Black Panther

jesus, fuck, yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes, this is what we should be -- what we must be -- striving for. this level of productive filmmaking, even if it operates within a system of blockbuster beats and tropes. this is the only kind of complicity we can afford anymore: the kind that uses the language of its overbearing oppressors to reclaim its own condition.

granted, i wasn't in love with the climatic action sequence, which was not as exciting as the earlier car chase, and some of the CGI was really wonky, and it doesn't completely subvert the superhero genre. we still get the same expected beats that we always get, that we've come to expect, that we've come to believe is all we're capable of wanting from this sort of film. you know the beginning, the middle, and the end. perhaps even scarier is that these blockbusters are being produced at such a rate that they're spoiling themselves chronologically (e.g. after Black Panther finished, the woman sitting next to me said, "you always knew he was gonna live, because he's in Infinity Wars, so it was just a matter of how he survived.") the stakes will never be novel, or at least, not in a contemporarily imaginable way. but even if superhero films can't plausibly dismantle or defy their superimposed narrative expectations, they can reflexively dissect our contemporary moment, our ordinary and tragic instant. the most a Marvel film or a DC film or any superhero film can hope to achieve, aside from technical spectacle or commercial pleasure, is successful commentary. it's now a matter of what substance makes up the anticipated outline.

and Black Panther is gutting in its poignancy. even if i wish its choreography was more innovative, that desire is infinitesimal compared to my reverence for its allegorical mobility. this film is historically conscious. this film honors culture and tradition and ritual and family, while addressing the sacrifices demanded of those who fight to push forward while bearing the burden of those before & around them. T'Challa's relationship with Shuri is playful and seemingly secondary, but i'd argue the latter only feels that way because their dynamic is written so organically. i've loved Danai Gurira for years now, and to see her absolutely command the screen, to possess every scene she was in... god i'm getting misty-eyed just thinking about how incredible she is. but i think the most incredible thing about this film -- and perhaps even the thing that gives me the most hope -- is Michael B. Jordan as Erik. his villain isn't evil. he has been dejected, rejected, abandoned, almost forgotten. but his agenda is not just his own. he is representational in his motivations. he is tragic in his resolve. and he absolutely, completely, and totally makes every anticipated moment in a superhero film feel contemporary.

Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole may not have absolutely reinvented a genre that is constantly flaked for its homogenization & formulaic redundancy, but they instead used their given expectations to say something relevant, to not just point at but illuminate something that could have otherwise been appropriated or overlooked.

Bury me in the ocean where my ancestors jumped from ships because they knew death was better than bondage.

they encompassed the past. they grounded themselves in the now. and i don't know how, and i don't know when, but i have to believe that their promise of Wakanda forever might move us towards a future capable of deriving from unproductive, fatal complicity.

(also i just have to say somewhere so i'm saying it at the end but my GOD the COSTUMING is ABSOLUTELY PERFECT... JESUS H ON A HOT DOG STICK)