Roy : Welcome, Welcome, Friends
I want us to submit our final grades at the end, since I have a sneaky suspicion they’ll be similar. So for a little balance let’s first start with something we DIDN’T like about the movie
Derek: Ok, I’ll go first. Any “dislikes” will feel like a hot take, but I’ll say that T’Challa was maybe the least interesting character in the movie. But I was fine with that, because all of the other characters were so interesting and great.
Cam: No real dislikes over here either. I thought that the first 15-20 minutes of the movie were a little slow. Almost felt like it was trying to find its tone, but that obviously didn’t last long and it found its legs quickly. The other thing, that they also remedied immediately, was the M’Baku tribe making ape sounds. It was the only thing that made me uneasy. I was really nervous when they told Martin Freeman’s character they would feed him to their children, until the vegan joke which made me laugh.
Roy: I hated the amount that they said the word “technology”. They used it no less than 500 times. I get it, a major plot driver is that the Wakandans are much more technologically advanced than the rest of the world thanks to vibranium. But to me “technology” and “business major” are two things unintelligent people say when they’re trying to sound impressive.
But actually yeah I’m glad you made that point about the first 15-20, I think we were all on edge given the pressure from the hype. Did anyone else catch that “yeah we turned a blind eye to slavery” little snippet in the opening montage and go, Oh Boy… were we had?
Derek: Good call. It was subtle, but yeah I definitely remember seeing the slave ships and the people in chains, and that turned out to be really the central dilemma of the whole movie: do people with great power/gifts have a responsibility to help others? It is a topic that clearly applies to black people in the context of the movie, but also can be more broadly relatable as well.
One of the lines that struck me early on was when Daniel Kaluuya’s character said “if we take the refugees, we have to take all of the problems they bring with them.” And of course, the Wakandans are living behind what is essentially a “wall”.
Roy: MAGA W’Kabi, Yes the infamous
Cam: I actually didn’t catch the blind eye to slavery visually, but kind of had to assume it given the context of the central conflict like Derek pointed out. W’Kabi, like many other characters, if not all others, makes a legitimate point here that’s hard to disagree with, and that goes for whether you agree with taking in refugees or not.
Roy: So I guess we can jump right into it then, are y’all buying “Killmonger was Right” Merch?
Derek: I will say, when he first took the throne, I was thinking to myself “he might actually do something good or helpful…” but then he immediately choked a woman and burned the garden. So….
Cam: I wish they were making t-shirts that said, “Killmonger has a point.” I know you already mentioned W’Kabi as “MAGA”, but that’s one parallel out of many Black Panther brings up. So many of the parallels are from conflicting ideologies as well so it’s hard to even say that one character’s viewpoint matches with any one ideology in real life.
Derek: Maybe another interesting question to ask is “was N’Jobu (Killmonger’s father) right?” because the same conflict carried on for two generations. N’Jobu seemed to have the right intentions, ones that especially Americans would identify with. But the way he went about it was by stealing from Wakanda.
Cam: Well the tough part about the question, but the amazing part of the movie, is that every single one of these conflicting stances on how to solve the problem have been right at some point in history.
Roy: Yeah from the reaction both in the theater and online, it really seemed like if Killmonger acted even slightly less maniacally, he would have made it a little hard for the audience to pick a clear protagonist. Tbh, even with the violence against women, I feel like his points really resonated with folks and had a lot of people grabbing their collars like Man… i don’t know
Cam: Well, I think the clear protagonist was easy to pinpoint given the fact that we already knew T’Challa was Black Panther, but I get your point. I’ll say this: it’s one thing to want to arm the oppressed so they can protect themselves (N’Jobu), it’s one thing to want to help protect the oppressed (Nakia), it’s another thing completely to become the oppressor as a reaction to being oppressed (Killmonger). But that doesn’t mean his thought process is incorrect. It makes the solution to the problem debatable.
Roy: I rooted for Apollo Creed against Rocky, it would only be fair to also root for his forgotten son and keep it in the family
Derek: I think it is natural for us to identify more with Killmonger in the first half of the movie as we learn who the two characters are. None of us can relate to living in an African utopia and wanting things to just stay the same in our society.
Roy: I think it was also really important to realize that even an African “utopia” like Wakanda has its own set of classist and problematic viewpoints that took an anti-hero to expose.
Cam: I agree. Wakanda was honestly one of the first examples I can think of in a movie where one of the metaphors posits that the black people are in fact just like white oppressors in reality. Wakanda’s selfishness created Killmonger, and Killmonger aided in helping them escape that.
