“Black Panther” will be the most interesting film of 2018

Summary: A review of the Black Panther, what might be the hottest film of the year.

“People need stories, more than bread, itself. They teach us how to live, and why. …Stories show us how to win.”
— The Master Storyteller in HBO’s wonderful Arabian Nights.

Black Panther (2018)

 

The Black Panther is great entertainment, like a bag of properly cooked and buttered popcorn. Most of its critics miss the key point. Superhero films are fantasies of personal empowerment. Rather than debating their plausibility (zero), we should ask why such children’s fare has become so popular with adults. The answer is important; I wish I could see it.

The CGI is up to Hollywood’s usual excellence, although unimaginative. The film’s pace is slow, other than the frantic fight scenes. I found those — the film’s core — to be long and uninteresting. I have seen too many similar ones. Of course, tastes vary in such things.

Lots of exposition, which I suspect only true fans will find of interest. The plot is complicated, but well-constructed.

As with any film having a large cast — the hero, two villains, and a half-dozen of the hero’s supporters — the secondary characters are only lightly sketched. But good writing and skillful acting makes them seem more like people than the archetypes or cardboard cutouts that people most films. The bad people have rational motives, rare for a superhero film these days (too many villains are motiveless, mad or do evil for its own sake).

Most of the major male characters are weak or evil. More on this below.

The end avoids Hollywood trope of tying all the loose ends into a happy ending. You already know that the good side wins. But it is a messy victory — due to just luck (see below), which will offer T’Challa severe challenges both within his kingdom and in his attempt to forge a new relationship with the world.

About T’Challa, the Black Panther

And the Black Panther has been an important myth to many African-Americans since his first appearance in 1966. In the Marvel comics, T’Challa has it all. Skilled hunter & tracker, strategist, politician, inventor, scientist, and King. Rich, handsome, and one of the eight smartest people in the world.

Instead the film shows T’Challa as an average guy (ably portrayed by Chadwick Boseman). He freezes in battle, sometimes loses fights, and does not seem very bright (certainly less so than the women around him; he has an IQ of a squirrel compared to his sister).  He has been dumped by his girlfriend (probably as a “nice guy”) and, as with so many films these days, and is treated with casual contempt by the women around him (just as in The Force Awakens, where Rey treats Kylo Ren as a wayward younger brother, and Leia and Holo treat Poe as a rambunctious child).

Further normalizing T’Challa, he wins only through an act of immense stupidity by one of the bad guys. Only superhuman self-control prevented me from standing in the theater to shout “Don’t do that, you fool.”

This is in keeping with the great theme of modern Hollywood: they do not like strong male leads. For example, Peter Jackson drastically revised Lord of the Rings to turn Aragorn into a weaker and conflicted man. In products of modern Hollywood only two kinds of people can be strong and smart with well-integrated personalities. First, women. Second, bad guys. The strongest man in Black Panther is M’Baku (Winston Duke), leader of the Jabari tribe. He is a real role model — and evil in the comics (as we will probably see in the Avengers: Infinity War film).

Flight to Wakanda

Wakanda is a dream

This is what Africa would’ve looked like if white people had left it alone.
— Said in many ways in countless Tweets.

“{M}yth supplies models for human behavior, and gives meaning and value to life.”
— Mircea Eliade in Myth and Reality (1963).

“This movie will show what could have happened if white colonialist would never have landed in Africa… Everything we could have built. Everything we could have been.” (John Kani, South African actor who plays King T’Chaka, former King of Wakanda).
Tweet by Val L. Carbone (@val_carbone).

Decades of comics and now films have put Wakanda on the roster of mythical cities. Places such Wonder Woman’s Themyscira, Shangri-La, Atlantis, and Camelot. Each embodies a dream. But I wonder if this helps anyone unless it guides their actions and spur their ambitions. Time will tell if the Black Panther film has any substantial effect on African-Americans.

Three aspects of Wakanda are of special interest.

