Friday, March 2, 2018

I Think I'm Finally Ready To Talk About Black Panther

I know I usually do spoiler-free reviews, gang, but there are THINGS about Black Panther that NEED DISCUSSING. So I'll start with some general thoughts, but after that, it's getting spoilery all up in here. I'll also be encouraging more discussion in the comments, so... you have been warned. 



  First things first:

- Yes, you should see it.


- The costuming is easily some of the best of any superhero movie. STUNNING.

- The women in Black Panther make the movie. Hands down. In my mind Black Panther himself was really just the glue holding together all these fierce, brilliant women warriors around him - and I AM SO OK WITH THAT.

- The 2 hours and 15 minutes does drag a bit. A few scenes are repetitive (same fights, different fighters) so to me it actually felt longer.

- Black Panther is unlike any superhero movie I've seen, and required the most post-processing. (I saw it two weeks ago, if that gives you any idea.) This is not a popcorn flick where you check your brain at the door; there are deeper issues addressed, as the Wakandans wrestle with the politics of things like immigration, isolationism, and coming to the aid of other countries. (Any of those issues sound familiar, fellow Americans? Yeeeeah.) So if you go in expecting just another superhero story like everything before, with 'SPLOSIONS and wisecracks and all the other familiar tropes, then you might be disappointed. More on that in a sec.


SPOILERY BITS AHEAD.


I went in knowing nothing about Black Panther, so from the trailer I expected a variation on Wonder Woman's origin story: a hero emerges from a powerful, hidden society, enters the "real" world, and proceeds to bang some heads in the name of justice. Instead, Black Panther never leaves his hidden society - or at least not for long. And instead of fighting for the entire world against alien foes, T'Challa fights to keep his own throne, in his own country, against his own people. It's a very insular story, and compared to movies like Guardians of the Galaxy, has seemingly small stakes.

Like I said, wasn't expecting that.

However, the women in Black Panther... oooh, you guys, THE WOMEN. Let me put it this way: Black Panther is a love letter to fierce femininity. There are so many fantastic role models here, I hardly know where to start. There's Shuri, T'Challas' brilliant, sarcastic sister who invents all the new tech - including his suit:


There's Nakia, T'Challa's ex who left Wakanda to go free truckloads of human-trafficking victims - by herself. And then there's Okoye, general of the Dora Milaje, the king's personal guard, and my personal favorite.


There's a fight scene in a casino - sometime around the halfway mark, maybe? -  that was the highlight of the whole film for me. Watching Okoye rip the wig from her head so she can fight better, then later leap onto the roof of a moving car with her spear to go take down the baddies literally brought a tear to my eye. It was so dang beautiful, you guys:



 Black Panther who? THIS WOMAN IS THE REAL STAR.


I especially love that Okoye and the other Dora Milaje - and all the women of Wakanda, really - are gorgeous and feminine without being impractical or hypersexualized. They don't try to look like men or hide their sex, but they do adapt their makeup and Wakandan clothing so they can fight. Even when they have to wear Western disguises, the first thing they do in a scrap is get rid of the heels and long hair! Ha!

Other highlights: At first I was afraid Martin Freeman (aka "one of the Tolkien white guys," which STILL cracks me up) would just be the bumbling comic relief, so it was a nice surprise seeing him step up and actually, you know, be good at his job. When he chooses to risk his life in the pilot chair? Oof. Hero moment.

Andy Serkis plays the Big Bad Guy who suddenly ISN'T the Big Bad anymore, because he gets unceremoniously shot and replaced with a GQ model you can't decide if you're supposed to feel sorry for or not, until someone says, "Oh yeah, his name is KILLMONGER," which helps clear that up.

Serkis makes a great villain; you hate him even while he's making you laugh - a definite Joker vibe. I kind of wish he'd stuck around, because the stoic asshole-ery of Killmonger is honestly a bit boring, and the one-on-one fights between him and T'Challa seem to drag on. Call me old fashioned, but I'd rather watch buildings getting blown up by alien death rays than two sweaty guys slap each other around a wading pool:


...but I DO realize that's probably just me. ;)

That reminds me: Wakanda is this super advanced utopia of a society... where anyone can become king by winning a fist fight?


Which brings me to my only real problem with the plot, so let's see if this bugged anyone else:
The Wakandans make Killmonger their new king - even though they hate him - because he won the traditional fight against T'Challa, right? But when it turns out T'Challa is still alive, and is therefore STILL KING according to that same law, everyone except the Dora Milaje just... shrug it off?

Like they're all, "Sure, Killmonger is a jerkface who burned our sacred plants and killed our favorite priest, and sure, our old king who we liked better is technically still king according to our own laws, but screw it, LET'S FOLLOW JERKFACE AND KILL OUR FRIENDS FOR HIM."


I get that the film makers needed a big climactic fight scene for the end of the movie, but that sudden leap pulled me right out of the movie. Same thing when T'Challa's life-long best friend turned on him for not catching Andy Serkis in the first 2 seconds. It's like, c'mon, dude, he's TRYING. Why the hate? Can't we just hug this out, b*tches?

Don't worry, though; the Dora Milaje manage to salvage the finale by just, you know, being themselves:

Aw yeeeeah. Go get 'em, ladies.

The final showdown between T'Challa and Killmonger was, again, kind of tedious for me. I was hoping Okoye would get to take down Killmonger herself, but then, I suppose we have to let Black Panther win SOME of the fights in his own movie. :D


Right, I think that's everything I wanted to mention - so now it's your turn! What'd you guys think? Who was your favorite? What did you love about Black Panther, what did you just like-as-a-friend? SPILL.

50 comments:

  1. Oh, I loved the women. I LOVED Okoye. (I mean, I adore Shuri and Nakia, but, c'mon. Though Shuri's line to Ross: "Colonizer." was just all kinds of spot-on and needed.)

    I felt like there was already a disconnect alluded to in Wakandan society - the insular vs. the empire - that Killmonger exploited. Perhaps it was a bit short-shrifted, but I haven't seen Captain America: Civil War, or any of the Avengers, so maybe I'm missing something?

    I could watch several movies about the women. Have you seen Ryan Coogler's video about the casino fight? It's really fascinating, and he clearly spent a lot of time thinking about all the references and allusions he wanted to make.

    I loved the humor. If you're going to tackle big issues, you need to take a break with laughs. ("Did he freeze?" "Like an antelope in headlights.")

    Also, SO PRETTY. It was such a pretty film! Not just the effects, I mean the cinematography.

    Oh, and can we talk about how T'Chaka totally left his nephew to a poverty-stricken, orphaned existence? No wonder T'Challa changes his plans completely. That whole bit was handled nicely, though. Parents aren't perfect, leaders aren't perfect, they make choices they think will benefit the most people at one time.

    Gah. This is a disjointed reply.

    BUT YES GO SEE IT.

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    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who had all these disjointed thoughts simultaneously - there's just SO much here!

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    2. I was really ticked off at T'Challa's friend in the last fight scene.... When Okoye stopped the rampaging rhino, and he asks, "are you going to kill me, my love?" Ummmm....just what were you trying to do to her and the other women not seconds before??!!?!?!?! I loved that she didn't beg him to stop for love, blah blah blah... The women made the movie!

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  2. I actually loved that they accepted Killmonger as their leader. He won according to their rules (which the guy who helped save T’Challah pointed out). Remember, the same guy who saves T’Challah -argh I need to look it up but if I switch screens my comment will disappear- lost the same battle fair and square and he still lives. In fact I think that a main purpose of that first fight scene was to establish the legitimacy of Killmonger’s win later.

    I think it sets up other questions we are dealing with as a nation- when someone wins the leadership “fair and square”, there is a lot to be said for respecting the institution and the process even if you personally don’t like the results (I think that’s what “Waconda forever” means at that point). But when it’s clear that person wants to destroy the very institution and values you are fighting to protect by fairly accepting them as leader, that’s when you have to rise up (and over throw the leader to save the institution- that’s what “Waconda forever” means here) An interesting speeded up view of what could happen here in the USA.

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    1. he never yielded. I don't think he lost according to their laws.

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  3. What's more badass than being a superhero? Being that superhero's freaking bodyguard! The women definitely made this movie for me! Shuri was my favorite but they were all great, so much in fact that I felt they made T'challa kinda boring comparaed to them.

    Also I lovd the whole look of the movie. The perfect mix of traditinal african and hyper futuristic.

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  4. I'm Team Shuri, but all of the women were fantastic. <3

    I felt like Killmonger was the type of villain who takes a good idea so far it becomes a bad idea...his whole thing was "Wakanda has abandoned Africa by remaining isolated" (YES) but the solution is "Let's start a global race war with our weapons and tech" (NO).

    Jimmy Fallon had a segment with some Black people talking about why this movie was so important to them. They thought they were recording a video to send to Chadwick Boseman. What they didn't know was that he was actually backstage listening to the whole thing, and then he came out to meet them. It's amazing and it's on YouTube and you need to WATCH IT.

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    1. "the type of villain who takes a good idea so far it becomes a bad idea..."

      This is SO spot on.

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    2. I see that villain type (the one who takes a good idea too far) becoming more common in films/tv, and I like how challenging it is to the viewer. John and I just binged all of Korra last month, and WOW do those villains have some great layers. At one point I actually got frustrated because I couldn't tell who the "good guys" were anymore, but again, that level of nuance is kind of refreshing.

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    3. The actor who portrayed the cigarette smoking man on x-file once said in an interview that the best villains are the ones who think they are the heroes.

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  5. Yay, a review! I always love your movie reviews, miss Jen. (Finally saw Hidden Figures and Wonder Woman, by the way.)
    I loved the theme of the importance of family. King T'challa got it right when he said he was king of Wakanda, not king of all people, and he wouldn't try to be. Then later, the first after-credits scene where he was addressing the UN, I loved his whole speech. (And the secret smiles they had when the board asked what Wakanda can offer the world.) Princess Shuri was amazingly relatable and funny. (Sneakers!!!) Nakia was amazing in the first scene where we saw her and keeps being amazing, and General Okoye was STUNNING.
    Yes, the ceremonial combat coronation was a bit of a plothole, but hey, not even a super fantastically advanced society can get everything right. "Pobody's nerfect", as it were.

    Now for the awkward topic: racism. Most movies or TV episodes that were made in the United States that I have seen where the focus is on people who are "not white", seem full of anger and hate for things that happened to their ancestors, sometimes to the point of shoving their anger down the audience's throats. Racism works both ways. As a "white" person, this movie didn't feel like it was violently attacking me just because they assume my lack of melanin makes me hate them. It actually addressed the problems and was generally respectful on all sides. Plus it was fun to see Martin Freeman's character get put in his place a few times. He was realistically bumbling, but Actually Did Something.
    The "Tolkien white guys" joke was the only spoiler I had before watching. I waited the whole dang movie to mention it, and my dad CRACKED UP.


    At the risk of making a comment as long as the original post (winking face,) let's end this with the fact that this is one of my favorite movies everrrrrr and oh yeah, BUCKY IS ALIVE. Yippie! :D

    Pinkie Welborne, 17
    Indiana

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    1. Just a gentle correction... racism doesn’t work both ways. Sure, anyone can be bigoted against anyone else, but racism is systemic and white privilege is real. The deck is stacked in our favor. You’re young, keep reading and learning :)

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    2. Thank you for pointing that out. Yes, I am young. Yes, it's stacked in our favor. Yes, people can be bigoted. But isn't racism, at its most basic, hate against a person who is of a different race than you, no matter what race you are, and what race they are? That is what I don't understand about it being portrayed so often as a "black and white" issue.
      I'm not trying to argue, just learn. Again, thank you for your input.
      Pinkie Welborne, 17
      Indiana

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    3. Any single person can be biased or biogoted against another person based on their race (or many other factors), and that’s definitely also wrong... but racism is an institutional bias, reinforced by society. Since white people are at the top of that society, racism can’t really be perpetuated against us. People who claim reverse racism generally don’t understand white supremacy or don’t want to.

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    4. Ah, okay. Thanks for the explanation. :)
      Pinkie Welborne, 17
      Indiana

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    5. There's more than one type/form of racism, and Pinkie's definition is correct in that anyone can be racist against anyone else -- if a POC [person of color] hates or discriminates against a Caucasian person BECAUSE that person is Caucasian, that's racism, just as when it's the other way around. While systemic and institutional racism in the U.S. is biased *for* Caucasians and *against* POC, individuals can still be racist *against* Caucasians.

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  6. Black Panther gave me major feels. I thought the movie was amazing. To me, the story arch was captivating and interesting throughout the entire film. I really appreciated the fact that it wasn’t like most super hero movies: Instead of being the same old cookie-cutter “wow I have powers I’m going to fight a bad guy and win now” cliche plot with cheesy lines about justice, it focused on the developed and the fall of an amazing society. The representation in the film was unmatched, and it truly showed the struggle many countries in this world face.
    Onto the females; how about those warriors?!?! To me, the best part was the fact that in the movie IT WASN’T NOVEL. The women were badass and the generals of the society because that’s who they are. It wasn’t questioned or given special attention or thought. It was just a fact. And that fact along made me feel more empowered and inspired that I have in a very long time. Okoye especially breathed fire into me. Every time the women took charge of the battle and let loose their warrior cries, I felt my soul inside me. I want to be like that. I face a lot of demons in my life. I want to take them on like General Okoye. I want to look them straight in the face and give them my best battle cry (and then stab them with my vibra it spear ;) ).
    Just a quick note, the relationships in the movie were incredible. No one in particular for special attention, everyone was included, and the brother-sister dynamic was, frankly, hilarious. Plus, the tech was super cool.
    Lastly, just the depiction and acknowledgement of culture, especially its presentation in different countries and environments for to me. It was beautiful to finally be able to see a representation of the complexity and intricacies of black culture. This movie was a huge milestone. The best part? It didn’t focus on certain people as enemies, bad guys just were who they were and that was that. This movie was everything a superhero movie should be and so, so much more. 10/10; definitely would watch again.

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  7. The line that got me the most and is still haunting me is Killmonger's last line: "Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, cause they knew death was better than bondage." It just struck me straight through the heart. It's a conviction of the entire western world and the terrible wrongs and atrocities we have committed against this entire continent of people.

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  8. Concerning the people who kept following Killmonger even when it turned out T’Challa was still alive: I think they were only the people of one tribe. It seemed to me like Wakanda is more of a federation of tribes than a single country. Which would probably mean that tribal members look to their tribe’s leader first, before looking to the king. It was established that the leader of this particular tribe was unhappy with T’Challa and his father’s failures. So he decides to commit treason and his tribe follows him. It looked to me like the other tribes had pulled back a little to try and figure out what to do about the situation and were therefore not present at the final battle. That was my take anyway.

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    1. This! W'Kabi made his hatred for Klaue very clear and saw that the inability of T'Challa to take him down as a slight. Then comes Killmonger with Klaue's head on a platter. You could see that the leader of this tribe was looking for a leader who would take a certain type of action and make someone pay in the end.
      The only part that bothered me was that T'Challa didn't call Killmonger out as the reason why he wasn't able to secure Klaue.

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    2. Exactly! That bothered me as well. Then again, T'Challa does say he'll either kill Klaue or bring him back and does neither, I can kind of see how W'Kabi would still have sided with Killmonger even while knowing he was the reason T'Challa failed.

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  9. I get what you're saying about T'Challa's friend. I got the impression that he had been frustrated for a while at T'Chaka's isolationism, and was depending on T'Challa to change that. So when he doesn't right off the bat he thinks it's just the same old story as his father and revolts.

    I don't understand the rhinos. WHY. It's like at the end of the 3rd Hobbit when SUDDENLY MOUNTAIN GOATS. So is vibranium supposed to tame rhinos now too, what the heck?

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    1. They did at least show the rhinos early on. When T'Challa came to visit his friend early on, it showed that his tribe was the one that raised and trained the rhinos. Which also explains why Okoye knew that one of them wouldn't attack her.

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  10. @MissPooslie, SAME! I have never ever cried for a superhero movie, but that moment and that line, OMG the tears, they flowed! I still think about it and frankly that tells me BP is truly a different kind of superhero movie. And can I say that yes, the women really made that movie. Okoye is amazing and I want her to be mentor me. I do want to touch on the Killmonger character - I absolutely understand people who root for him. To me his entire story arc is a reflection of how the US specifically treats its Black men - seriously you literally have a Black kid from Oakland whose dad is murdered and who is left alone to deal with the harsh realities of life as a Black man. I mean yeah he takes his idea way too far, but can you really say that his anger is misplaced? I think not. Basically I haven't been that invested in a superhero movie for a long time (including Wonder Woman, which was actually a let down for me).

    -NN

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    1. Killmonger had some really valid points! I get it too! But he wanted to violently overthrow the oppressors...

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  11. I'm going to start out by saying that I LOVED the movie. LOVED it. Loved the artistry. Loved the costuming. Loved how the actors, every one of them, poured themselves wholeheartedly into their roles, even though a ton of it was shot on green or blue screen and sets that had to feel really fake -- they did it, and the feeling came through, so clear and so strong. It was gorgeous, it was wonderful. I loved the strong female characters, all of them, and love how they are righteously acknowledged and admired and praised. And yet -- what still fills me with fury, despite all of this, is that no matter how much skill, talent, grace, and power these women all had, Wakanda and all within it still embrace a ridiculously paternalistic society in which succession is determined by a freaking fist fight, and the women's excellent advice and wisdom is repeatedly dismissed and ignored until it's produced by a man. Nakia says REALLY early in the film that she thinks T'Challa should think about sharing Wakanda's technological advances with the world; he dismisses her comments patronizingly. Shuri says much the same thing, with the same result. When his mother questions the wisdom of his fighting Killmonger, he dismisses it. And on and on and on.... Yes, I suppose there would be less dramatic a story there, in one way, but couldn't the writers have written a different story? Not, I suppose, and been true to the original comic, but it still bugs me that Black Panther is being praised for the extraordinary women in it -- women whose agency is still being written off by a fundamentally paternalistic view of the world. It just grated, and made me feel as though they weren't BEING strong and capable, they were being allowed to PLAY at being strong and capable for the amusement of the men. Other than that, and the sad wastefulness of watching the child who grew up to become Killmonger being abandoned for no good reason at all, I loved the movie.

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    1. But, in the end the women were right. And I think this movie was also largely about T'Challa growing up and growing into his leadership role. He had a very concrete idea of what it meant to be a leader from watching his father and then he realizes that so much of what he thought he knew was wrong. I don't think that it's necessarily that the women's knowledge and wisdom is ignored until produced by a man, but that T'Challa grows so much throughout the film. He REALIZES Nakia is right and that Wakanda shouldn't be as isolated as they are. And he moves to make those changes, with her right by his side.

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    2. @Tiffsquatch, this is definitely how I saw it. T'Challa grew into the realization that the people around him had wisdom to share.

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  12. I am in love with Okoye. In. Love. I want a film all about her and the Dora Milaje (and Nakia and Sheri can be in it too). But mostly Okoye.<3

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    1. Lupita Nyong'o and Viola Davis will be starring in a movie about the Dahoumey warriors - the real life inspiration for the Dora Milaje.

      So... wish granted?

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  13. I loved this movie so much! One of my favorites was the battle at the end. The rhino is charging at Okoye and you think this might be it!! But nah... BFF’s forever!

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  14. Okoye sailing through the air in that red dress while holding her spear is the most iconic scene in the movie for me. Loved it!

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    1. AND SHE WAS WEARING FLAT SHOES. Awesome shiny gold boots, but they were FLAT.

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  15. Team Okoye here, too! I looked up the actress afterwards, so now I guess I have to watch The Walking Dead... Someone mentioned the Jimmy Fallon thing above, which I also thought was very moving. My favorite one was the woman who said something along the lines of, "Thank you for having such strong women in the movie. They weren't strong because they were angry; they weren't strong because they were hurt. They were strong because they were strong." Until she articulated that, I didn't realize why I loved the Dora Milaje so much. <3 <3 <3

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    1. Not only is Danai Gurira a phenomenal actress (Yes, go watch her in Walking Dead... the woman is a FORCE), but she's also an exceptionally gifted playwright! Look up her recent interview on Chris Hardwick's Id10T podcast, it's delightful!

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  16. Also: Disney owns Marvel, which technically makes Shuri a Disney princess.

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    1. Yes, this!!!
      Pinkie Welborne, 17
      Indiana

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    2. Love this idea!!! 😍

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  17. Someone else may have pointed this out but: even if Killmonger hadn't "killed" TChalla, he would still be king because he won the fight. Remember in the first challenge scene when TChalla didn't kill gorilla guy (I'm having trouble holding onto names today) he let the other guy live...if the roles had been reversed, the person who gave in would be the loser and not king.

