Monday, February 19, 2018

Wakanda: “The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of”

The title is from the last line of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. It’s an appropriate quotation for wishful thinking.
In keeping with the denouement of "The Maltese Falcon," Black Panther is a lump of political lead painted black.

Black Panther is a film that should please Black Lives Matter and members of the old and new Black Panther Party. It empowers blacks to show whites who has the better moxy.  Based on a comic book (which is not the ideal source for important ideas in the first place), it brings to cinematic reality a world in which blacks are center stage and the center of existence. The outside world – beyond Wakanda, the name of the fictional African country – doesn’t exist. The continent exists, but not the Marvel Comics country.

The fictional country is more isolationist than was Nazi Germany, with no emigration or immigration allowed (except for the German army, when it was invading); it doesn’t trade with  white “colonial” countries, or even with other black countries. It’s developed flying machines (without the benefit of the Wright Brothers), and has even borrowed Ayn Rand’s idea a visual field from Galt’s Gulch in Atlas Shrugged. Galt’s Gulch existed somewhere in the Rockies and it’s made invisible to outsiders and the government. The Wakandan field renders the capital city of Wakanda invisible (is it the only Wakandan city?) replacing what is seen with the surrounding African wilderness.

Wakanda is technologically superior to any country in the West, thanks a meteor that crashed in the region of a primitive tribe a long time ago. The meteor was made of vibranium, an element as fictional as Wakanda, and plays a role in other comic book stories featuring comic book super heroes. Vibranium has unexplained attributes to power the city and everything else in Wakanda, including its flying machine. Eating a leaf of a plant affected by the magical waves of vibranium endows the eater super powers.

But, as one reviewer pointed out, were not for that meteor, the Wakandans would have accomplished nothing. But because the script writers could not recreate a credible reason for the Wakandans’ advance, not without citing white innovators, they had to settle for a rock falling from space, an unbelievable deus ex machina, to say the least.

Somehow, the primitives over time developed an advanced society (apparently exclusive  of the Black Athena, another pretzel-like “scholarly” attack on the West, which tried to prove that ancient Greek civilization was a parasitical culture, borrowing from the Egyptians and the Phoenicians ) whose “superiority” is not described. This history is sketchily referred to. No Wakandan Aristotles or John Lockes or Newtons ever existed.

The economy of Wakanda is also a mystery. The city has dozens of tall, gleaming skyscrapers, but what is their economic base? The only economic activity shown is what amounts to a byzantine maze of head-level bazaars, flea, or secondhand markets, hardly the foundation of clusters of sparkling billion-dollar buildings and a thriving, dynamic economy.

The Wakandans have preserved, and practice, their ancestors’ primitive ways and rituals, which glaringly clash with the alleged advanced and superior Wakandan society. I’m reminded of the Zulu mass marriage ritual near the beginning of Zulu. The garish costumes of the cast are reminiscent of the costumes of the worst Star Wars film. The society is hardly “free,” being governed by an elitist, hereditary family.

Not Star Wars: but Wakanda
The principal characters are embroiled in a dynastic power struggle and physical tests of strength. The conflicts are evocative of many of Shakespeare’s dramas. Those struggles are interesting and compelling, if only for the literature they created, and in which the principals are immersed. The struggles in Black Panther are “jive” and too evocative of turf wars in Chicago.

The action scenes of the Black Panther hero jumping from here to there with super ease are pure comic book eye candy, supported by CGI. The fight scenes are boring and often obscured in darkness. The film is chock for of fanciful technological gimmicks, as much as if not more, than in any of the recent James Bond films or the Batman movies.

I never liked super-hero movies precisely because the super-heroes were obliged to perform impossible, literally incredible feats of action. I’ve never been “entertained” by them. They are chiefly children’s and tweens’ fare. Black Panther is, in the final analysis, a sop to blacks, to possibly compensate for the fact that we have just emerged (or been rescued) from eight years of a ruinous, collectivist black president, Barack Obama, and his own pandering to black “identity” politics and stale black unemployment of his reign.

Disney and Marvel Comics could develop and produce an action film that would boost Chicano pride with a movie about the mythical Mexican kingdom of Aztlán. There are pages and pages about it in Mexican mythology. And after Disney and Marvel have placated Hispanics, and seen it drooled over by the MSM before it’s even released, they could develop a movie project, with CAIR’s input, about the ideal mythological Islamic empire, and call it Cordova.

Disney and Marvel could make lots of money, by giving all the ethnic groups in the country and in the world a cinematic booster shot that grows “identity” self-esteem.

From spear-chuckers to flying machines
The MSM is doing hip-hop appraisals of Black Panther. Rotten Tomatoes, for instance, gave the film a 97% rating.

Marvel’s Black Panther was always going to be a cultural phenomenon. As the first big-budget blockbuster in some time to feature not only a black superhero lead, but also a primarily black ensemble cast of characters, the movie broke early ticket sales records and has inspired thoughtful discussions everywhere about the importance of representation in media. All this more than a week before its release!

An immigration dream of Aztlán
Recognizing the significance of the film, New Yorker Frederick Joseph worked with GoFundMe to raise $40,000 to take children from the Harlem Boys & Girls Club to see Black Panther, then encouraged others to follow suit, calling it the #BlackPantherChallenge. His efforts went viral and thousands of people answered the call, donating over $260,000 to dozens of similar campaigns.

Based on the record-breaking early ticket sales, the early buzz from critics, and the overwhelming public response to the film, Black Panther is likely to become one of the biggest movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. But for many children, the film is more than just another entry in the franchise, it’s a landmark. If you’d like to participate in the #BlackPantherChallenge and help get more kids to experience the film, you can find links to both the campaign’s primary landing page and each of the individual GoFundMe pages where you can donate below.

We must inspire (or brainwash) the kids. It’s as bogus an idea as Kwanze, an “African-American“ celebration created in 1966.

The Chicago Review went twirly with:

“Just because something works does not mean it cannot be improved.”

So says the tech-wizard sister of the title character in “Black Panther.” It’s an apt credo for this soulful, stirringly acted and pretty terrific movie’s place in the Marvel Studios realm.

As a rule, these movies basically work, most of them, even if they sometimes feel more like a product, launched, than a superhero world, imagined.

But co-writer and director Ryan Coogler’s film qualifies, handily, as his third consecutive and undeniable success, following the roiling docudrama “Fruitvale Station” (2013) and the improbable, irresistible “Rocky” sequel “Creed” (2015). “Black Panther” is also the first Marvel superhero movie I can remember with a serious emotional wallop. More important, it has a forceful, natural sense of how to let the mythic world converse with the racial politics of the real world.

This review goes on and on about how empowering and gloryful the film is.

And that is just about how the MSM, virtually in toto, received Black Panther. There are dozens more such reviews that need only an adept touch of Scrabble applied to each other’s review content. But, readers might complain: “Cline! You haven’t seen the movie, so how can you review it?” I’ve seen the previews and trailers. If the MSM likes it, I won’t. I see no reason why I should spend time and effort on the exercise. Ask me to review something Max Opul’s Letter From an Unknown Woman – whose best line is, “I think everyone has two birthdays: the day of his physical birth, and the beginning of his conscious life.”

Conscious lives need not apply to Disney and Marvel Comics.

In keeping with the denouement of "The Maltese Falcon," Black Panther is a lump of political lead painted black.


Tom McCaffrey said...


Edward Cline said...

I would have dwelt in more length on the political ramifications and appraisals of the film but those are so obvious at a glance that would've been kicking a dead horse. Most of the newspaper and glob reviews are almost identical in liking or hailing a "new" era of movies it's like listening to a cage of chattering parrots of each other.

Edward Cline said...

Here is an excellent, broader comment on the political meaning of Black Panther:


Rob McVey said...

Ed, Your link only brings up my personal gmail; there must be some other way to your reference.


Edward Cline said...

Rob: which link are you referring to? I have over a dozen in the column.


Rob McVey said...

It's the link in your comment before mine, ie,

Edward Cline said...

Rob: my error. Here is the link I intended to poat.

Edward Cline said...

In keeping with the denouement of "The Maltese Falcon," Black Panther is a lump of political lead painted black.