First, Wakanda has no visible gender polarization. You could randomly assign a men or women to each role in the film without changing the script — excerpt for the names and titles (this is common in modern films). Even the Black Panther. In the comic his sister Shuri becomes the Black Panther and Queen.

Second, Wakanda it picks its ruler by combining two primitive and proven ineffective methods — hereditary and by combat. Western monarchies demonstrate the folly of hereditary monarchies. The film demonstrates the folly of choosing the best killer as ruler. I lost my ability to suspend disbelief during the big challenge scene, wondering why the people of Wakanda were so stupid. Perhaps the film is a cautionary parable of the West: advanced technologically with dysfunctional politics.

Third, Wakanda is run in many respects along alt-right lines. Below is a  summary. See more about this here.

Wakanda is an alt-right nation

What I hoped to see

“A third function of mythology is to support the current social order, to integrate the individual organically with his group”
— Joseph Campbell in Occidental Mythology – Masks of God (1968).

I have spent a lot of time as a storyteller at home to my boys and in classes and around campfires to Boy Scouts in the troop I led. They featured inspirational figures from the past, real and mythical, stories of conflicts and choices and valor. I told boys the story of The Odyssey when hiking up a mountain (none had ever heard of it; they were fascinated).

With my foolish optimism, I hoped Black Panther would sketch out a new way forward for African-Americans. Something with useful politics (not just the usual sermons). Or offer a film about marriage and its importance as a bridge to the future. Or how to grapple with the pathologies of drugs and crime. Or about ways to band together to reform their communities. Instead it is a fantasy about some tribes in Africa who long ago were given magic rocks.

MANTIS
The Pilot – at Amazon.

Another African-American superhero

M.A.N.T.I.S.

This is a 1994 TV series about Dr. Miles Hawkins, a brilliant biophysicist paralyzed by a bullet while saving a young boy during a riot, He then developed an exoskeleton (M.A.N.T.I.S.) that would enable him to get out of his wheelchair and fight the crime ruining the lives of so many in his city. It grappled with race, drugs, gangs, and urban politics. It made most TV crime and superhero shows look like chalk drawings on the sidewalk.

The pilot was great in every aspect, with an all-Black cast for the major characters. Fox completely reworked the concept, added major white characters, dropped the racial aspects — and then cancelled it when it bombed.

For More Information

Ideas! For shopping ideas see my recommended books and films at Amazon.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about heroes, about book, film, & TV reviews, especially these…

  1. Are our film heroes leading us to the future, or signaling despair?
  2. The horrifying list of inspirational films about humanity building a better future.
  3. A new Man of Steel for 21st century America: a warrior superman.
  4. Captain America: the Winter Soldier – high-quality indoctrination for sheep.
  5. Review of Dr. Strange: a good film misunderstood by the critics.
  6. Jeff Beck reviews “Wonder Woman”, a contrary note amidst the ecstatic applause.
  7. “Justice League” is the film we need, not the one we deserve.

Trailer for the Black Panther

16 thoughts on ““Black Panther” will be the most interesting film of 2018

  1. What started out as a decent movie review ended up, well…someplace else. Good writing, well-rounded characters, well-constructed plot. The preview pics tell us that the costumes and the CGI spectacle is well worth the cinema visit.
    Let’s talk about our latest White blockbuster fantasy, the one with good writing, well-rounded characters, well-constructed plot. Costumes and CGI spectacle well worth the subscription to HBO, or if you’re cheap like me, the boxed set for the hubby for Christmas, gobbled up through the cold winter months. And what do we have?
    1. Hereditary monarchs and trial by combat
    2. Lots of gender polarization. The ladies wear dresses and are traded like baseball cards when they’re not being schtupped like heifers. But wait…that’s episode one! There’s more! And by the time Winter comes, the costumes of our well-rounded heroines become somewhat more practical and they’ve displayed an equal-opportunity penchant for a great number of schemes.

    Stories with complicated characters take a while to tell. The pared-down version of the Odyssey that is safe to tell the kiddies conveniently starts in our Hero’s middle-age, and omits the strange thoughts and emotions that rise to consciousness in the middle-aged storyteller.

