Monday, February 19, 2018

Black Panther (2018)

Context matters.

It‘s true for art as well as people.  How a movie is interpreted depends on where it came from and who made it.  Also, what I bring to a theater will differ from what someone else brings to the theater.  I doubt that any two people will see Black Panther the same way.  (For instance, those that have studied history will probably pick up on certain aspects of the movie.)

There’s also the fact that there’s a majority-black cast.  As someone of European descent, I’m viewing the movie more as a comic-based action movie, which it does well.  However, it also has a hero who’s African.  It didn’t come off as an African hero movie to me.  It came across as a movie that used Africa and its culture as an effective backdrop to a great story.

Black Panther starts in 1992 with the then-king of Wakanda, T'Chaka, calling out his brother, N'Jobu, on assisting an arms dealer named Ulysses Klaue.  Cut to a small boy on a basketball court watching the king‘s ship leave.  In the present day, T’Chaka has died.  T’Chaka’s son, T'Challa, ascends to the throne after a ritual battle.  Meanwhile, Erik Stevens is helping Klaue steal vibranium.

Wakanda is a technologically advanced nation that uses vibranium as the basis for much of its technology.  It presents itself as a developing nation, keeping the technology hidden from the rest of the world.  Klaue is one of a few outsiders that know of the truth.  It was N’Jobu’s plan to share the technology to help oppressed people everywhere.  Klaue and Stevens have picked up the torch.

Well, Stevens moreso than Klaue.  Klaue is an arms dealer who intends to sell the vibranium.  He’s a rather happy guy for an arms dealer.  He really seems to enjoy his job.  Stevens tends to identify with those that were oppressed.  Like N’Jobu, he’d like to see Wakandan technology given to the underdogs.

This isn’t an easy call.  Wakanda has remained hidden for a reason.  To give out the technology would invite questions about where it came from.  There’s also the issue of the oppressed not stopping at mere freedom.  Our history is one of war and oppression.  Who’s to say that it wouldn’t completely reverse the dynamic rather than bring balance?

I do see the comparisons to the Bond movies.  You have a hero who gets great gadgets and cool transportation from a scientific advisor.  In this case, Q’s counterpart is T'Challa sister, Shuri.  She presents him with stealth shoes, communications devices and the suit you may have seen in the coming attractions.

I would say that the primary difference is that you don’t have the sexual innuendo and ironic names.  (Well, there is Killmonger, but I’m going to let that one go.)  I would say that if anything, this is what James Bond might have looked like if the movies were done with more of a serious tone.

For those who are new to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the movie doesn’t seem to rely too heavily on other movies.  There were a few scenes that made more sense after looking stuff up, but I was able to follow and enjoy the movie without much trouble.

No comments :