For those of you who may be new to my blog, for a few years now, I’ve been writing a series of posts about superhero movies. The primary motivation for these posts is because they are related to the genre of material that I like to write. They are direct siblings with some slight variations. These posts are part critique in terms of the film itself but also I highlight my observations of the writing in particular since that is my vocation of Providence. Having crested the one billion dollar mark at the box office, I felt that sufficient time had passed where I should present my findings on the latest Marvel offering, Black Panther.
When I saw the trailer for the movie, I made the prediction that it was going to be one of the best superhero movies of the year. It was good but not as good as it could have been.
Black Panther is the first African-American superhero to appear in mainstream comics, making his first appearance in 1966. In the political climate that we had today, this movie was a big deal in that regard alone. Getting it wrong was going to cause all kinds of issues in the media. Marvel had to be careful, especially when it came to the writing. The story needed to be balanced and true to the source material. In this regard, the writing was done quite well with a slight twist on the villain Killmonger’s origin that fit in nicely as a movie alternative.
The screenplay was written by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole. Overall, the movie was not bad and I was quite impressed with the writing…until the end.
SPOILER ALERT: If you have not seen the movie yet then you may want to stop right here because I’m about to hone in on an aspect of the movie will give away details.
At the end of the movie, Black Panther and Killmonger face off. It’s that epic battle that has been building for the whole movie. With some cagey move and use of his environment, Black Panther stabs Killmonger with a sword. He leads him out of the underground cavern they are in onto a ledge where the sun is setting over the Wakandan plains. Beautiful scene. T’Challa (Black Panther) informs Killmonger that he can save him. Killmonger says this:
Nah, bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from the ships. Because they knew death was better than bondage.
Now, I’ve mentioned before that writers don’t just write for entertainment and that every writer is a preacher. Every writer has a message, small or large, subtle or overt. Every writer is saying something. You have to look for it and this line was it for this movie and it was overt and bad.
First, this is not talking about slavery and yet this statement is blatantly about slavery in the United States. This has absolutely nothing to do with the bondage of being a criminal which is what Killmonger was. How he equates going to jail in Wakanda with being a slave on the way to America is ridiculous. This here is bad writing that is an egregious and pointless attempt to weave in a political statement about blacks in the United States though they were on an African continent fighting other black people. This is bad writing. It’s very bad writing and quite sad since this was at the end of the movie and tended to leave a very bad taste in your mouth if you’re paying attention.
That being said, the writing was pretty solid for the most part, keeping the roots of the source material center stage while adding those necessary extras to weave the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’d give it a solid B- and worth going adding to the Marvel movie collection if you have one.