    P.S. Nice analysis in your 12 Feb post. Your snark-meme, though…hey, you’re better than that.

    1. Sun Village,

      “Let’s talk about our latest White blockbuster fantasy”

      Recap — the subject of the post was inspirational films. Not horror films, or fun popcorn entertainment, or sitcoms & historical dramas we watch to pass the time. So what inspirational “white blockbuster fantasy” are you talking about?

      “White blockbuster fantasy, the one with good writing, well-rounded characters, well-constructed plot. …Hereditary monarchs and trial by combat. Lots of gender polarization. The ladies wear dresses and are traded like baseball cards”

      I doubt many people these days find Gone with the Wind to be inspirational. Those white nationalists that are inspired by it should be given therapy, or at least watched.

  2. I am 90% certain Sun Village means Game of Throne but since I don’t watch it I can’t really say if the description is valid.

    1. Hereward,

      That was my guess, too. I doubt anyone is inspired by GoT, any more than when watching Frankenstein or riding a roller coaster.

  3. Make an anti-white black African supremacist movie glorifying them then make a white supremacist movie demonizing whitey in his own country = Cultural marxist Jew/Jesuit supremacists win the anti-white culture wars they started = Leftist white genocidal social justice.

    ZioJesuit = The amalgamation of Jews and Jesuits: Christian Zionists…

    There is no such thing as the right wing in America only the true white Christian posterity who want their nation back from the mass murdering ZioJesuit cultural marxist infiltraitors and their anti-white people of color sockpuppet armies..

    The movie and music media industry is tightly owned and controlled by the cultural marxist Jew/Jesuit red mafia. The Christian Zionist TV evangelical pretenders are almost all Jew/Jesuit controlled pushing anti-white multi-cultural marxism/liberation theology or pop psychology.

    Our white Christian nations became wealthy, great, and powerful through our firm beliefs and practices in Christ, his Father, and the Protestant Ethics gleaned from them both making our foundations strong. Our mix of knowledge, brute strength, blood, sweat, and tears. No Usury.

    Supporting any leftist liberal people, their gangs, and commie organizations is the same as supporting cultural marxist anti-white subversives who are trying to overthrow white Christian America = Treason = Shot on Sight = Real social Justice. Take that one to heart progressive parrots.

    You are quite the white race traitor by whoring yourself and your ancestors out to our racial and religious enemies of color. Anti-white ZioJesuit cultural marxist self-eradication Indoctrination.

    Racial Nationalism is not hate, racism, and war though they can go together. All racial groups tend see their race as naturally stronger, better, safer, nurturing, and tend to stick to their own kindred except when trying to destroy another through race mixing as a method of warfare: Racism is a Jewish bolshevik coined word used to rob and destroy white Christian western civilization through elitist ZioJesuit multi-cultural marxism/liberation theology: Racism really means Supremacy because it involves the exploitation of the natural competition that exists between the races and creeds that enables one group of people to steal the wealth, resources, and power of another group of people through deception, terror, and force for ones own personal, tribal, cultist, and Supremacist interests. Racial Nationalism simply means wanting and having your own turf for your racial and religious kindred to call home. Is that hate or racism?

    1. You’ll probably enjoy the William Lind posts on this blog. Don’t get upset, there’s something for everybody here.

  4. “we should ask why such children’s fare has become so popular with adults. The answer is important; I wish I could see it.”

    Because America is Neverland where people aren’t adults until 30, 60 is the new 30, male and female are mere roles, and everybody should get to do whatever they want all day otherwise we’re triggered. Why? Abandonment of Christianity; prolonged formal schooling of everyone (almost exclusively under mother-types); children raised in homes without fathers (imprinting the importance of mothers, and also leaving them lots of alone time and with few or no siblings; improved technology, nutrition, and medicine to deal with the consequences…for now.

    “With my foolish optimism, I hoped Black Panther would sketch out a new way forward for African-Americans.”

