Friday, 27 April 2018

Approaching Infinity Part Eighteen: Black Panther (2018)

So... I guess I really don't understand vibranium at all.

I mean, it's incredibly strong and supposedly absorbs all vibrations - except when it clearly doesn't do that. It also makes cities fly somehow, heals bullet wounds, blows up cars and can't be synthesised by a man who - and I can't stress this enough - RECENTLY INVENTED WHOLE A NEW ELEMENT!

By the way, this is a really, really good film.

The Villain
Ouch - we're right back into slaughtering the villains territory with Black Panther. In this case it's a major shame, as Killmonger is one of the most persuasively realised antagonists of the whole MCU. It's like - he's not even wrong, really. He's just a bit murdery about the whole business. His grand scheme meanders a bit between giving oppressed people the tools to overthrow the systems holding them down and all-out world domination. Still, he's ex-CIA so he's probably used to a bit of "mission creep". There's really no getting away from the Evil Shadow angle in this flick, of course. Still, when it's done this well there's not much to complain about.

We also get a lot more Klaue, which is a positive delight. But yeah - we were wise not to get too attached there. The sonic arm cannon is fun but, given that this is it for the character, it's a weak echo of the supervillain they could have shot for.

The Story
We get a lot of information dumped on us at the outset of Black Panther, but it all pays off. Killmonger and Klaue have what amounts to a mini-movie of their own together, while T'Challa swings wildly between full-on Bond adventure and more-civil-war-than-Civil-War political epic. It's a concentrated blast of a story, building up and battering down relationships in quick succession. No one's 100% in the right and no one's 100% vindicated. Everyone significant grows and learns, and where we end up is somewhere very different from where we started.

The Universe
Okay, there's a lot to wade through here, as we're basically adding a whole new history, culture and mythology to the MCU in this film. Anyway, Wakanda itself is a significant contribution to the evolving universe - so much so that it's almost impossible for future films not to continue to address it overtly. There's definitely a pre-Black-Panther MCU and a post-Black-Panther MCU.

Shuri's a particularly intriguing addition to the roster. At first glance, she's almost too smart for the room. That is, she's already doing stuff that the top established MCU minds couldn't even dream of. The thing is, though, we're going to need that pretty soon. Even after the Thanos kerfuffle settles down, we're probably looking at a cast rotation that could easily see some of those top-level genius characters getting shuffled out. The universe is still going to need super-genius science heroes and inventors after RDJ sods off.

I still have a problem with vibranium, though. Those all-purpose kimoyo beads just bug the Hell out of me. Some of the weapons tech seemed oddly archaic to me at first, with all the energy spears and laser shields flying about - until I reflected on how many sci-fi broadswords and crossbows I'd cheerfully accepted in the past.

I still think topless fist-fights are an inherently shaky means of establishing supreme executive authority in a modern political system, though.

The Stinger
Wakanda decloaks and Bucky's the White Wolf. All cool stuff, but nothing that plays significantly into Infinity War - which is weird given that this was the last stop before we get there. 

The Take-Away
I have a couple of practicality questions about Killmonger's overall scheme. Several characters seem to be under the impression that Wakanda stands a strong chance of overthrowing the governments of the world here. It seems to me that the last time a technologically superior army attacked even one major city of even one MCU country, they got wiped out by half a dozen Avengers in about 15 minutes of screen time. Not to mention, those guys were led by a LITERAL GOD, with the backing of the near-limitlessly powerful Thanos.

Still, you've got to applaud ambition.

Previously: Thor: Ragnarok
Next: Avengers: Infinity War

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