"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER has so much more to live up to than just being the next Marvel movie. As the first sequel to a genuine cultural phenomenon, meeting everybody’s expectations would’ve been a high bar. Then its beloved star Chadwick Boseman died unexpectedly and the whole story was reworked to make supporting character Shuri (Letitia Wright, THE COMMUTER) the lead, while the cast and crew mourned, and also dealt with a pandemic. And they kept it on the down low how the fuck it was even gonna work; I will of course be discussing how the fuck it works, so this will be a HEAVY SPOILER review.

Luckily it was Ryan Coogler at the helm. His best movie CREED shows that he’s a not only a highly skilled filmmaker, but one capable of investing a franchise type movie with deep personal meaning. And I think he’s done about as good as anyone could have in his situation, creating a sequel that I don’t think flows as well his first one, but that builds off of it, reminds us of what we loved about it, introduces new worlds and yes, turns mourning into commercial art.

The opening is so heavy it’s impossible for the rest to live up to it. In two years of speculating how they would explain the absence of Boseman’s T’Challa (he got assassinated? he got zapped to another dimension? he’s still around off camera like Brian O’Connor?) I don’t know why I didn’t figure out that they’d choose the most direct and painful approach: T’Challa dies of an illness. Killmonger’s destruction of the heart-shaped herbs in the first movie left him vulnerable, and Shuri’s failure to synthesize a replacement causes her enormous guilt.

The funeral for T’Challa – Wakandans in all white dancing and drumming, pallbearers stepping in rhythm as they carry the king’s vibranium coffin, his Black Panther mask carried at the front of the procession, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett, STRANGE DAYS) looking upon a mural of her son – would be a beautiful piece of cinema even if it were only for a fictional character. But we see these actors in pain and we know they didn’t have to get into character as people mourning T’Challa. They’re thinking about the same thing we are. Man, I thought I managed to make it through with just a little bit of mist, but the silent all-Boseman Marvel logo – that one got me.

And then there’s a movie, and it’s partly about grieving, but mostly about carrying on, learning from the memory of your lost loved one, but making your own way, as they would’ve wanted you to. There is sadness, but there’s also some time set aside for flying around battling crazy dudes, shocking American soldiers with electrified spears, riding on Orcas, and other good shit.

Poster for BLACK PANTHER; WAKANDA FOREVEROne of the things that makes Black Panther different from most super heroes is that he/she has to lead a country. T’Challa revealing the existence of Wakanda to the world in part 1 had ramifications: now all the other countries know about vibranium and are trying to get it. They attempt to rob a Wakandan outpost – nice set up for some badassness from Wakanda’s all-female security force the Dora Milaje. The real trouble is when the CIA gets ahold of vibranium-detecting technology and locates a source deep in the ocean. Drilling there gets their Navy SEALS whooped by strange warriors they assume are Wakandans until they see they’re not Black, they’re blue.

Yeah, it really is weird that by the time Marvel got around to using their King of Atlantis character Namor the Sub-Mariner we’ve already seen AQUAMAN and trailers for AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER. An underwater fantasy world would seem more impressive if it was the only one on the block, but I do think there’s some wind left in these sails. The necessity to not be too similar to AQUAMAN gave Coogler license to change Namor’s underwater kingdom from Atlantis to a much more novel Mayan-inspired city called Talokan. And though I love AQUAMAN and have no problems with its artificiality, it’s cool to see more of an actors-actually-underwater look here.

Namor is played by Tenoch Huerta Mejía (SLEEP DEALER, CAMINO, and scary fuckin Li’l Mago in SIN NOMBRE), and he has a great explanation for why his name is pronounced “Nah-mor,” which is immediately disregarded and everyone else pronounces it “Naymor.” The way he tells it, he has alot in common with the Black Panther: some of his powers (and his peoples’ blue skin and gills) come from ingesting mystical plants grown out of vibranium-rich soil, and they’ve developed a civilization in secret, hiding from European slavers and colonizers. He’s brown, with pointy ears and (surprisingly effective) wings on his ankles, which is part of why he’s worshipped as a god.

In fact he’s so powerful he manages to sneak into Wakanda and surprise Ramonda and Shuri during a mother-daughter bonding night in the bush. The royals don’t take this well, but Namor makes a fair point: Wakanda going public has put his own secret kingdom in the crosshairs of vibranium-horny gringos, therefore they owe it to him to find out who built that fucking detector and bring them to him. And if they don’t (this part is less fair) he’ll invade. He’s one of those villains who’s 95% right and 5% an asshole.

I like the section that’s kind of a buddy movie between Shuri and Akoye (Danai Gurira, MY SOUL TO TAKE) on a covert mission in the States. Part of the appeal of these movies is the fantasy of Wakanda, but do not overlook the appeal of seeing them take their Wakandan excellence and swagger for a spin out among the rest of us. They’re trying to be inconspicuous but just look super fuckin cool with their sunglasses and their car, Akoye wearing her Dora Milaje outfit under a blazer. Their white friend Everett Ross (Martin Freeman, ALI G INDAHOUSE) illegally leaks that the CIA stole the vibranium detector tech from a brilliant 19 year-old MIT student’s metallurgy project. So they go to the dorms to find Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK, JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH). Shuri wants to bring her to Wakanda for protection, knowing Namor would kill her. One thing leads to another and there’s a car/motorcycle/flying-suit cop chase and then the shit is really on when a squad of Talokans roll up on the side of a motherfuckin whale and leap onto a bridge wearing water breathing masks like motherfuckin Fish and Flips*.

Admittedly that’s the sort of awesomeness/absurdity speedball that AQUAMAN did so well, and I think that movie had the perfect tone for it, but it’s also cool to see that sort of shit treated even more straight-faced here. I think the FX on these guys swimming and leaping have a more realistic texture than recent Marvel films, and it goes without saying that costume designer Ruth E. Carter (DO THE RIGHT THING, BLACK DYNAMITE, DOLEMITE IS MY NAME, COMING 2 AMERICA) does not phone it in.


That said, I think the action here and in some other scenes is a little below the standard Coogler set in the first film – lots of good moments, but too shaky and dark to hit as hard as I’d like. On an FX note, there’s a shot where Shuri looks animated that I thought “They couldn’t just have her in the suit there?,” but on the other hand one where animation allows her to scurry through enemies like a cat, using the technology for what it was meant for when it was given to us by our lord and savior BLADE II.