    I assumed Black Panther would be a pretty good movie, though I haven’t seen it. It had to be because normal Americans (especially Boomers) are obsessed with the idea that role models can replace fathers and male dominated spaces.

    “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” Biden said. “I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”
    ~ Joe Biden, 2007, shortly before American blacks became even more racist.

    1. Cane,

      Wow. That’s well said. I could have said that, but I would have needed three times as many words.

    2. Larry,

      Thanks for the kind words.

      Along similar lines of foolish optimism: When Dalrock linked to you, the post that caught my attention was “An Armed Society is a Polite Society”. Do you know that until then I never knew that was a bit of fiction? I am generally against gun control, but I am absolutely against an argument based on fiction. It sounds Jeffersonian or Franklinesque, doesn’t it? So thank you for notifying me of my embarrassing state; seriously.

    3. Cane,

      Not a year goes by in which I don’t learn of at least one of my firm beliefs about the world is false!

  5. Fiction is not false. It is simply a more distilled and stylized perspective on reality. Which is why deep archetypes and mythologies can penetrate more deeply than mere logic.

  6. ***spoilers***

    Thing is though that this is not an “alt-right” movie. In the end T’Challa learns that his isolationism and nationalism is wrong and formally ends it.

    I thought the film was far too sympathetic to the villain. Even you are being so. He wanted to start a guerilla war on who exactly? He was quite insane but that’s okay because his traitor father was killed while attacking another man?

    What did the villain think would happen if he started arming blacks all over the world with the advanced Wakandan weapons? Arming them to rise up against their “oppressors.” Once it became known that Wakanda was sitting on a mountain of an incredibly valuable and useful substance and had declared war on the world? The world is going to fight back and even with advanced weapons they’re really just a city in a valley.

    They didn’t show anything that indicated Wakanda could fight the entire world. I thought that was the point of Wakanda remaining hidden. The point of the illusion they were subsistence farmers. The rest of the world would come and take the vibranium.

    1. Rudolph,

      (1) “this is not an “alt-right” movie. In the end T’Challa learns that his isolationism and nationalism is wrong and formally ends it.”

      Not so, for two reasons. First, the alt-right is not isolationist. Second, T’Challa does not “learn nationalism is wrong” and does not “formally end it.” The US has dones similar foreign aid projects since WWII, but nobody says that means “nationalism is wrong” or that these programs ended US nationalism (formally or informally).

      (2) “I thought the film was far too sympathetic to the villain. Even you are being so.”

      (a) I didn’t discuss the villains, other than to say that they were male and had motives. I certainly was not “sympathetic” to them.

      (b) Pouring more water on a rock does not make it wetter. Cartoon villains are almost always over-the-top evil, so having rug-chewing denunciations of them is a waste of time. The oddity in the film, imo, was that so many of the leaders in Wakanda thought that starting global race wars inside other nations was a dandy idea. Nobody asked if that force field stops nukes. As you note, the plan was quite mad.

      As with trial-by-combat selection of a king (double the odd), when watching I wondered if there was a racist on the writing staff — implying that Wakanda had a strain of stupidity in their DNA. Then I remembered western history…

  7. “Western monarchies demonstrate the folly of hereditary monarchies. ”

    On the contrary, it worked fairly well for a thousand years, and successfully formed and protected all the nation-states of modern Europe. Representative government is going haywire after just two centuries, and is particularly failing at its most basic responsibility – border control and protection of its own people – in nearly every country in which it holds sway. Hereditary monarchy certainly has its failure modes – the spoiled incompetent, prince, the mad inbred king, the personal vendettas, etc – but if you’re going to claim that these are less bad or less fixable than those of participatory government, you’re gong to have to provide some evidence.

    1. Rollory,

      “{Monarchies} worked fairly well for a thousand years”

      That’s not how evolution works. Monarchies proved grossly inferior to more sophisticated political systems, both the the skill of government provided AND in the level of legitimacy generated. That’s why there are only monarchies (i.e., who both rule and reign) in tiny city-states.

      “Representative government is going haywire after just two centuries”

      Ridiculous.

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