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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Was That The Revolution? So It Wasn't Televised But Filmed? #BlackPanther #review #recap #Marvel #BlackHistoryMonth

Was That The Revolution? So It Wasn't Televised But Filmed? #BlackPanther #review #recap #Marvel #BlackHistoryMonth

All pictures courtesy of MARVEL Film Studios and Comics

What to say, what to say? Hmm? OK, so this is going to be a very trying review for me because there's a lot to unpack about this film. I will include my final rating of the film early in the review so that people who still haven't seen it won't have to read through my ultimate analysis of the film, and be spoiled—oh yes, there will be spoilers. But before I even do all of that I have to break a few things down and have a legit fireside chat with everybody who happens to come across this blog looking specifically for this film. Before we start this thing in earnest, let me do my lame intro line. So, was Marvel's Black Panther the raised-fist-at-the-Olympics that we needed or was it just another “first-black [insert thing that blacks have actually already done but are only now getting credit for with this new generation]” that won't be looked back on as fondly as our current sentiments imply? Let's find out together!

With much fanfare surrounding Black Panther, Marvel's latest release, it has been billed as the first black superhero (it is not). It stars Chadwick Boseman as the titular character Black Panther, an African king imbued with the sacred powers of his ancestors that makes him the superhero known as black panther. He, similar to Batman, wears a dark black suit that is supposed to resemble a panther in the dead of night. But not only is he a superhero, as I stated he is also the king of a fictional African nation known in the MCU as Wakanda. For years the nation, while known enough to be invited to the United Nations, has hidden its true identity from the rest of the world. Though much of the globe thinks of it as a third-world, poor African nation seemingly like any other African nation (if you go by what white nations show of it on TV), in movie-ality it is the most technologically and culturally advanced society in the world. Their advancements are due, in large part, to the near indestructible metal known as Vibranium having crashed to the earth in a meteor/comet thousands of years ago. Five tribes settled on the very land where it crashed. Now, I am going to give a bit of a spoiler here but it's in the first five minutes of the film, so I don't feel too bad, plus it is part of the character's background. The five tribes that settled on that land warred against each other for some years before one dude from one of the tribes drank the nectar from a particular purple flower and was imbued with the powers of the black panther, making him stronger than anyone and allowing the rest of the tribes to bow before him. However, one tribe did not wholly buy into the society that the others wanted to form with the BP as their leader. That tribe retired to the mountains where they've stayed ever since, rarely coming down save for the occasional political gathering (we'll talk more about that later in the spoilers section).

Sometimes The Movie Was Too Dark Aesthetically
As the nation grew, they kept a close watch on other nations around them only to see the carnage, atrocities and all-around evil that man imposed on man. Instead of coming to the aid of other people's, they chose to hide themselves away in a cloak of invisibility that they were able to create using the Vibranium, and they've stayed hidden ever since. Now, evil from the outside threatens to destroy their cultural way of life and that of the rest of the world's, forcing BP and his closest followers to decide whether they should finally reveal themselves to the rest of the world, or if they will remain shrouded in secrecy and tradition.
OK, now let's dip into some cultural significance and whatnot. Oh, did I mention that this is going to be a long read? Surprise, it's going to be a long read.

Let's begin with this idea that this film is the first or that it is making history, progress or change. Just as I stated in my Wonder Woman film (after not liking it) that a great deal of hype for the film was built around the idea that she was finally the first female superhero and how that was false hype and not to be overly qualified with the truth, so too does Black Panther need qualification. Before Wonder Woman, we got Elektra, Catwoman, Supergirl, and a fourth one that I can never think of during my writing process. We also got strong influences from female superheroines in other films; I would make the argument that Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique drives the new First-Class rendition of the X-Men far more than Magneto or Professor X, and that the lack of her influence in Apocalypse was one of the things that severely hurt the film. I qualified Wonder Woman by saying that yes, she is the first female superheroine... in a highly successful, highly critically praised film that was made in the modern superhero film era. All of those things need to be within the same spoken breath as Wonder Woman in order for her “first/barrier-breaking success” to be accurate. Same goes for Black Panther.

Before I qualify BP, let me state that I am black. Not only am I black, but I try to keep a very close watch on entertainment history as far as it has to do with film, TV and books. I have always felt that, up until now, black people never really give the credit to other successful blacks that they might deserve. Sometimes that is simply because a louder noise outside of the black community is not made about something, and sometimes it is simply that black people forget or don't value the contributions of these particular blacks. For instance, I will always remember about ten or 12 years ago when Tyler Perry first became really big in the black community and someone interviewed Spike Lee who said that Perry's films were “coonery and buffoonery” and that he would never want to be associated with them. And a lot of blacks agreed with him. So while Perry's success is certainly history-making, even to this day he is sorta pushed aside and not seen by young children as someone who they should strive to be like, whether that means they want to be in the entertainment industry or just as a business man in general. Most blacks hear that a new Perry film is coming out and a great many will roll their eyes at such a proclamation. Instead of supporting while also demanding a richer, deeper dive into narrative and helping to influence him to create even better movies with the brand he currently has, blacks have been quick to dismiss his films as little to nothing. But note that he is an indicative example of a bigger problem: blacks have been doing this to black filmmakers and those in the entertainment industry for years, diminishing some people's accomplishments while uplifting and praising others. The sad part about this is that often times the praise is heaped onto blacks that are heavily supported by whites. Again, I have no hatred left in my heart for whites or any other race, and I hope to be supported by all races myself, so I am not saying that white audience/critic approval is bad. What I'm saying is that it can't serve as the foundation for whether blacks or any other minority race believes that something is good. With that said, let me finally get to the qualifiers for Black Panther.

As I said before, Black Panther is not the first black superhero and unlike in many of the columns that I have seen featured on sites like The Grio, Madame Noire, the Stir and alike, this film has actually broken far fewer barriers than originally believed. To start, yes it can be said that he is the first solo black superhero we have in the modern era, but not the first black superhero that children can look up to. With Marvel's gamut of diversity throughout their cinematic universe, we've seen a bevvy of blacks align themselves with the heroes as sidekicks. In fact, when thinking about it, just about every main superhero through these first three phases has a black sidekick. Iron Man and Cheadle's War Machine; Captain America and Anthony Mackie's Falcon; Thor and Tessa Thompson's recent addition of Valkyrie or Idris Elba's Heimdall; even Dr. Strange has the sidekick/rival turned villain Mordo played by Chiwetel Ejiafor. The only one who doesn't have a black sidekick really is Ant-man. Spider-man is still too new and could have a black Harry pop up and all hell break loose. The point is that there are plenty of other black superheroes even if they didn't get their own film. But again, they all play as sidekicks, even if they are just as cool as their leading counterparts.

Stepping away from the current era, before Black Panther we had Blade (a superhero/vampire hunter who, in a very intriguing Wesley Snipes interview, is partially credited by Marvel for saving them from total bankruptcy and allowing them to bounce back with the MCU you see today), Spawn, Shaq's STEEL, and Damon Wayans' Blankman. Granted, Blankman was more of a superhero parody but you have to look at the times. In fact, my next entry is also one that you'll have to seriously look at the times for. Remember that up until the first X-Men or Spider-man (though I would still argue that those are partly in the old comic era and that Spider-man 2 is what really started this new era of treatment) comic book films were still largely looked at as goofy and for children (remember this because I'll talk about this in the next section when I talk about BP's meaning to kids). Even the original Batman movie and Batman Returns, while really good films, were rather goofy not only when compared to today's films but also for their time. Nobody was taking any comic book film seriously as evidenced by Joel Schumacher being handed the reigns to the Batman films after Burton departed for the never-made Superman Lives. They were simply supposed to show bad guys getting beat up by super-powered good guys in costumes. Keep that in mind for the final film I bring up:

Meteor Man. For starters, Meteor Man already broke many of the “barriers” that Black Panther supposedly broke. And while other black critics want to diminish or denigrate this achievement because the film was not looked at as a critical or box office success, it nevertheless still holds those banners. About a rather nerdy school teacher that finds himself imbued with powers after a meteor falls to earth and effects him (hmm, wait a minute, does that sound familiar to anyone?), the main character Jefferson Reed decides to become a superhero in order to fight against the gangs in his inner-city neighborhood. Should this movie be considered a classic or good? No, probably not. However, it was partially a sign of the times in its goofiness. It was one of the first black superhero films that was written by a black man, directed by a black man, produced by a couple of minorities (at least one producer was white I think), and had ethnic goodness running all up and down the below-the-line crew billing. This was not only a positive movie that showed the full gamut of African-American behaviors and successes (you had intelligent, hard-working black people as well as your typical thugs), it also tackled an ongoing problem of youth corruption by gang leaders and showed the youth that education was something not to scoff at and that blacks could be heroes. Where it failed was in a full-on incorporation of black women as powerful, butt-kicking allies--Black Panther succeeds here.

