaps a spinoff for some of the interesting secondary characters. Wakanda Forever!

5 of 5 stars. Bring a friend so you don’t talk your Lyft driver’s ear off as I did on the way home. :)

Copyright © 2018 Henry Edward Hardy

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16 February, 2018 Posted by | Andy Serkis, Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, media, Michael Jordan, scanlyze, Wakanda | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thor and Hulk’s Big Adventure

I saw the premiere of Thor:Ragnarok tonight at the IMAX theater at Assembly Row in Somerville, MA, USA tonight. Some initial thoughts.

==spoilers==
==also, I’m assuming you have seen the movie or already know the basic plot==

The 2 hours plus seemed like an hour, so it definitely did not drag. And some people remained in their seats even after the second stinger at the end of the credits, so they might still have been processing their queue due to information overload.

Kudos to Disney and Marvel for letting hundreds of millions ride on such a strange film by such a strange director. I will definitely go see Waititi’s other films now!

The film is almost a montage and somewhat defies conventional analysis but here goes.

Plot. Yeah there is a plot, two in fact. An “A” plot which is an abbreviated retelling of the Planet Hulk story and a “B” plot which is the eponymous Ragnarok, the Norse Twilight of the Gods.

The Planet Hulk story takes up the majority of the time, but it seems curiously pointless as the story’s climax and epilogue of how Sakaar was liberated and ruled by Hulk has fallen out. Similarly, Miek, who provides the comic relief and had a nice character arc, here is voiceless and kind of a pointless CGI creature/bug/person/thing.

The “B’ plot, such as it is, amounts to “evil throne usurper sibling syndrome” so that’s mostly predictable, though there are some nice aversions.

The characterization is accomplished through physical comedy, the budding bromance of Hulk and Thor, and by some pretty wonderful and loose acting by everyone except Anthony Hopkins, who seems like he was stuffed and reanimated for his bit.

The Sakaar setting is a Jack Kirby delight and includes shoutouts to everything from 2001 to Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Asgard is rather boring and CGI-ish but serviceable.

Looking back at my first reaction piece to the first trailer, I got most things right, so pat on the back for me. Thor Ragnarok Teaser Trailer Looks like Big Fun

Where I think this movie works is as a comedic deconstruction of the Thor movies, cartoon movies and movie tropes in general. There’s a lot of trope aversions and one extremely meta scene near the beginning. The acting is really delightful and in a way it reminds me of District Nine in the brave way the script got trashed and replaced with some very funny improvised bits.

Given the way the stock characters from the comics are manipulated for satirical and humorous effect, this film might be termed a “superhero comedy of manners.”

I’d say don’t get your hopes up too high, and maybe be a little loose and relaxed before you go, and it will be a fun time. 4/5 stars.

Copyright © 2017 Henry Edward Hardy

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3 November, 2017 Posted by | comedy, movie, scanlyze, Thor, Waititi | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thor Ragnarok Teaser Trailer Looks like Big Fun

I am looking forward to Thor: Ragnarok.

It seems the new Marvel/Disney superhero/sufficiently advanced aliens/gods vrs demons movie will combine several of the all-time fan-favorite moments from the Marvel comics universe. Plus we get to see Goth!Cate as the Norse Goddess of Death Hela show us what Galadriel would have perhaps been like if she took the One Ring from Frodo in The Fellowship of the Ring.

First, we see Planet Hulk–Sakaar. In the comics that arena fight was between Hulk and the Silver Surfer. In the animated Planet Hulk, due to rights issues, the antagonist role to Hulk was represented by Thor’s horse-headed alien buddy and fellow former Mjolnir wielder Beta Ray Bill. Now Thor himself steps up and that has to be epic.

Seems they have also tried to add more levity like Guardians of the Galaxy and probably that helps the Avengers and Guardians franchises not to have a sudden change of tone and stylistic discontinuity when they eventually come together for Infinity War.

Second, I see Skurge the Executioner with his signature weapon “Bloodaxe” and dual-wielding M-16’s. That implies we may see Skurge’s great Last Stand/They Shall Not Pass of “He stood alone at Gjallerbru.”

Third, the arc of Ragnarok in the myths and in the comics is of course archetypal and we may see Surt, the Frost giants, and presumably the great wolf Fenrir and World Serpent Jormangund. Unless something happens to disrupt the attack and it becomes “Apocalypse Later.”

And fourth, Cate Blanchett looks great in black.

A few open questions.

Why is Odin on earth looking like a bum?

What role is played by Dr. Strange?

Will we see the Enchantress or her sister Amora? Perhaps amalgamated into one character?

What role will be played by the Warriors Three? In the comics they are important mediating characters like the hobbits in the Lord of the Rings. Folks who are more close to a power level comparable to mortal humans rather than gods and cosmic powers.

It is a great cast and everyone seems to be having fun.

Copyright © 2017 Henry Edward Hardy

scanlyze1

12 April, 2017 Posted by | Disney, movie, Ragnarok, scanlyze, Thor | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments