Darkness Cannot Drive Out Darkness: Why Killmonger (Blackpanther) Was Wrong

Killmonger and T'Challa (Black Panther) face off against each other.
Image Source: https://medium.com/@wyattdonigan/why-killmonger-was-quite-possibly-the-greatest-villain-ever-on-screen-2a1288413065

A quick update on the weekend–I had planned to write a blog post of Friday, but due to how busy I was in the Writing Center and the fact that I also went home for the weekend made it nearly impossible for me to get a blog post written that I would have been happy with, so I just didn’t write one for Friday. Monday was an off day for me, and I spent the day doing (and recovering from) yard work. So, even though I mentally planned this blog entry, it just didn’t get done due to yard work. Now with that out of the way, on to the post . . .

Killmonger as a Hero?

As I’ve been reading through articles and texts on Afrofuturism, there has been quite a sentiment that I (also) heard when the movie first played: Killmonger could have been (and in more radical comments–should have been) the hero of the movie. Now, long-time readers of the blog know that I hate the new (although at this point, it’s fairly old) trend of trying to make the “villain” into the “hero” and vice-versa. I could only shake my head during the time. Despite my “anti-hero”/”villain” bias, I still knew that there was something wrong with that sentiment. I couldn’t put my finger on it, nor could I successfully articulate it (even to myself). However, as I’ve read more and more articles, I’ve finally discovered why I dislike this idea/ideology so much: to take Killmonger as the “hero” and to take his view is to ignore the actual theme of the movie–hate or love, which is more powerful?

Hate Cannot Drive Out Hate; Only Love Can Do That

In many ways, the Black Panther (T’Challa) vs Killmonger debate offers a rehash of the Martin Luther King, Jr/Malcolm X debate that occurred historically, which (although there were other more fundamental differences) boils down to violent vs non-violent protests for civil rights. Flash forward, and you still have that debate–now, T’Challa wonders if things done in the past can be forgiven (made right–and how does a “good” man/king do that) vs. Eric (who is bound by the past and can’t push forward). Eric wants to continue to fight the battle of the past and just cannot move forward. While he has a point–slavery (and injustices it engendered were wrong and horrifying)–he now wants to use violence to retaliate for past atrocities. One article that I read, while admitting that Killmonger’s violence is a problem, rationalizes that he is bad because he uses the violence indiscriminately–against both the “colonizers” and his own people. In other words, the authors had no problems that he was violent–just that he was violent to people of his own color/kind as well as to those out of his race.

The thing that T’Challa does that makes him a hero is that he can acknowledge the wrong, but then he can figure out how to try to find a solution and then to move on. Eric is all about revenge/avenge the past. He wants to perpetrate the same fear, the same destructive behaviors, just to a different group. In essence, Killmonger is all about flipping the dynamic on its head, while T’Challa is interested in changing the paradigm in a positive and helpful way. He is not interested in fighting the old battles or (more importantly) turning the same old tired paradigm upside down. Ultimately, the point I’m trying to make is that the avenge/revenge angle is one that is not correct, no matter what the authors of the articles (and popular sentiment) may want. In this case, T’Challa’s message parallels that of a Jedi–“Defend, never to attack.” Sure, you can remember the wrong, so as not to allow it to happen to you (or anyone else). Killmonger’s attitude is a “Do Unto Others as They Have Done Unto You” and this negatively affects both the man and the message–which is why the movie (and the hero) is ultimately T’Challa and his worldview.

Sidney

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Ant-Man and Wasp Mini-Review (No Spoilers)

Marvel Studios ANT-MAN AND THE WASP..L to R: The Wasp/Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) ..Photo: Ben Rothstein..©Marvel Studios 2018
Marvel Studios ANT-MAN AND THE WASP..L to R: The Wasp/Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) ..Photo: Ben Rothstein..©Marvel Studios 2018
Image Source: http://time.com/5327169/ant-man-and-the-wasp-review/

I liked the movie, though not as much as the original Ant-Man movie. I thought the movie was entertaining and interesting. It had some action (most of it was back-loaded, however) that was really good and fun, but the beginning of the movie can be a bit of a slog to get through–especially, if you’re not a Marvel movie aficionado.