    That said, the questions I walked away with last night were this way: first, what if the king doesn't have a male heir? Two, now that the flowers are supposedly burned, is there either another hidden cache, or what are they going to do? And why didn't we give TChalla's sister a chance to be king? Instead of mom telling the girlfriend to eat the flower, that is. (and I understand why she did, girlfriend has more experience and is less flippant).

    Otherwise, I LOVED the female characters and the sister is my favorite hands down, just because of her mouth. ;) I am embarrassed to say that I didn't recognize either Andy Serkis or Martin Freeman. I did the whole, "boy, he looks familiar" thing and that was all the further I got. We had to leave during the credits because...bathroom. I thought both characters were very well done.

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    1. No, the challenge isn't over until one of the combatants dies or concedes. The first challenge ended because gorilla guy conceded. T'Challa didn't die, and didn't concede, so the fight was still on, so Killmonger wasn't legitimately king. That's why the Dora Milaje felt justified in changing allegiance back to T'Challa once he showed up.

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    2. Okay, that makes sense. Thanks, Deb. :)
      I just realized I asked why the sister didn't get a chance to be king...I must really have been out of it this morning. Just pretend I said ruler there. ;)

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    3. King is okay here. Xanth had to have a king, but eventually had women kings.

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    4. Just because no one can remember his name, and he's awesome ...the gorilla chief is named M'BUKU! :D

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  18. I'm actually really glad for the villain switch! Partially because Klaue didn't really work for me, partially because I thought the story between Killmonger and T'Challa was more interesting than between Klaue and T'Challa. :-) The last battle did drag a bit... I think I'm a little burned out on action movies, but I'm too invested in the parts of the MCU I love to take a break.

    Also yeeeeessssss, all the women. I am so, so happy that three-fourths of the main protags are women, who are all competent in different fields, and none of whom die! I keep switching who I think my favorite is.

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  19. One nuance a lot of folks miss is the significance of burning the herb garden. He isn't just 'doing away with the old tradions' or anything. No, he is very deliberately making sure he is the last king of Wakanda.

    Why? Because he knows that even with the destabilizing of the world, they probably won't be able to unsettle things enough. There's going to be a counter attack, and Wakanda will be in big trouble.

    Taking over the world isn't his goal. That's a side benefit. His goal is punishing Wakanda. Destroying it. Even if it survives, it will not be the same.

    Also, show of hands, who caught the Chekov's gun of the railway sonic gizmos?

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  20. I don't think it was ANYONE could be king if they won a fist fight. Wakanda was a confederation of tribes, and at the transition to a new king, any of them could offer their own candidates over the heir. And then anyone in the royal family could challenge. That's why Killmonger was able to challenge, because he was of the royal family of Wakanda.

    I absolutely adored the movie as well. It was just beautiful and touching and vibrant. I loved most that the women weren't presented as "here is the strong woman character." They were just characters who happened to be women. Other than the ex and the mom, they didn't have to specifically be women, and none of their motivations were based solely on their being women. They were richly developed, three-dimensional characters.

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  21. Answering one of Jen's very minor questions: not just anybody can challenge the current king to Single Combat, you have to have the right lineage. Killmonger is T'Challa's cousin. The Wakandan Jedi Council makes him prove it. My inference is that any of the leaders of any of the tribes that make up Wakanda could rule the entire country, but for several generations its been settles as this one, and everyone's okay with that for the most part. Not saying this is a great way to choose a leader...

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  22. I think a lot went over your head if you only see the issues as small stakes. I hope you take the time to do some more reading about the significance this movie has for the black community and specifically for black feminism.

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    1. i think she meant that it is small stakes in the marvel world. as in one small country not entire planets being taken over/destroyed.

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  23. I think everyone covered everything I've been thinking about this movie. I would add that I haven't sat through a Marvel movie that made me cry that much. I was so hoping that Killmonger was saveable since Michael B. Jordan was so good in the role.
    I think we saw the movie last week, and I can't stop thinking about it. By far my favorite Marvel movie, also just a favorite movie in general.

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