black panther | drakon

I went to see Black Panther. I had my qualms since it is a superhero film. I avoid those like the plague normally unless social pressure forces me to be versed in pop-culture for small-talk purposes.

I went to see the film because I had been fascinated by the Black Panther Party movement of Huey Newton etc when I had first moved to the San Francisco Area. The 60s were a socially awakened (woke!) time here, and back in my motherland too. I have been curious about how these movements started so energetically and loudly, and how it all ended in a wisp.

The film isn’t bad, if you are into that genre. I went in with different and unrealistic expectations. So take my words with a grain of salt. 

I had to go all the way to the outskirts of San Jose to see the film since the local ones with reclining chairs were sold out.

The action sequences were amazing, and doubly so because I rarely see anything in the genre, and this was my first experience in a Dolby Imax theatre. It is the most expensive film I’ve watched in a theatre. Next time, I think I will wait for seats at my local theatre.

I didn’t like the soundtracks much, but I am fussy when it comes to soundtracks harmonizing with plot progression and character development.

The lead was predictable. It was a standard hero’s journey, as he gets over Daddy issues, gets betrayed by his best friend, combats the villain who is from the same family but wronged by the mistakes of the father the hero idolizes, and gets the girl. The end of journey makes the hero more aware of the pain in the world and turns his ways from bravado to healing and fixing, as is the standard formula. I haven’t read the comics, so I don’t know about how truthful the portrayal is.

It was nice to see the little chap from The Wire grow into a big, bad villain, even if his character had more layers in The Wire. He has a nice, moving dialogue sequence at the end, about his ancestors dying in the ocean on slave-ships, and about how he would like to die in the ocean too. The words were heartrending, and the truth is, but the package missed something. It missed the lack of closure, the open wounds, the failures since, and the polarization of contemporary mores and conversation.

The women were strong and virtuous, and had beautiful eyes. The single woman who didn’t have much in the way of virtue was killed by the villain boyfriend, so I guess she is redeemed by love in the end.

Andy Serkis was hard to identify because I have rarely seen him in a non-CGI/Motion Capture role, and in this he looks unusually human. He reminded me of a colleague I used to work with,  with his swagger and madness.

Martin Freeman was there. I don’t know why. I also don’t know what happens to him in the end, because I cannot remember a closing scene for his character.

I would love to watch a sensitive film that goes into the socio-political and historical context, consequences and characters of the Black Panther movement. The villain of Black Panther, who was in the Wire, had been the protagonist of a well done film called Fruitvale Station, which is about a shooting victim at the Bart Station in Oakland in the 2000s. I think I expected something along those lines, with all the critical and popular acclaim that this film was.

I cannot say I fail to understand why the acclaim is warranted. It has many firsts to its credit, and many of these firsts are very late in the coming. I am glad to celebrate them, but I guess I just expected something more well-crafted. The actors were capable, but the plot wasn’t. Many elements of this production (the casting, the plot itself) are relevant to the national conversation, though there must be a balance between celebrating today and wondering why it took so long, and what’s still left (an awful lot, as it stands). All in all, it was a film of our times, with its heart in the right place, and it wasn’t the worst film of our times (Star Wars was awful).

They do have a late-era Bowie style music video (when he decided he had enough of face-paint and costuming expenses) which was kind of quirky-cool (and perhaps had more heart in it than the entire film):

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This panther/human hybrid affair reminded me of Drakon.  I am Dragon is a Russian Fantasy film. It is Beauty and the Beast, if the beast came from a line of beasts which bring forth their young by breathing flames into virgin vaginas (born from the ashes, literally).

I saw it a while ago. The awful trailer had nearly put me off but I am used to foreign language films having less catchy trailers and ploughed on, and was glad that I did It was a beautiful film, though a rather unusual one. A girl who is getting married gets kidnapped by the local dragon. She is taken to a large island, which is just the skeletal remains of a dead dragon. She isn’t fazed though. She plots her escape continuously, while trying to stay on the dragon’s good side. She enjoys her life as it is, while looking forward to the life that waits her afterwards. Life, though, likes getting in the way of best of our plans, and so it does for hers. She is struck hard by Stockholm syndrome, naturally, as happens to anyone if they are isolated in fearful and uncertain conditions to just one person to turn to, even if that one person is the last you’d trust if you were in full possession of your senses and had agency. Some say that beauty loved the beast. I imagine psychologists disagree with the assessment. If the story ended there, it would be no fun, though. So our beauty feels love, and her captor too is ensnared. Most beasts don’t fall back in love with beauty, though. For plot purposes, this one must, and so he does. What she does then is where the story brings heart over mind. It is a predictable plot, but it isn’t badly done. In some parts, it is rendered excellently.

It ends well. There is no fiery copulation. Love heals all things, up to and including pyrophilia. I really liked the musical accompaniments, the plot structure, and the feisty girl who is stupid enough to fall in love with a dragon. I liked the colors, the costumes, the innocence that came through at times in both the protagonists. I liked that it is a sensual movie, though there is no overt sexual element to the plot. In fact, the makers of the film mock that at the end, as a father tells his little girl that babies are plucked from the skies.

It is a fairytale, but a well-told one, and in parts it is even dire as it shows without words, in the music, in the juxtaposition of scenes, in the characters’ expressions and gestures,  the darker elements behind a beauty who falls in love with and is loved by a beast.

We’ve all loved monsters, and we’ve all been monsters in turn, so perhaps it is easy enough to sympathize with both the girl and her monster.

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