Character Over Action

So this movie is one of the reasons why I like “plot” over “character” because they (the filmmakers) take too long in setting up the various characters, their current backstories, and motivations before really getting to the heart of the story. While I enjoyed this, it made the first half of the movie seem more like a typical Hollywood “rom-com,” than a true Marvel movie. While there are “rom-com” (rometic comedy) elements in the original Ant-Man, they were expertly balanced with the heist elements and the discovery of the character’s “powers.” Here, everything seems unbalanced, and character/jokes/”rom-com” elements dominate until the “plot” kicks in gear about half way through.

A Ghost of a Chance

I liked the villain in this one (“Ghost”) and I liked the actor playing her role. I just think that Ghost’s backstory needed work–it never really clear as to why she had to do what she needed in order to survive (vague here to avoid spoilers). There’s an element of Star Trek like “jargon” in the explanation that seemed to serve the plot (to make her the villain) rather than her character (she has to do this thing or else). The filmmakers present it this way in dialogue (that her character has to act this way to survive and has become a “monster” because of it), but it still felt as the motivation was a bit of “hand-waving” on the filmmakers’ part to justify her actions in the beginning of the movie. Had the motivation been better and had the action started sooner, I think I might have liked it more.

Ghost’s motivations aren’t the only things that don’t make sense. There are several scenes, played for jokes, that seem out of place in the overall plot–the “school” scene, in particular, is one of those scenes. Yes, its cute in a mildly amusing way, but does the movie really have time to digress in that way? For me, not really, and it could have been cut (or included as an “extra scene” for an “extended cut” of the movie.

Overall Grade: B-

This one could have been outstanding, but slow pacing and a confusing villain motivation really hampered my enjoyment for this one. I still like it, but it is on the lower end of the spectrum of Marvel movies for me. One thing that kept it from being a C is one of the “stingers” at end of the movie was really well done! That alone bumped it up into the above average category for me.

Avengers Infinity War — Mini-Review (No Spoilers)

Avengers-Infinity-War-Trailer-1-44
Image Source: https://www.technobuffalo.com/2018/09/03/avengers-4-where-are-the-avengers/ (Possible Spoilers-tells where everyone ends up AFTER the movie, click at your own risk!)

Not Your Typical Marvel Movie

So, I’m just going to assume that most people who are interested in Marvel movies or comic book movies has already seen this movie, but just in case people haven’t, this is a Marvel movie like no other.  It has been setting up since the very first Avengers film.  It is essentially the entire Marvel universe (with exceptions) in multiple storylines fighting against the “big bad” of the movie, Thanos, to keep him from getting the Infinity Stones (various items that have been teased in Marvel movies like the Tesseract).  However, this movie doesn’t follow the typical Marvel formula because it has multiple heroes in multiple places trying to keep Thanos (or his agents) from getting the stones. While some times wildly inventive, these multiple storylines are also wildly disjointed and make the movie feel more disjointed than it probably should be.

People Keep Dying

For me, I’m just going to come right and say it (don’t worry–no spoilers), people just keep on dying in this movie.  Here’s the thing, deaths in movies are sometimes justified (such as the death that occurs in Star Wars.  Each death of each of the characters (both major and minor–I’m thinking of the Death Star scene and the “Trench Run” scene especially) either propel the movie forward or increase the tension and make us feel that the main character’s lives and mission are in serious peril.  In this movie, characters keep dying, but it doesn’t feel earned.  It feels like the filmmakers wanted to be shocking and provocative.  See, look who can kill, now just wait and watch who we kill next.  While guaranteed to keep you glued to your seats to see who’s dying next, it doesn’t really make for compelling drama, nor does it really engender repeat viewings (I’ve owned the movie for a week now and I’ve not rewatched it once–by this time with the other Avengers and the later Captain America movies (which are essentially Avengers 1.5/Avengers 2.5 movies), I would have rewatched them multiple times by now.

