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The Geek Twins Discuss: "Black Panther"

We'll be doing a semi-regular series where my brother Maurice and I discuss various geek topics via email. This week, the round-table is on the movie Black Panther.

WARNING: This article has spoilers for Black Panther.

Nigel: Let's start with what you said about it as an experience.

Maurice: I'll start off by saying that it's the first marvel movie that really immersed itself in a new world. A world that you wanted to be a part of. It's not the stereotypical utopia but it's a world of hope and wonder. Great movies make you feel that and this delivered.

Nigel: I agree. Wakanda alone was an almost magical wonderland, a dreamlike utopia that was distinctly African. It had it's own language and culture and traditions and political structure. Partly that's because the comic has explored so much of Wakanda, but the script was triumphant. It was like being carried away to another world

Maurice: In their review "Half in the Bag" scoffed at the idea of a technologically advanced culture still wearing sandals and tribal clothing. But that's where the movie gets its power. It celebrates the past while still showing a modern spin. Why not wear sandals? People wear sandals all the time? Why not have clothing with tribal markings?

Nigel: I don't understand that perspective at all. Do they not realize that people wear sandals and tribal clothing today? Do people think that any advanced culture would switch to jeans and T-shirts? I loved the contrast, of people carrying spears that shoot lasers and making holograms with beads.

Maurice: Exactly. It's a celebration of African culture. Being a pair of white men only familiar with African stereotypes, they couldn't understand why anyone would enjoy African culture. By the way, did you dress up?

Nigel: No, I didn't but I wanted to. I thought it was moving how many people chose to wear African garb, the same way people going to The Dark Knight would wear Batman costumes. How about you?

Maurice: I really, really wanted to and searched everywhere. I just ran out of time. It didn't feel right going full African to me since I have very little African in me (more Jamaican) but seeing audiences moved to celebrate African culture is what made this movie an experience. A co-worker came in with an African dress she'd gotten for the premiere. I was loving it.

Nigel: That is awesome. As much as we could talk about the culture around Black Panther all day, I'd like to talk about some of the movie. I thought it was brilliant how it was put together. You could argue we'd seen elements of Black Panther before with Thor having a challenge to the throne type of story, but this really felt so fresh as a superhero movie.

Maurice: It did. Like you said we've seen the coronation before but this one felt so deep and rich in history. What did you think?

Nigel: Well, shout out to Chadwick Boseman who carries himself with such regal and powerful grace that you totally believe he's a prince and a king. You could see him as a bold and compassionate ruler, trying to live up to his father's memory. Then to have these outside forces come up against him, it was Shakespearean. I want to say here that M'Baku, Killmonger, and Klaw were such great villains, each in their own right.

Maurice: First, Klaw was hilariously enthusiastic. He had me cracking up when he yelled, "That was awesome!"

Nigel: I loved Klaw so much. He was a very different and fun villain after all the serious and deadly villains we'd seen before, someone who was having fun and aware of pop culture. My favorite moment was when he was tied up and singing "What is Love." I was so disappointed when he was killed. He will be Marvel's Darth Maul.

Maurice: I know. Not to spoil it but he will be missed. It made sense plot-wise but I missed him. We'll never get to find out his Soundcloud link.

Nigel: LOL true. So yeah...Klaw's death broke my heart. Until they showed his dead body, I still hoped he was alive.

Maurice: You never know but it doesn't look good.

Nigel: Then let's shift to M'Baku, one of the most racist and uncomfortable villains in Black Panther's canon who was reinvented with brilliance. He was huge, powerful, a rival king to Black Panther with a nobility all his own.

Maurice: Winston Duke blew me away. If they had made him the main villain I would have been on board. His fights were epic and he had a great ease about him. Duke was also awesome in the way that he cared about his tribe. When asked to help he simply said "no" and pointed out that he wasn't going to give Jobari lives to save the rest of the kingdom.