Shuri and Riri are captured and taken to a cave (with air). Namor brings Shuri on a tour of Talokan, tells her his life story, tries to convince her it’s time for the two kingdoms to join together against the rest of the world. But Ramonda sends semi-retired secret agent Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o, NON-STOP) to rescue them, so Namor shows up in Wakanda again and (HUGE SPOILER HUGE SPOILER HUGE SPOILER) kills the queen. And then looks at her and gives a little chuckle. Okay, that might push him past 5% asshole.

I gotta admit I was surprised by that turn. Bassett is such an American treasure, it was cool to see her shown such respect in these big movies, and she really shines in a more challenging part this time, so you don’t want to see it end. But then you think about it and of fucking course this is the only thing that makes sense dramatically. If she’s around she’s always the one in charge – for Shuri to be the hero she really has to be alone and forced to rise to the occasion. Plus we’ll be seeing Ramonda on the Ancestral Plane. That works for everybody except T’Challa.

Shuri realizes that to protect her kingdom she has to find a way to become the next Black Panther, and she has a clever scientist way of solving the riddle of how to re-create the heart shaped herb. Which brings me to the other HUGE SPOILER surprise that I didn’t see coming and immediately realized I should’ve seen coming. In the first movie, T’Challa consumed the herb and it brought him to the Ancestral Plane to talk to the last Black Panther, his father T’Chaka. But when Shuri does it she sees her cousin, Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan, FANTASTIC FOUR), who technically was a Black Panther because he briefly stole the throne and consumed the herbs. But he’s not some redeemed Force Ghost. He gives her a tour-de-force motherfuckin movie star monologue about how her brother was too noble and she should follow his way of vengeance. And she seems convinced. I mean, Namor killed her mom! So, against everybody’s advice, she comes up with a plan to capture and kill Namor, knowing it will start a war with those soggy fishfuckers.

The battle is exciting, though perhaps less epic than feels warranted. The climax is an excellent mix of badassery and character growth, though it feels possibly a step from being fully earned. Since we’re HUGE SPOILERing already I’ll just say it: Shuri has a chance to kill Namor, she demands he yield, and he does. In tandem with the first film it’s powerful because it was so badass but so sad that Killmonger refused T’Challa’s mercy and preferred to die. It had me thinking “oh no, not this again,” and being relieved that he had the humility to surrender. I’m sure some people will scoff at the idea of Shuri allowing her mother’s killer to live and even be an ally, in order to avoid war. But just because we can’t see ourselves having the mercy to do that doesn’t mean a comic book hero can’t. And don’t tell me it would be a better story if she just got revenge and was happy with it and showed that she was real dark and stuff.

I pretty much assumed Shuri would be the new Black Panther, since that’s what they did in the comics, since the movie establishes a royal lineage, and since it’s dramatic to have the central character who is least prepared, the “child who scoffs at tradition,” be the one thrust into that position. But they did leave that ambiguous in the advertising, and for a time the movie seems to be leaving open the possibility that Akoye or maybe even Nakia could become the Black Panther. For Akoye it would be kind of a cool statement, the bodyguard becoming royalty. For Nakia it would just be cool because Lupita Nyong’o would be playing the main character.

Shuri is the right choice dramatically and logically, and because being a genius is a better reason to be a super hero than being good at fighting. I think it would feel kind of phony to just give it to the bigger movie star. But I do think it’s a shame that the most charismatic member of the cast is playing the one in love with T’Challa so she gets sidelined running a school in Haiti and (SPOILER) secretly being a mom. Those are great things for real people to do with their lives, but in a super hero movie it’s such a fuckin bummer. She gets called into action eventually but let’s face it, she pretty much got Mia Torretoed. One step above playing Hawkeye’s wife.

Arguable MVP Akoye does get plenty to do, and even sort of a promotion when Shuri builds her and her colleagues flying armor. It’s a sign of respect, but does not bode well for part 3, honestly, because it probly means less spear-spinning stunt women, more animated IRON MAN bullshit and helmet-interior close-ups. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

M’Baku (Winston Duke, US), leader of the Jabari mountain tribe, has some great scenes, a possible PREDATOR hat tip, and I think Shuri’s given him her blessing to become the King of Wakanda? Not totally clear how it works. But I hope it means Shuri/M’Baku buddy movie incoming.

I really enjoyed WAKANDA FOREVER but I do think something feels a little off about it. If my theory is correct, though, it’s pretty much out of anyone’s control. Movie #1 established Wakanda, T’Challa became king and Black Panther, he had his first adventure as Black Panther. Naturally they have to build off of that and give him more adventures before things get switched up. But here we’re doing that movie #2 building while already passing the torch. These forms of storytelling are burnt into our brain, so it feels odd even though we all know why it’s happening.

The only way to avoid that would’ve been to continue the story as planned but with a different actor playing T’Challa, which would’ve felt considerably more weird. There are people who wanted them to recast, saying the character is too culturally important to retire, and I kind of felt that way myself, figuring Boseman would’ve thought that. But I also knew they couldn’t really do it yet, because aside from whether or not it’s gross to replace him like that, it would be extremely difficult for most people to just watch the movie and not be constantly distracted by a new actor as the same character. Who the fuck do you propose, who is an actual actor existing on this earth, who people would’ve accepted in the role, and who would’ve even been willing to take the job? Come on man, of course that didn’t happen. And now that I’ve seen how they did it instead, I’m glad it couldn’t.

Literally on a daily basis I see people use “MCU” or “Marvel” as shorthand for pop culture oversaturation, crass commercialism, tired formula, mediocrity, and pandering. And I get it. I don’t totally/always agree, but at the very least they’re headed down that road. And yet here’s a new Marvel Cinematic Universal Product where the feelings of the human beings who made it bubble up to the surface. They lost their friend, brother, inspiration, and figurehead deep into planning for this movie, getting ready to start filming, and they can’t use power crystals or quantumania or some shit to snatch a different-looking version of him out of the multiverse. A new T’Challa (played by an actor whose giant balls would have to be digitally painted out of every shot) would be saying “the show must go on.” WAKANDA FOREVER is saying “people must go on.” Nobody wanted to be telling a story without T’Challa, but bad things happen, and we must face them. Coogler putting his characters in the same position of having to figure out how the fuck to do things without T’Challa may have been a psychological necessity for his cast and crew – I imagine that allowing them to mourn through the movie made more sense than trying to set grief aside during work hours. Whatever its imperfections, WAKANDA FOREVER is charged with meaning and humanity. That’s much more important than the fuckin Marvel machine.

And for those still mad that there’s no more T’Challa in the MCU (BIG ASS ENDING SPOILER RIGHT HERE) do I have to underline that last scene for you and draw arrows pointing to the part where that kid says “My name is Prince T’Challa, son of King T’Challa”? There will be another King T’Challa in the MCU some day, and if they time it right this can be the one who marries Storm and everything. It’ll be fine.

To me the real question is whether or not Coogler sticks around to direct a full trilogy. If he does I think there’s a strong chance that with all he’s learned, and hopefully better circumstances around planning and filming the movie, he’ll hit that one harder than Adonis Creed. But I think I would prefer if he’s able to do it like the CREED sequels, stay on as a producer and hand the reins to an up-and-comer while he goes off and does something brand new and straight from his soul. That might be better than being entangled in franchises for too long, even though he’s so good at it.

 

*I made this reference in my AQUAMAN review and I won’t hesitate to use it again for THE WAY OF WATER or THE LITTLE MERMAID if relevant

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 16th, 2022 at 2:28 pm and is filed under Comic strips/Super heroes, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

54 Responses to “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”

  1. Funny you bring up the helmet cam thing. I get why they do it but it’s annoyed me to see that Iron Man aesthetic spread into other franchises. Supergirl even gave her a helmet suit when Benoist got pregnant which I guess is good she could still film her helmet stuff while a stuntwoman handled the action. But it’s a real drag to look at actors in a black void with hologram readouts.

    I agree this is the best possible version of Black Panther 2 they could’ve made under the circumstances. But then I love movies about grief so I think it’s a healthy way to explore how to process and move forward. With kickass fish people of course.

  2. I think I am the only person on the planet who thought this movie was just okay. ***SPOILERS THROUGHOUT*** The biggest problem is Wright. She just doesn’t have the chops to headline a movie, let alone a franchise. She’s fine. She’s competent. She’s not compelling. She doesn’t have the screen presence. Literally every other actor (except the new girl scientist in the iron man wannabe suit) has more screen presence than she does. When you wish there is more Martin Freeman and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, you’ve got a problem. Maybe my opinion will change if I ever watch it again, but I really have no desire to do that.

    Even that aside, I didn’t think this was very fun. I just saw it a few days ago and I can’t think of one single moment where I thought, “that was cool” or “that was fun”. I even thought the underwater city stuff was boring. At one point during the underwater city I literally thought, “why can’t I see anything?” I started checking my eyesight by closing one eye and then the other and looking around the theater to see if I need to get my eyes checked. I was seeing it in a good theater, so I was confident it was not the screening. I know Vern enjoyed that it was real people in the water and therefore less fantastic than AQUAMAN, but I thought it made it look bad that it’s just people obviously holding their breath in dark, murky water.

    Mejia was good, but even there the movie was less than it could’ve been had he had another actor to bounce off of. He and Wright had no chemistry. I did like that it was Mayan mythology used for the sea people. I liked that it was so heavily centered around Black women. I liked Killmonger showing up. I didn’t dislike everything. I was moved at a lot of the stuff dealing with Boseman and T’Challa’s death. I just also want my superhero movies to be fun.

  3. That has gotta be the WEIRDEST collection of Related Posts I’ve ever seen.

  4. I think I’m some sort of an MCU heretic coz I didn’t love the first Black Panther film. I loved the world building, I loved the characters/performance, and understand why it was such an important step in representation. Wakanda itself is amongst the most fascinating parts of the MCU, but I just really found the story ok at best, and felt it especially didn’t hold up to repeat viewings. I feel Boseman was actually also able to do more with less screentime in other MCU films than he got to do in the first BP.

    Reading this review is good as it seems like they’ve dealt with the loss of Boseman head on and respectfully, but it sounds a bit like I might have the same sort of problems with this one as I did with the first, that narratively it’s just not that compelling. I’ll definitely see this, but I also hope Coogler steps away for the inevitable sequel, as I also prefer his non Black Panther work.

    I also find it interesting what you say about the MCU being a blockbuster machine (which it most certainly is), but contrasting that with the fact that it’s all gotten a bit shaggy since Endgame. Some of that shagginess hasn’t worked for me (some of Loki, Falcon and Winter Solder, Eternals) but some of it has been hugely interesting (Shang Chi, Ms Marvel, She Hulk). As a comics fan it’s getting messy and unwieldy in the way comics get messy and unwieldy, and I like that. It doesn’t necessarily make for great viewing all the time, but I think the willingness to try some weird shit that almost certainly won’t work in such a big, expensive sandpit is a positive sign.

  5. Considering these are, functionally, children’s movies… I’m starting to get weirded out by how many characters are ostensibly Good Guys, as decided by It Is That Way In The Comics… they’re written as doing atrociously evil things like ordering civilian massacres, torturing people en masse, slave trading… but They’re Good Guys and they can Support Spin-offs, so everything evil they do is swept under the rug and they suffer no consequences (except for positive things like gaining more power, getting new allies, being placed on the team of rich and famous people, et al).

    Meanwhile, if it’s been decided you’re a Bad Guy, you’re just kinda fucked, even if you barely do anything bad or you have just as much justification for your badness as The Good Guys have for their own misdeeds.

    I just think if these are the movies that we as a culture are going to rent out theaters to show to kids for free… maybe they shouldn’t be about characters getting away with mass murder because They Were Sad Once, In The Past, About Racism?

  6. Which character are you talking about? Namor? Isn’t he The Bad Guy? I think it’s more questionable in the opposite direction. Both Killmonger and Namor follow the tradition of a million environmentalist villains: yes, he’s right about oppression being bad, but he Goes Too Far. The most important thing is to never Go Too Far, so it’s settled – fighting oppression is too dangerous. Best to stay out of it.

    (I think the BLACK PANTHER movies are more complex than that, but I’m a little uncomfortable with that part of the subtext.)

  7. I actually think it’s a good moral to say the ends don’t justify the means and that it’s important to not commit war crimes, even for a good cause, but then these movies have a bad habit of going “we’re fighting Character X, who is SO bad that we’re justified in going to any lengths to stop him.”

    Like that bit in one of the Captain America movies where they’re interrogating a bad guy and he goes “You’re not going to hurt me, you’re Captain America!” so Steve goes “you’re right, but she will!” and lets Black Widow fake-execute the guy, which is not quite the behavior I want to see Marvel Comics’ paragon of virtue display in a scene about enhanced interrogations in a movie about the excesses of the War on Terror–even a pretend War on Terror where no minorities are involved and the bad guys are all Nazis.

  8. Agree with Maggie in the sense of how dark some scenes looked. The underwater city scenes definitely looked….murky, like a fish tank with a broken filter that hasn’t been cleaned in weeks.

    And yeah……Shuri.

    She’s brilliant, but there’s a reason why, in spite of Stark clearly being the smartest Avenger, it isn’t him saying “Avengers! Assemble!” It’s about having LEADERSHIP qualities, being able to lead, inspire and make the tough decisions and yeah, when shit goes down, to be able to dish out the hurt. In this respect, Okoye is clearly the better choice but it smacks of some kind of classism that Shuri is automatically next in line cause she’s got the “right” blood in her veins. Yeah, I know that’s how it was in the comics. I haven’t read them, but was it established that Shuri, in addition to being brilliant, is a skilled fighter? Cause that was never established in the first movie (even in the thick of the Wakanda battle in INFINITY WAR, she was busy in the lab extracting the stone from Vision’s head while Okoye, Wanda and Black Widow was doing the ass-kicking), and far as I know, Purple Flower enhances your strength and speed (which makes them a Wakanda-patented PED) but doesn’t automatically imbue you with MJW or Scott Adkins-levels of ass-kickery. The Black Panther suit isn’t the all-purpose WMD the Iron Man suit is. So, to get a little Game of Throne-y, Shuri is perfect “Hand Of The Queen” material but doesn’t quite cut it as the Head Of State.

    Or…how about the MCU really impressing the hell out of me and have Bassett as the next Black Panther ? Jesus she’s so cut and looking awesome! As fighting fit as she was in STRANGE DAYS and that was 26 years ago! And has screen presence and charisma to blow all her cast mates out of the water. So why not her? Oh yeah, silly me, I forgot, she’s 64, rendering her automatically useless, except to do everyone a favor and die to make way for the young uns.

  9. But in spite of those nitpicks above, this movie still worked for me on an emotional level. The non-action parts carried the movie for me, there are some great and affecting moments of drama and the last scene is one of the loveliest grace notes to end a Marvel movie.

  10. Really wish I hadn’t commented my thoughts on the movie in the previous film’s thread. So um, I guess I’ll elaborate on those with some

    SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER THOUGHTS

    -I found the ending to be a little confusing and all over the place with regards to what Namor is doing. In the moment, he seems to take Shuri’s offer of mercy sincerely and have a change of heart, which is certainly what him seeing his mother in that moment suggests, only for a couple of scenes later for him to be like “yeah, I’m playing the long game, and I’m still going to get what I want in the end!”
    -If M’Baku is going to be King now, maybe he should have had more to do in this movie to establish why that would be a good thing. Because it feels to me that with his established personality, he’s being made King more as a plot device so that next time there’s tension with the outside world, he’s going to be far less diplomatic than Ramonda and T’Challa were, and escalate the situation unnecessarily. Not that I think the depiction of Wakanda’s diplomacy is perfect. While it is true that America would want to get a hold of Vibranium, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a valid point that Vibranium is a dangerous substance that Wakanda could be more cooperative about helping to control. After all, this is the country that nearly started a worldwide race war in the previous movie, on the orders of a radical that they let take the throne because of a loophole in their traditions, who was only stopped from fulfilling it by the guy he usurped using the traditions to resume the battle for power. Are they really in a position to act like they’re above reproach? The most interesting thing about Wakanda is the dichotomy of how they’re a black African nation, traditionally viewed/depicted as victims of imperialism, yet they’ve never been conquered, and their resources and stability makes them arguably the most privileged country in the world. It’s kinda hard to fit Wakanda into the typical depiction of black people as disenfranchised and disadvantaged in the power structure, and Killmonger’s points about the Kingdom and its leaders having failed black people due to either apathy or deliberately harmful actions (included the ones that CREATED his radicalism) are valid. In fact, an example of this is how the movie glosses over the fact that in an attempt to prevent a conflict with Namor, Shuri makes the offer to keep Riri in Wakanda against her will, this being after her and Okoye’s attempts to abduct her too. Instead, we just get Wakanda calling everyone who might question them colonisers and not even a whiff of self-reflection at the end about their superiority concerning the rest of the planet. They don’t even really resolve the Wakanda-US tensions plot in a good way in this one, as they just kinda drop it for now and have Shuri say “Don’t worry about it” when Riri asks about her legal status.
    -Vern, You’re really oversimplifying BP fans’ sense of loss of T’Challa by thinking giving him a son with the same name is going to fix everything for them. This kid has a completely different upbringing, and interpersonal relationships than the original T’Challa, so it won’t be the same at all. And actually, a lot of people couldn’t stand the marriage to Storm in the comics, because it came off as a rushed publicity stunt that came out of nowhere and weakened both characters in the long run, particularly T’Challa, who ended it in the most dickheaded way possible. I don’t think they should recast original T’Challa after this movie’s done what it has, but Junior is a rather trite attempt to address the issue to me
    -Did anyone else find it funny that they did SO MUCH to try to differentiate Namor from Aquaman, including completely overhauling his backstory, his culture, the NAME of his people(because we can’t say Atlantis) and so on…only to make his weakness basically Aquaman’s outdated one from the silver age that he doesn’t even have anymore?

    Kaplan- I think FALCON AND WINTER SOLDIER really fucked up on the messaging on that front, because any sympathy the Flag Smashers had was thrown out the window with their methods, but they still expected us to agree with Sam at the end when he browbeats some politicians for not doing a good enough job on a REALLY complicated problem(which he had no actually practical solutions for, just “do better” platitudes), and telling them not to call the villains of the show “Terrorists” even though they fit the definition perfectly.

  11. Kaplan – So which part were you criticizing in the earlier comment? I’m honestly asking, I’m unclear what you were referring to. This movie does argue that Shuri shouldn’t kill Namor, even though he killed her mother. I agree, that’s a good message. I’m just saying that because of the effectiveness of the villain-who-has-a-point in storytelling, movies mostly depict people who fight for things like the environment or against oppression as either insincere or destined to go too far and turn evil.

    I think characters in say, Star Wars or a comic book can often be forgiven or “redeemed” for things they wouldn’t in real life because it’s a larger than life world that we don’t take literally. But again, I’m not sure which part you’re referring to.

  12. KayKay – I agree, Ramonda becoming Black Panther was my top choice. As for Shuri’s leadership skills, she seems to have bowed out from being leader to focus on being protector.

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    This scene, where Namor’s followers are flooding a city, hypnotizing people into drowning themselves, even holding people under the water to be sure they die.

  14. That’s what I thought, but don’t the movie (and the comics) treat him as the villain? Shuri shows him mercy in order to prevent war, but he is the antagonist and at least this chapter doesn’t treat him as redeemed (like they’ve done with Loki, etc.)

  15. It’s complicated. He has been an antagonist in very early stories, but just as often he was allied with the literal Captain America against Nazis (tho as sort of the Team Asshole). Eventually, he got something of the Magneto treatment–his earliest and most inconsistent appearances were attributed to untreated mental illness and his modern-day writing was allowed to be more subtle and nuanced without people constantly bringing up the shit he used to pull.

    (Marvel really hasn’t been rebooted since the Golden Age, so you know how in Batman’s earliest appearances, he used guns and killed people? Imagine you had to explain how *that* character is the same guy that hates guns and has sworn never to kill anyone. This kind of “not throwing the baby out with the bathwater” applies to just about every Marvel character worth mentioning.)

    So Namor tends to be almost always a good guy, or at least an honorable and merciful antihero, except in *modern*-modern writing, which tries for Game of Thrones with superheroes and portrays the good guys as a bunch of self-interested amorals who war amongst themselves at the slightest excuse.

  16. As I understand it, comics Namor’s moral compass is guided by whatever he thinks is best for his people, which has seen him side with villains before.
    And while Marvel hasn’t technically rebooted (though I think Secret Wars’ ending could kinda qualify), they do heap an endless bunch of retcons onto their continuity, or sometimes they just flat out present a new version of someone’s origins without really worrying about how it contradicts what was established before, which I’d argue is more confusing than reboots. The Elektra in Frank Miller’s original DAREDEVIL run’s depiction of her history with Matt and the MAN WITHOUT FEAR depiction are very drastically different people. This has gotten a bit worse with the MCU as the comics twist to make their versions line up more with what the movies are doing, like Nick Fury Jr., the secret son of Sr. who just happens to kinda look like Sam Jackson and fills a similar role to him now in the comics.

  17. Although I have very sincere, intense, universal and personal opinions about living after someone dies of cancer and making new, different, mournful, changed plans (for moviemaking and the more important otherwise), I haven’t seen this one yet, despite seeing and liking REGULAR BLACK PANTHER, both extremely rare things for superhero movies and myself, my reason for interest in this one seems oddly unpopular.

    Am I the only one fanatically interested in the Namor “IP”? Mostly for reason of Bill Everett, who is awesome during all eras, kind of the Nick Ray of comic books. Those Golden Age comics where Namor is so rudely pissed are so good, but I’m also a fan of later Everett, and slickasses like Gene Colon and Jae Lee. My movie-resistent puritanism is very countered by the idea of Namor and Friends being in a movie, which CC Beck couldn’t do for SHAZAM, Wally Wood couldn’t do for The Daredevil Show, etc. It is not simply because a pissy bastard like Namor is a perfect royal counterpoint to a movie that is unhappy with death and cannot be entirely tributary, just stupid enough.

    Anyway, Baz Lurhmann should make NICK RAY, and Ken Burns should make BILL EVERETT.

    I never see superhero movies and am personally opposed to them, but they’ll get me with this one. Also they should make a black and white, Universal-monster/noir CLAYFACE, and a nauseatingly framerated EXCALIBUR. I would go see those, too. Also, JUBILEE.

    The last superhero movie I saw was NEW MUTANTS, which, although comic books are so personal to myself all I can think of is seeing their original writer with a note on his convention table saying by all no means would he sign any NM books, and etc, was a movie I liked, particularly the parts without action. I mainly saw it because the mean delays kept making me laugh, and the guy was supposed to make THE REPLACEMENTS STORY, which would have been so dumb even if he did a good job. There are so many dumb characters they could have had in that, some played by weirdly older real life versions, ala MAN ON THE MOON: Axl, Brain, Puffy, Tommy Keene, Static Taxi, the late Dave Phillips of Frank Black and the Catholics, the late Steve Foley, Scott Litt, Josh Freese, a boring recap of the guy from The Neighborhoods’ life in Boston, etc. Like there could be a stupid, bucolic digital videod splendiferous part set in Athens with like Amy Adams as the lady from Oh OK/Let’s Active where Westerberg refuses to write her letters but then gets the idea to write Left of the Dial, etc. Real Westerberg has a big nose, would they give him stupid movie makeup like LOOPER or THE LATE SHIFT, that would be good. It would be funny if they gave him inaccurately red hair, like Letterman in LATE SHIFT, I would really laugh at that. There could be a scene in the 90s where Westerberg buys his first Ozzy/John Lennon sunglasses and then Tommy buys his first plaid Hot Topic pants, and that is how you know they’ve grown apart.

    I have similar views regarding all the dumb minutae they didn’t include include in NEW MUTANTS, which I will stifle myself about. However, I will say my one dumb idea. At first l was like oh thank goodness they didn’t include some dumb CGI Jim Carrey Warlock or something, like a bad Sienkiewicz visual computery impression. Then I realized it would have been good if they included him, but as like a big stupid puff of purple haze, like Galactus in FANTASTIC FOUR RILES THE SILVER SURFER or whatever.

    I am still having the stupidest time in the world, but I am loath to admit it in a movie that is a reflection on actual tragedy. Still, I would like to publicly thank the three beautiful ladies (of color) who allowed me the grace of their joint end when I walked by an AMC with giant paper bags in my hand, looking and being sad. All I was hoping for was to smoke a small amount of weed, so to encounter these ladies in their post-FOREVER rotation and discussion and to be kindly medicated during talk about Ryan Coogler, the romance of Namor and The Invisible Woman, how one girl is an “Amy Adams Stan”, etc was really meaningful and nice, a majorly emotive and inspiring moment when a mild nicety would have personally sufficed. Thank you to this example of astounding femininity and goodness for generosity of spirit and otherwise, making my cynical nature about life and The Movies feel so much better. I appreciated even a moment of kindness during what was very much their context and their moment. Thank you for allowing my dumb white ass the grace of talking with you ladies about J. Phoenix and at you about J. Campion. I appreciated the acknowledgement of real life but all the moreso, I really loved talking to you for a second about movies.

  18. Oh yeah, the real pronunciation debate is Sub-Mariner vs Sub-MarREENner, though I’m sure I’m not the only loser to point that dumbass classic out this week.

    Does Sub-Mariner get a song about him like Venom did, that would be good.

  19. Will be interesting to revisit this at home.

    To be honest – I felt bored during this – there’s a real second-act drag problem. There’s stuff I can intellectual appreciate (Namor’s name reverse logic is brilliant, I like that he yielded and his motivations made sense).

    The mid-credits think is, like, clever lateral thinking and pays respects to Boseman while also giving them a means to recreate a status quo. But perhaps it is also a signal that they know this movie doesn’t move the dial on, (probably it couldn’t). Hollywood stars have done far worse but it is a shame that Wright set fire her to rep at exactly the wrong time. I also think her performance isn’t fantastic in this movie (even tho she has been great elsewhere – Small Axe). Think Shuri’s biggest problem is that Lupita and Angela Bassett are generation-defining talents. She can’t compete (yet). Narratively this is about one of the least interesting and charismatic characters stepping into the spotlight, that’s a problem really. But I think the next movie will be a Letita/Winston shared top billing – and then four or five years on from there we’ll get a Son of Black Panther movie with a new permanent lead.

    The first half of this movie has some real technical problems. I think it undercuts some of the drama, as well as the action, by just being too dim. Ironheart (in her v1 costume) isn’t clearly readable, and it undercuts Namor’s introduction (and then that of his henchmen) because you cant see them properly. His scene on the river side is absolutely awful, solely due to the lighting. Biggest pet peeve for me is when the performers eyes end up noy very readable because of low lighting. So much of this film is pretty (amazing costumes and imo McU’s best score) but i think in its first half its so underlit, it collapses the level of depth in the frame. I don’t understand it at all.

  20. I think there’s a common occurrence now that cinematographers are excited about the possibilities of low-light digital cinematography, but the technology we’re viewing it with is not consistently up to par with how it’s supposed to be seen. It mostly seems to be a problem with streaming shows (Game of Thrones being the most famous incident) but this may be a case too. I agree that the night scenes were darker than I would’ve liked, but it sounds like you had it worse. I thought the scene with Namor coming out of the river looked great, for example, but I can imagine with a projector bulb too dim or something that would not be the case.

  21. This is such a difficult movie to evaluate on its own merits. So much of it is based in real-life tragedy and necessary changes from the initial plans. For the most part I think they’ve pulled it off. I don’t feel qualified to critique the areas where it deals with the death of T’Challa/Boseman.

    However, I do have a couple pretty significant hang-ups which maybe made me not enjoy this as much as I would have liked (although, overall I did mostly like the movie).

    The first one is an issue I have with both Black Panther movies: Wakanda. Sure, visually it looks great. But I just have too much trouble suspending my disbelief for how Wakanda is portrayed in the movies. I mean, it’s supposed to be the most technologically advanced country in the world, but they still decide who their king is by using a death match?!? And while we get the occasional CG matte-painting showing us a skyline, we never get one glimpse of what “normal” life is like in Wakanda. We only ever see royal types in traditional costumes. Also, even with a magic cloaking bubble or whatever, it seems pretty far-fetched to think that the secret is safe. I mean, based on those skylines, there must be millions of Wakandans. If even one percent of the population decided they didn’t want to keep a secret and wanted to make some money selling sweet vibranium, that secret would have been exposed years ago. But, ok. It’s a comic book movie, maybe I’m being far too critical.

    My other issue was with the film’s version of Namor. I had no issue with them moving him from Atlantis to a lost Mayan civilization. In fact, I think that is a really cool way to change up the character a bit. Unfortunately, the other changes they made pretty much took away the most interesting things about comic book Namor, who was much more charming and arrogant than the fairly bland performance we got here. And, while the comics have used him as both an antagonist and protagonist, the main characteristic has always been “charming asshole”. I suspect that some of the reason behind the change was that maybe a comic-accurate Namor would seem too similar to the MCU version of Loki? I don’t know. But I thought Namor was a big boring ball of nothing when it comes to his MCU characterization. (Personally, I thought that the movie was going to start off with him as a misunderstood antagonist and by the final act we’d see him fighting alongside Wakanda against the REAL threat – ideally a comic book baddie who they managed to keep as a surprise until the movie released. But it wasn’t meant to be).

    Anyway, my own personal gripes aside, I still thought this was pretty good. I also think it’s truly unprecedented in the way it directly addresses the loss of the franchise star. Thank Bast the Black Panther team is much more respectful than the Pink Panther team when it comes to handling real-life tragedy.

  22. Or the GAME OF DEATH team.

  23. I saw it in the Dolby Cinema screening which has always looked amazing. I had no trouble seeing anything in THE BATMAN and thought it looked great. This one looked good for the most part except the underwater stuff which looked like shit.

  24. Vern – Funny enough, Game of Death was going to be my initial example but I couldn’t resist juxtaposing the two Panther franchises.

  25. Oumpah-pah le Peau-Rouge

    November 17th, 2022 at 12:48 pm

    “Genuine cultural phenomenon”… hein ? What phenomenon, where ? I barely remember that first film. I am not even certain whether or not it was even played in cinemas here. If it was, nobody cared. I did not even know that there was a sequel and nobody here has ever mentioned its existence, not even in any advertisement.

  26. The underwater stuff looked good to me in IMAX. Can imagine lesser theaters can’t hold up.

  27. Yes Oumpah-pah, in the United States it was a major cultural event to have a giant blockbuster super hero movie from Black filmmakers, with an all-star almost entirely Black cast, celebrating Black excellence and doing Afrofuturism on a giant budget and in a mainstream spotlight. It was treated as must-see by many who don’t normally watch comic book movies and made literally over a billion dollars in theaters, surpassing all the previous Marvel movies at the box office and disproving the Hollywood conventional wisdom that blockbusters with Black leads can’t make money internationally. It received reviews good enough for Metacritic to categorize as “universal acclaim,” was nominated for Oscars for best picture, best original song, best sound editing and best sound mixing, and deservedly won for best costume design, best original score and best production design. It also had a soundtrack album by Kendrick Lamar which debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts and won a Grammy (as did the score). It turned Chadwick Boseman into an icon and brought concepts like Wakanda and “colonizer” into the common vernacular. And if you search you can find many more qualified people than me writing about its impact. Yes, I stand by “genuine cultural phenomenon.”

    If it helps, here’s a BBC article with some quotes about what people saw in it at the time and exploring whether or not its success has had an influence on the industry:

    https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20221115-wakanda-forever-and-the-black-panther-effect-on-hollywood

  28. I am now fascinated by the alternate dimension in which nobody was following and scrutinizing the production of Wakanda Forever from the day Chadwick Boseman died to its release.

  29. Just read my earlier comment back and good lord do I apologise to anyone who actually tried to parse it – missing words, word-endings, sentences that trail off. I need a proofreader. Wrote that on the bus after a long day at work!

    I think I’m more down on this movie than it deserves because I was a bit disappointed- even though it’s obviously better than a lot of the wider MCU. Do think the one thing is has, more than any other Marvel series, is an incredible supporting cast. There’s a solid half dozen people in this I wish we’d seen more of, which is not something I usually come out of these thinking!

  30. In this article Variety refers to WAKANDA FOREVER as “the follow-up to the cultural phenomenon ‘Black Panther’.” I don’t see Oumpah in the comments there yet.
    https://variety.com/2022/film/box-office/wakanda-forever-box-office-second-weekend-1235434389/

  31. Perhaps Oumpah lives in the sister city to Paul’s Village.

  32. When I was a kid our local cinema used to show Flash Gordon and Hopalong Cassidy movies from the 30s and 40s on Saturdays. So there are delays. These days I guess those who still live there are really into HERBIE GOES BANANAS and THE APPLE DUMPLING GANG. And who knows, by the time we have flying cars they will get to see BLACK PANTHER and WAKANDA FOREVER.

  33. It should be noted that BLACK PANTHER was indeed less of a phenomenon in Europe, where Oumpah-pah seems to come from, judging by his name. (It’s the protagonist of a shortlived comic book from the creator of ASTERIX.) It was more “just another MCU movie”, that was a hit like the rest, but lacked the cultural impact it had in the US for, well, cultural reasons. And honestly, I’m not even sure if Kendrick Lamar is a best selling artist over here either. (But that is just because I don’t really follow the charts as religiously as I did when I was a teenager.)

    That said: European or not, one must live under a rock to not know about how fucking huge the first movie was in the US.

  34. That’s kind of the thing about BLACK PANTHER. Despite being about an African King, it’s still geared towards a very African AMERICAN audience, due to who makes it. I often wonder if there’s any meaningful storylines in the comics about T’Challa taking an interest in other areas of the Black Diaspora outside of the US, like the Parisian Banlieues, or inner cities of London, or the Caribbean to name a few.

  35. I was thinking BLACK PANTHER was pretty much as big in the UK as it was in the US, but looking it up, that’s not quite true; still big, but it was #1 for the year in the US, and #5 in the UK, beaten by INFINITY WAR, MAMMA MIA 2 (!), INCREDIBLES 2 and BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY. Sometimes I think we’ve almost become the 51st state for US pop culture in the social media age, but that’s not quite true.

    I’m a little surprised by how muted the response to WAKANDA FOREVER seems to have been. It’s come out, it’s done well but probably won’t do as well as the first, people think it’s a dip down from the first but aren’t calling it terrible or a complete waste of time, almost like people are responding to it like…reasonable adults?!? Or maybe I’m just getting better at tuning out the nonsense.

    Various personal and societal changes, as well as the MCU “officially” expanding into television, have switched me from a reluctant MCU completist to someone who pretty much only sees the ones he wants. For various reasons that don’t necessarily have to do with a lack of enthusiasm I probably won’t see this until it hits the +, but I will check it out then, I liked the first one more than most MCU films and it sounds worth a shot.

    ALF- I saw NEW MUTANTS and honestly don’t remember much, but I did like Anya Taylor-Joy’s character, especially her Mr Fibblesque hand puppet and the bit where she sees the mutant bear and says “hey Yogi!”, and then like 10 seconds later says the WIZARD OF OZ quote. A lesser character would have spaced out the two obvious pop culture bear jokes, but not here. Would have been even funnier if she’d gone for the hattrick and sung one of the lines from one of Phil Collins’ songs from BROTHER BEAR, whatever they were.

  36. I’ve seen a suggestion WAKANDA FOREVER might not be as rewatchable as the firs time. Maybe because the grief aspect of it maybe be a putoff for some, and for the people who do like it, maybe it’s still a lot to subject yourself to more than once in such a short time.

  37. Ok having seen it, I responded about how I thought I would.

    I think some stuff worked really well – Shuri’s journey was good, Namor was an appealling and interesting antagonist, SPOILER Killmonger on the ancestral plane END SPOILER, the actual funeral was all good stuff. Wakanda remains the most fascinating world to appear in the MCU, and Talokan was also very cool They really reckoned with T’Challa/Chadwick’s passing. I think, unfortunately, that reckoning maybe was part of what kept me from really enjoying it. It felt like the people working on the film really needed to deal with Chadwick’s passing, and that translated into the tone and themes of the film, but I think that sensitivity and that cloud of grief that hung over the whole film also stopped it from being particularly enjoyable as an action blockbuster spectacle. They made the film they all needed to make to honour their friend, but I’m not sure the film they needed to make was especially enjoyable. Maybe that’s a shitty thing to expect in the context, and I guess that makes me kind of shitty.

    It felt super long, but having said that, I’m not sure what could have been excised either. Maybe the stuff with Everett Ross – it didn’t contribute a lot, but ultimately I think it didn’t feel long due to the content, so much as because the tone was oppressively sad/glum. It’s a long time to spend with other people’s grief.

    I would happily watch more Black Panther stuff; I feel the film has left Wakanda and its characters in an interesting place, and I look forward to seeing where it goes, but I can’t imagine myself rewatching this any time soon.

  38. “He’s one of those villains who’s 95% right and 5% an asshole.”

    Which (IIRC) is about 25% less an asshole than Namor is usually in the comics…;)

    I have yet to see this, but my outlook has always been: Yes, Coogler and company have found themselves in an awful situation with Boseman’s passing, but there are worse places to be in than one in which an obvious part of the answer is “Let’s give Angela Bassett more to do”.

  39. Bob Chapek has just been fired from Disney! A bit of small good news as we start the week.

  40. What was wrong with him? I saw lots of cheers online for Iger’s return (who was far from being beloved when he was running the mouse the first time, if I remember right), but I can’t remember any big reports about Disney having a leadership problem or doing things that were absolutely inexcusable on a human or business level.

  41. Apparently, Disney stockholders lost money this year, and for some reason people who consider themselves movie fans give a fuck about that.

    Just your daily reminder that capitalism is a hellscape.

  42. I think the most serious stick people have to beat him with is that he (or Disney/Disney World Florida under his leadership) was slow to respond to the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill. I think most of the other stuff is just people cosplaying as insiders. The year before he took over Disney had 7 of the 10 highest grossing films of the year, and one of the remaining 3 was (FAR FROM HOME) was part of the Disney-owned MCU, so yeah, no surprise they’ve taken a bit of a dip sense then even before you add the pandemic into the equation.

    Still, it’s tough to deny Iger did a pretty exceptional job as CEO, I think he left us a little poorer culturally, but no good CEO would ever stop to think about that.

  43. Yeah, but he was at the helm during the pandemic, which was a famously chaotic time for the box office, and the stuff that was made under his helm actually broke some streaming records (as far as we know, since nobody seems to know what is a success in streaming these days). Like I said, I don’t know shit about Disney on a business level, but from my consumer POV, he didn’t do too bad, unless you either want to punish him for not being pro-gay fast enough or punish him for not backing down when the Floridian GOP came after Disney for being pro-gay.

  44. There’s also rumblings that Iger being back is going to lead to Disney being open to being bought by Apple, so if you have feelings one way or another about corporate consolidation, this is meaningful.

  45. Oof, that would be…odd. But I really don’t know shit about the business workings, so I better shut up now.

  46. Can’t really say if the Departure of Bob C and the Return of Bob I augurs a huge paradigm shift in how Disney is going to operate. After all, wasn’t it during Bob I’s tenure that Disney began ruthlessly gobbling, Pacman-style, these enormous IPs, whose brand they then proceeded to dilute through the relentless carpet-bombing of content of generally uneven quality?

  47. I liked the movie overall. I’m in the camp that would have preferred they re-cast T’Challa because the Black Panther is an iconic, important character whose story didn’t feel finished. Then again, Ryan Coogler has written and directed at least a FEW more thrilling, phenomenal and successful films than I have, so I respected and trusted his decision to go the other way. For the path they chose, I think this was quite well done, with honesty about the pain of loss, and great performances by Leticia Wright and Angela Bassett. I still can’t help but wonder what Black Panther 2 might have looked like if we hadn’t lost Boseman, but this was a strong sequel in itself.

    Let me make a couple of random, totally non-essential points that struck me about the movie:

    1. I feel like there’s a lost story behind Lake Bell’s appearance in the film. Her character had an interesting attitude, and the kind of flippancy about danger that’s usually reserved for our heroes, and not spent on Chick-who-dies-in-the-first-few-minutes type characters. It was a memorable, badass cameo, but I wonder if there was more to it that was cut out.

    2. I’ve got to call a foul on the way Shuri GETS STABBED RIGHT THROUGH THE HEART WITH A VIBRANIUM SPEAR by Namor (climactic battle) and not only does she survive, she seems barely worse for the wear. Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t want her to die. But they should have gone with a WAY more down to earth injury for her than spear-through-heart. It was crazy.

  48. I’m sure there is a definite answer to this from someone who is really deep into market analysis, but I wonder if this wouldn’t have happened anyway, no matter who was at the helm, because that’s just how everything works these days and I’m not sure if Disney started it.

  49. That was of course a reply to KayKay

  50. I think you mean “Unicron-style”, thank you very much.

    Can we talk about the most important contemporary question surrounding Disney though?

    Why does the lead character in this STRANGE WORLD movie look so much like John Krasinski when he’s voiced by Jake Gyllenhaal, I DON’T UNDERSTAND!!!!

  51. The Undefeated Gaul

    November 22nd, 2022 at 12:25 am

    I find it really interesting to try and research possible reasons for Chapek suddenly being fired, because clearly there’s something weird going on here. He wasn’t just phased out as CEO, as you’d assume would happen when the company is losing money under your rule, but he was taken out instantly, in a way that was supposed to be as humiliating as possible (he was apparently supposed to appear on stage and introduce Elton John at his farewell concert but didn’t make it because they fired him just before with him having no idea what was coming). And this coming mere months after his contract had just been renewed with Disney’s Board stating they had full confidence in him (and now they’re suddenly bad-mouthing him).

    It’s no secret Disney hasn’t been doing great, and I’ve seen some theories that Chapek was actually trying to roll out a plan to try and get things back on track, i.e. firing a whole bunch of people and get away from the woke capitalism course the company has been sailing for a while now. This supposedly went against the intentions of some of the big investors and that’s why they immediately got rid of him the way they did.

    Obviously I don’t know what’s true and what’s not, but it does seem to me this is not a small event but some really crazy shit that is a sign of the bat-shit times we live in. It really looks like they’re driving the company into the ground on purpose, like so many things around us right now. The world is on fucking fire.

  52. Hmm, that might explain the Fauxsinski thing.

  53. Smithereen- “1. I feel like there’s a lost story behind Lake Bell’s appearance in the film. Her character had an interesting attitude, and the kind of flippancy about danger that’s usually reserved for our heroes, and not spent on Chick-who-dies-in-the-first-few-minutes type characters.”

    Maybe that was kind of a subtextual point to it? That “yeah, the spunky white lady isn’t going to be the lead in THIS movie”?

  54. I was prepared to skip this one. I liked the first one, but didn’t love it as much as everyone else seemed to. I was not convinced moving on without the lead character was a good idea, and the other production woes– COVID, injuries, alleged anti-vax complications– made me think this would not work at all. But those trailers were excellent, and I’m a sucker for superhero movies, so I decided to give it a go. And I was very pleasantly surprised. This was great. As in, better than the first one. And probably the best superhero movie in a while, barring maybe NO WAY HOME– an equally overstuffed movie that somehow miraculously pulled it off.

    There was real emotion in here, obviously bolstered by the real-life loss of Chadwick Boseman, but I thought it was deftly handled, and hopefully cathartic to the cast and crew. It also gave actors like Angela Bassett and Danai Gurira more space to do their thing, and I thought both were great. I wish we’d gotten more Lupita– I was really hoping for a swerve which would make her the new Black Panther, but when she barely appeared in the first act, I figured that was out the window.

    I also thought the movie felt like it had real stakes, like anything could happen and no character was safe. I haven’t felt that way since WINTER SOLDIER.

    I’ve always been more of an Aquaman guy, but I *love* this reinterpretation of Namor. The revised origin of his people, powers, and name really worked wonders. Despite the changes, it still retained the original core of the character. Hell, they kept the green hot pants and ankle wings and still made him cool– both charming and scary. Like Killmonger in the first one, his motives are understandable, but they made him a little less cartoonishly evil, so it’s even easier to side with him– until he pushes things too far. My favorite antagonist in a Marvel movie maybe ever? Let’s get a Namor spin-off going ASAP.

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