Avengers: Infinity War (part 2)

Next year, we will have the resolution to this story with part 2 of this movie.  I’m pretty sure the “solution” to the movie was sown by “seeds” planted in this movie (pay particular attention to the scene where Stark and Doctor Strange discuss possible outcomes after Strange looks into the future), but it is possible that this is a misdirect by the filmmakers.  Either way, I’m not sure how much “fun” I’m going to have with the second part based on the “bad taste” the first part left in my mouth.  Unfortunately, this isn’t a case of Empire Strikes Back, where the second entry is by necessity darker than the first, but rather one where I feel the filmmakers tried to use shock value to enhance the tension rather than going with heroic and meaningful deaths.  In closing, I also have to say I wasn’t a fan of Thanos’s motivation. Genocide, for any reason (and that includes population control) is still Genocide.  While he was “a bad dude,” there was a surprising amount of sympathy given to the character for this movie that 1) wasn’t earned, 2) other movies featuring him in scenes didn’t show/highlight and 3) wasn’t actually relevant to the character. Sure, you don’t want a scene chewing villain, but in my mind, Thanos lacks the cold, calculated terror of a Darth Vader, who while there is good inside of him, does some personally horrific things to get his motives accomplished.  Thanos is from the newer, Kylo Ren school of villainy, where he has to whine, emote, and act like a petulant child before he can enact his twisted schemes because, by golly, we (the audience) gotta’ feel sorry for the poor slob as he’s only trying to do the “right” thing by his way of thinking.  Oh, boo hoo.  Sorry, I (personally) don’t care for this particular type of villain and it throws me out of the movie every time I encounter one like that (Syndrome from the Incredibles has a similar effect on me).

Overall Score: B-/C+

Okay, so I’m being charitable with the B- as there are some very inventive and terrific fight scenes (as usual for the Russo Brothers).  However, some characters do some pretty dumb things (especially for Marvel movies) and I really didn’t care for the way Thanos was sometimes handled/depicted.  It is a spectacle, no doubt, and is pretty much required viewing to stay relevant with popular culture, but as a movie, it isn’t nearly as strong as several other Marvel movies.  I’m not sure where I’m going to place it on the list, but I can give you a preview here: it will not unseat my top 3 Marvel movies currently.  Not slagging on the movie per se, but it just didn’t connect with me. Too much emphasis on cheap, unearned deaths, not enough on true characterization and story pretty much sums up my reaction to it in one sentence.  This is the first Russo Brothers Marvel movie that has been a swing and miss with me.

Updated Marvel Universe Movies

marvel_cinematic_universe_wallpaper_by_theincrediblejake-d8lx9om

This is a super short post to let you know that I’ve updated my Ranking of Marvel Movies post with the addition of Thor Ragnarok. 

Sidney




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Thor Ragnarok: Mini-Review (No Spoilers)

Thor_Ragnarok_openaircinemas
Picture of the Thor Ragnarok movie poster featuring Thor, Hulk, Loki and other Marvel Universe Characters.  Image Source: Open Air Cinemas (Click for more info).

Nope, no writing done over the 3 day weekend.  Tragic.  This is what I’ve got to get better at as a writer who wants to be “professional.”  Yes, I had another real-world “project” that I was working on (changing rooms in my house), but it doesn’t take that long to do 250 words.  I just didn’t want to go through the hassle of setting up the computer for just 20-30 mins of writing–but the cost to that was, no writing done at all.  250 * 6 days = 1,500 words.  I one week, I could, if I could get my act together, essentially finish a “section” of a short story, or the basic “outline” of a chapter.  So the word I used above is actually something I need to tell myself when I don’t get my 250 words in–tragic.

Finally Saw Thor Ragnarok

Okay, so over the Memorial Day Weekend here in the U.S., my family and I gathered together after the holiday dinner to watch Thor Ragnarok.  I have to say upfront that it was a fun experience–it isn’t the best Marvel movie that I ever seen, but it also isn’t the worst.  I guess that’s what, after having a night to sleep on it, I would say–it was a solidly fun experience.  Unlike Star Wars, which at the moment that I write this, is having a “moment” (and not in a good way as Kathleen Kennedy seems determined to remake the brand into something that she wants and not something that the fans want), Marvel movies know what they’re audiences want: quite a bit of action, some humor (quips and some physical comedy), characters having to some (light) soul-searching, an inventive and eventful ending, and (a bit) of moral relevance (theme) and they’re golden.  This is what Thor Ragnarok delivers to its audience.  Is it flashy, like say Civil War or Winter Soldier? No.  But is it good?  Yes, yes it is.