Roy: Yeah I think we can all agree, this new direction led by T’Challa is a Wakanda closer to the utopia we could all be proud of. Speaking of pride… Oh man was this film just visually so stunning. The imagery that I was able to appreciate both in the theater and some later in behind-the-scenes footage has been so powerful. What were some of your favorite scenes?
Derek: It’s hard to narrow that down, but I’ll call out a couple and let you guys respond. The “challenge” scenes on the waterfall, the afterlife scenes when T’Challa and Killmonger are speaking to their fathers, the casino fight scene in South Korea, and when we first are taken underground and see what the Wakandans have been able to create with the vibranium.
Cam: Honestly, any scene with Shuri was awesome. I hope that Letitia Wright hits it big. But the conversation between Nakia and Okoye about blind loyalty when Okoye chose to stay was particularly powerful to me. And the scene where T’Challa carried Killmonger up to the cliff to see the sunset. Both of those scenes felt representative of ideas that both entail bringing a stop to the infighting for a greater cause. Also who can ignore the line: “bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped ship because they knew death was better than bondage”? That line really got me. Slavery was the experience that fueled Killmonger and separated him from T’Challa, but it’s the experience that should bring all of us together here in the United States.
Roy: That line was bone-chilling. I’ve seen the take that the Killmonger-Wakandan relationship is very much representative of the American Slave-Descendant/Non-Slave-Descendant African relationship and it’s hard to deny.
One of the reasons this movie was so hyped was the representation. It was a who’s who in Black hollywood and folks were hyped to see representatives of themselves on screen. Honestly, the way they cut the trailer and given that you know… it’s a Marvel movie, I thought this might have been a bit overstated. But it surprisingly went the other way. Like, how many other big budget movies have a natural-haired dark-skinned woman as the main character’s love interest? There was a real sense of pride that was absolutely delivered by this casting.
Derek: And let’s not forget one of the best moments in the movie when Okoye tossed her wig the first chance she got.
Cam: Wholeheartedly agree. The wig toss will be forever enshrined in the unspecified Black Popular Culture HOF.
Derek: Another interesting piece was that even though we learn that Wakanda is the most advanced nation in the world, T’Challa and others have to deal with white characters telling them they are “savages” or from a “third world country” throughout the movie. Even if you in a Benz…
Roy: Fairly certain that scene was shot long in advance, but the mid-credits “Sh*t Hole Country” homage was fantastic, met with a great Chadwick Boseman smirk. As if to say… You Thought!
Cam: I think I’m definitely in the minority here, but too many meta moments like that in a Marvel movie with so many intellectual parallels threw me. Let’s not forget that horrific “what are those?” joke. I wish I had tomatoes.
Roy: Sounds like you hate fun. Outdated? Sure. But Shuri was batting 1.000 at that point so she has permission from me to let these jokes from 2015 fly.
Cam: Hate fun? Ouch. Not my fault, not her fault, but really more the writers’ fault that she couldn’t continue batting 1.000. With Roy Collins IV as a scribe, maybe she could’ve.
Derek: Speaking of that scene, it felt like it was straight out of a James Bond movie, the way she walked him through her lab showing all the new gadgets he would have for his mission. And I think the “delete that video!” line makes up for the “what are those?”
Roy: Right, like Cam was saying earlier with the vegetarian line, one thing you can really give this film credit for, is right when it started to steer into a danger zone (stereotypes or tried tropes), there was always a saving grace bringing it back. It was very self-aware.
Your final grades and thoughts?
Cam: A, As of late, I’ve been fascinated with the dynamic of intraracial issues and how they affect interracial issues. I feel like this movie really hit the nail on the head in terms of eliminating those often, but not always, petty arguments and allows us to envision a unified cause in true solidarity.
Derek: I will give it an A-. To nitpick, I’d say that the movie felt a little long, a couple of the fight scenes were hard to follow, and some of the dialogue was a little heavy-handed. But overall, a great movie that told stories we don’t usually get to see on the big screen, asked questions that profoundly connected to its audience, and had a cast of characters that were all memorable and meaningful to the story.
Roy: A, This has been a stressful week for me that isn’t letting up anytime soon in regards to academic and professional obligations. But it’s not so much the weekend itself but rather an opportunity to see this movie for the second time in theaters that I’m using for motivation, so that it can uplift my soul. There was big time hype to where “We” would all be in trouble if the end product was unimpressive. Thankfully we weren’t in that position at all and instead were delivered an incredible film.