Nigel: Yeah, it's like "why should I." At the same time, he ended up helping Black Panther. He was kind of an antihero. Great stuff.

Maurice: That part where you hear the gorilla noises and see them charging in still gives me chills, literally chills! They're on my back right now! It was great. An M'Baku movie would be welcome

Nigel: As for Killmonger, he was so great. The best part about Killmonger is that he was actually right. When you consider all the history of Africans around the world, suffering in slavery and apartheid and oppression, for Wakanda to be living in freedom with advanced technology and do nothing was pretty messed up.

Maurice: With Killmonger, I can't say enough about his motivation. You agree with him but then he has to go and take it too far! Yes, Wakanda should share some of its tech to help but not to conquer. He also had the great last line in movie history.

Nigel: That was awesome. "Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, cause they knew death was better than bondage." That should be on a motivational poster. It was a vast improvement over the comics where he just wanted power.

Nigel: Then let's talk about the Dora Milaje. I said it on Twitter and in my review that the idea of a group of black female baldheaded warriors would have been unthinkable even ten years ago. They were incredible and had a power that matched the Amazons of Wonder Woman but with more diversity. It's a truly amazing time for women and people of color.

Maurice: It really is. My wife said that she was blown away as a woman of color. Okeyo was a beast in her words and it was amazing to see women standing up as an action hero. What did your wife think?

Nigel: My wife absolutely loved it. I think any women would thrill at the sight of a group of female warriors who don't wait for guys to save them as evidenced by Wonder Woman but women of color are a special treat. As much as the movie should get credit for its treatment of minorities, it's female characters are a triumph. Especially Shuri who is a real breakout character.

Maurice: Shuri was especially amazing. Usually, there's a man there to provide support and "guidance" for women in tech but she ran a one-man show (no pun intended). It's especially interesting because originally Black Panther created all the tech himself and is a technical genius. This flipped that.

Nigel: It really is a triumph on so many levels and its success shows how important it is. The best part about Black Panther, I think, is what it says for future superhero movies. It's proven, once and for all, that superhero films (usually aimed at white males) can be successful when focused on minorities. Comics have made huge steps in diversity and now movies can catch up. It also changed what had become a very stale Marvel formula. I think Black Panther will change the MCU more than any other since Iron Man and I'm betting the studio is already making changes to upcoming movies to fit it.

Maurice: You're so right. The Marvel movie formula started getting cracks with Ant-Man but they reigned it in. Now this movie proves you don't have to do the "anti-hero learns to be a good guy and saves the day" formula anymore. This also sets a new bar for character motivation. Here's a question that was trending. Was Killmonger right?

Nigel: That's what I loved about Killmonger is that he was right. Like I said, it was kind of hard to talk about this African utopia without asking where it's been all these years. All of human history could have been changed if Wakanda had shared its existence with the world. Of course, his method was wrong by trying to get revenge instead of help others.

Maurice: That I think is what made his motivation genius. It was ALMOST right. But then his bitterness drove him to want to conquer the world instead of help

Nigel: Some other points: like you talked about before, the costume design was brilliant in how it took classic African designs and made them modern. The romance between T'Challa and Nakia was adorable. The jokes landed well without feeling forced. The story felt epic and worked on its own, but I'm looking forward to a sequel returning to this world, and to Black Panther's crew appearing in Infinity War.

Maurice: The "don't freeze" line was perfect. Especially in context. I was the only one laughing in the theater when he started stumbling over his words at the sight of Nakia. And then there's Shuri's line "did you freeze?" As for the return, I'm super psyched they'll be returning to the movies. Especially M'Baku.

Nigel: All in all, I thought it was great, one of the best if not the best. 5 stars.

Maurice: I gotta say I couldn't name anything wrong with it. "Half in the Bag" said it's boring but I'm not sure what movie they were watching. A well-rounded and refreshing film. 4.5 stars. I'm excited about the opportunities but Black Panther 2 should be a 5

What did you think of Black Panther?

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