God of Humor

So, the comedic elements in this one are super strong.  Whether they be visual gags, banter and quips, or downright physical humors, a lot (but not all) of Thor Ragnarok is played for laughs.  I happened to have liked that, but if you’re looking for (or liked) the grim seriousness of Thor The Dark World, then you’ll need to look elsewhere because they play this strictly as an action-comedy.  When there’s action, there’s a lot of it, but when there’s no action on the screen, they’re either setting up a joke or actually paying off a joke.  There’s very little else here, although to be fair, there is quite a bit of light character development of ThorLokiHulk/Banner, and the new character, the Valkyrie, whose name wasn’t really used all that often in the movie, but who both Thor & Loki recognized as a Valkyrie, so that’s (at the moment) how I remembered her character.

Not the Worst, but Not the Best

Again, I have to say that I really liked this movie quite a bit, but based on the high praise that it was given by some of the reviews when it released, I’m a little surprised that it wasn’t a stronger movie.  I suppose when you get right down to it, this may have to do more with me and my expectations than the movie itself.  While I like comedies and like to laugh (who doesn’t), my favorite genre is action.  While there’s no denying that Thor Ragnarok does have action set-pieces, for the most part, this one lent itself to comedy (think the comedy sketch of Thor sitting out Civil War that made the rounds on YouTube last summer, and you’ll have an idea of what the creators of Thor Ragnarok were going for).

Having just re-watched this vignette, I just realized that they referenced the “email” joke in this vignette in Thor Ragnarok, so this is very much a “tone-piece” for the movie.  If you like this vignette, then you’ll probably like Thor Ragnarok very much.  I was mildly amused by this, so while I really liked the movie, it probably won’t make it into my Top 5 Marvel movies.  Not to say it isn’t good, but I feel there are other Marvel movies that are stronger.

Overall Grade: B (Above Average)

My take: Hey, it’s a Marvel movie.  They’d have to really misfire (Thor Dark World) to get much less (Marvel gets me as a fan in a way that Kathleen Kennedy and the “new” Star Wars doesn’t seem to anymore).  I love what they are doing right now.  Even the movies that I feel are perhaps “weaker” entries in the Universe are still above the quality of many other movies of competing franchises.  My mother said the movie was better than she expected it be based on the other Thor movies and my step-father laughed all the way through, and myself was at least amused through most of it, but sat up and took notice through the extended action sequences.  This was, while not my favorite Marvel movie, still one that I would gladly re-watch anytime.

Missing in Action: Why I’m Probably Not Going to See Avengers Infinity War in the Theaters

Avengers_original
Captain America, Thor, Ironman, Hawk-Eye, Black Widow, and Hulk from the original Avengers film.  Image Source: SlashFilm (Click Image for more info)

Stop Signs

So, remember a couple weeks back when I posted that sometimes life gives you “stop signs” and you just have to be cognizant of them and learn when to listen to them in order to stay sane.  I discussing it in the vein of writing, but it looks like it applies to other areas of life as well as it turns out that Avengers: Infinity War is one of those “stop signs” for me, at least when it comes to seeing it in the theaters.  Without going into a long essay on the matter, simply put, car problems is the ultimate reason why I’m not going–my car, which had always been so reliable, now has decided to gift me with an intermittent starting problem which happens to me, but not the mechanics.  Yeah, I know, right.  I get stuck and it won’t start and have to get it towed (twice now) and then they start it up with no problem and charge me for diagnosing it.

If there was a digital equivalent of a “scream” emoji, I would be using it right now.

Thor Ragnarok

Actually, I’m not really all that concerned about missing Avengers: Infinity War in the theaters.  My mother and I have already had some of the movie spoiled for us and I’ve even encountered a couple of more spoilers in the two weeks since it has been released (despite my care of limiting my social media use).  My local theater wasn’t showing it in 3D Imax anyway, just regular 2D Imax, and (most importantly, to me, anyway), we haven’t yet seen Thor Ragnarok.  I’m sure that it isn’t essential to TR before AIW, but we’ve pretty seen every mainline Marvel entry in order and their are some character changes to Thor (obviously) that occur in TR which seem to carry over to AIW.

While I have seen movies out of order, I much prefer to see them in order, if that is an option.

Memorial Day & Labor Day

If you are wondering, we’re planning on seeing Thor Ragnarok on Memorial Day.  For those outside of the US, that’s a big holiday that happens on the last Monday in May (this month, as I write this) that is the unofficial kickoff of the Summer Season here as most schools are either out for summer break at this time (or will be out in a week or two afterwards).  We’ll probably purchase it (as opposed to renting it) as a movie to watch after the holiday dinner).

I’m hopeful that AIW will be out on Bluray/Itunes by Labor Day–our complementary holiday that ends the summer.  If so, then we can bookend the summer with Marvel movies and catch-up.

I’m not going to stress over things I simply cannot control.  I’d like to see AIW, but since it doesn’t look like its going to happen for a while, and since I have no control of the situation at the moment, I might as well just wait patiently until circumstances work out and allow me to see the movie.

Sidney




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Potpourri May 2018

potpourri_wikihow

So this (short) post is just a little bit about everything that I’m currently doing right now.

  • Watching The Expanse: I’m not really feeling the show all that much, but I need a “spaceship” show at the moment to get me through Final Exam week and help me as I get my car repaired.  Will probably do a mini-review of it after I watch all the seasons (there are 3 total, but only seasons 1 & 2 are currently “free” on Streaming via Amazon Prime.
  • Project Poet (Rough Draft): Two-Thirds (⅔) way complete.  Not really happy with the way it is turning out, but then again, I guess that’s what rough drafts are for.  There’s no magic in this one, so it doesn’t really seem like a Fantasy story, but it is one that I really like the idea for.  I may have to find a way to add in a “magic system,” however, because it seems really slow and boring otherwise.
  • Recently Watched Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets: I’m putting this one on the list to remind myself that I need to do a mini-review of this movie as I saw it about 2 weeks ago.  I didn’t much care for The Fifth Element (never actually managed to ever get through the whole movie), but I thought this might actually win me over.  Spoilers for the mini-review: it didn’t. 🙂
  • The trailer for Ant-Man and the Wasp has just been released.  Now this is a Marvel movie that I think I can get behind this summer.  It looks really fun!  And best of all, NO SPOILERS ANYWHERE IN SIGHT!  🙂  🙂

 

  • Finished the OUTLINES for two (2) new Projects: Project Paradise and Project Independence:  I finished the plot outlines for two new stories.  Both are science-fiction stories that I’m really excited about writing over the summer.  More on these projects as when I finish the Rough Drafts for them.

Well, that’s all I have for right now as I need to work on finishing several small school-related projects.  Talk to you later!

Sidney




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Spoilers Redux

avengersinfinitywarnospoilers_Youtube
Cast of Infinity War looking at the camera.  Image Source: YouTube

Avengers Infinity War Partially Spoiled for Me

So, my car wouldn’t start Saturday so I didn’t get to commute home as I have done every weekend since starting school.  Rather than let this defeat me–very demoralizing–I simply tried to distract myself through schoolwork, Netflix, and YouTube videos.  I was watching a video on the upcoming Spider-man video game published by Insomniac games (one of my favorite developers) and made the mistake of scrolling through the comment section to get a sense of what the gaming community thought of the game.  Right there in full view, with no warning or anything, some goofball posted a major spoiler about three characters in the movie.  I read the first two before my brain realized that it was a blatant spoiler (intentional, no less–no spoiler tag, no “spoilers,” nothing, just done to troll).  I stopped reading and didn’t see the third, but I reported the comment.  Yes, I reported it falsely–YouTube doesn’t have a report feature for “being a jack-behind,” so I reported it under commercialization.  Yeah, probably not kosher, but hey, if the poster hadn’t been such a twit, I’d have left his post alone.  It had 17 replies, probably angry responses to the spoilers, but when I reported it, it dropped off the comment section–but the damage was already done.

 Marketing through Fear of Spoilers

While it was ultimately the posters fault, I still partially fault the marketing of the movie for encouraging people to run out and see it before they were spoiled on it.  They got people into the seats and became the number one movie opening of all time by making this an “event” film, but in doing so, they created a culture where a “jack-behind” and troll out there would feel embolden, no invited, to see the movie first and then to create and post as many spoilers as possible in as many places as possible with the understanding that if you haven’t seen it yet (in the first weekend), then you “got what you deserved” if you were spoiled on the movie.  I’ve a report still to write and a Final Exam to take, so Disney and their marketing department really screwed the pooch for me.  My mother still wants to see it (although her desire was diminished once she discovered it wasn’t in Imax 3d), but mine is greatly diminished because of the spoilers and the way the movie was marketed and the release date changed.

It’s such a big topic that even the directors have asked fans to respect the movie-going experience:

Ah, well, its just a movie, right?   =/

Sidney




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Waiting a Week for Avengers Infinity War

avengersinfinitywar_imdb
Avengers Infinity War Movie Poster with Marvel’s Avengers and Thanos.  Image Source: IMDB.com (Click Image for more info.)

No Avengers Infinity War for me this Week

So, as most of you know, I tend to go to the Marvel movies as soon as they are released (with some exceptions–I still haven’t had a chance to see Thor Ragnarok yet, although I’m hopeful that I will be able to see if for the Memorial Day Holiday at the end of May (fingers crossed).  While I haven’t looked to see if its being shown in Imax 3D at my local theater–pretty much the only way I’ll go to the AMC theater these days as I’m perfectly willing to wait the extra time until it is available for purchase due to the movie industry’s  desire to maximize profit by charging more for the Imax experience, but not offering movies in the 3D format as often as they used to–AMC still charges a premium price when showing movies in 2D when they’re Imax vs standard 2D.

EDIT: Did some quick googling and found that AIW was NOT shot originally in 3D.  However, it was shot using Imax cameras, a choice that happens rarely in the movie world, so it should look spectacular on the Imax screens even though the image will be 2D and not 3D.  I’m not sure how that will affect my movie going–2D is a much harder sell based on the prices at AMC.  At least with 3D, I can justify the expense by telling myself that it is something that I can’t replicate on my home theater.

It Isn’t All About the Money–Sometimes its about School

So, lest people think that I’m a poor college student (which I am at the moment, if truth be told), the expense of going to the movies (ticket prices & concessions) isn’t the primary driver of what’s keeping me away–this time, it’s school.  For the first time during my tenure as a PhD student, I have a Monday class with both a Final Exam and a Final Paper due after right as the AIW releases.  If Disney hadn’t moved up the movie by a week and kept it in its first Saturday in May release spot, then I probably would be going–2D or no 2D.  I have too much work to do and too much time and work invested in the class to throw it all away by not getting studying done or working on my paper over the weekend.

First rule of thumb for students (I tried to tell my 6th graders this time and again, but only a few listened), do your work first, then you have time to play.  This is a lesson that has been “hardwired” into me since my earliest childhood with daily “homework checks” at home.

So, all that to say that if the movie is still in Imax and it is a really good 2D movie, then chances are good I’ll try to see it next week, but I’m not going to risk my grade in my class (Plays Before Shakespeare) just because Disney moved the movie up a week in hopes that AIW would get 3 weeks to make money ahead of the mid-May release of Deadpool 2.  Something tells me that even if it isn’t in Imax, it will still be playing next week if I really want to see it.  Or–there’s always BluRay at the end of the summer.  Whenever I do see it, I’ll be sure to do a Mini-Review & add it my Marvel Movie Ranking Post.

Have a great weekend!

Sidney



 

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