Even Meteor Man's budget was sure to give people pause in those days. Topping out at around 30 million dollars, it certainly could not be considered small nor even medium budget FOR ITS TIME. To put that into perspective, the first Batman film cost near 35 million dollars, and Steven Spielberg's huge hit Jurassic Park that came out a year later cost 63 million dollars. Jurassic Park, at the time, was one of the most expensive films to make ever, and then Titanic came along a few years later and suddenly budgets ballooned to 100 million easy. I say that to say that Meteor Man was the first big budget black superhero film that was written and directed by a black person, NOT Black Panther. And regardless of Meteor Man's quality, it should hold that title for better or worse. Just because you don't like it doesn't mean that it didn't achieve it. On top of that, it was a superhero that was created by a black man and was his original idea, not based off of something created by white people. Again, for all the great things that Black Panther has achieved and I definitely don't want to crap on that (I'm trying to be positive and lift up all black and minority filmmakers), being the first black, big budget superhero film written and directed by black people and starring a predominantly black cast is not one of them. However, practically all of the African-superhero infusions are new to the game and should be commended.

Now, on to the children before I give my grade. For this we'll have to actually dig back into history and talk about the very nature of comic books. Some reviewers, both white and black but more white than the latter, have called BP just another movie and dismissed it for its politics and said that it's a “movie that caters to kids” and “that everybody is only going wild over it because it shows blacks being something other than thugs and gives kids someone to emulate.” In reality, they're kinda right. But I think that they're also forgetting the root of comic books because the last few years of superhero movies have taken an adult route to storytelling. If we all go back to the first few comic books, back to Superman and Batman three-quarters of a century ago, we have to realize why they were created and the climate in which they came.

Comics were originally created by young adult men that saw the chaos in the world around them and knew that if they as adults were having a hard time struggling with the world's darkness, then so would children. They, partially being adult children themselves, just wanted to write stories that could make it seem like things would be OK, like the adults knew what they were doing and the world wouldn't crumble around kids, and also give them a fantastical ideal for which to strive. It was a world where good always won over evil and most superheroes stood as examples for what children could one day be in adulthood, regardless of if they had powers or not: good, humble, smart people.

That was it. There was nothing more ridiculous about a black or ethnic person/character being a superhero than it was about a white person being a superhero. It was never really about the powers or even how cool the hero was, but more about what the hero stood for and how it made the reader (usually a child at that time) feel about themselves and the world around them. You could feel good about the world if you saw Superman or Captain America punching out Nazis and kicking Hitler's butt because your parents and all the adults in your life told you the guy was bad. Again, these were always “feelings” books, regardless of what any republican, fascist or racist wants to tell you. They tried to make you feel good. So, in my mind, I went into both Wonder Woman and Black Panther with this mindset, even though I know that comic book-superhero films have evolved as have the books themselves. In my mind, if a strong Black, African superhero is what blacks not just in America but around the world need to see to feel good about themselves, to have their children feel good about being little black boys and girls, and for everyone to feel that there is some since of hope for an even better future, then I'm here for that, regardless of how the movie actually turns out. It is solely off of that notion alone that I bumped my final grade for Black Panther up by half of a grade.

What's my grade? I give Black Panther a B-, instead of a C+. A quick run-through of things I didn't like: the pacing, similar to Wonder Woman, ebbed and flowed without consistency, making the film feel long. You felt every bit of that two hours and 15 minutes which is, in large part, due to the second problem: the writing. If I ever make it to Hollywood myself, I'll address this in more depth because I don't want to make it seem like I'm just trying to crap on him because I'm a little jealous of his success (I am definitely a little jealous but I'm gonna have to get over it), but with that said, I don't think Ryan Coogler's a very strong writer. I think he's a decent director who is getting better with every film but as far as writing goes he lacks subtext. And it seems like the person they chose for his co-writer on the script, while he has some pretty good credits under his belt, this was far from his finest work. Again, more on everything later but this is my rundown.

I thought that the music, just like in every Marvel film (save for Captain America: Winter Soldier and Civil War, and Thor: Ragnarok) was boring, bland and forgettable, and actively dreadful in other parts of the film. Again, they did exactly what I criticized the show Black Lightning for doing in that instead of going strictly for orchestral music, they would have some fight scenes infused with hip-hop music to make the film seem hipper, or more black. I don't understand why black filmmakers feel they have to do that. Sure, the use of rap music is better used in the active background of a scene rather than as part of the passive soundtrack (more on that later) and I enjoyed a few of the Kendrick Lamar-curated songs off the soundtrack, but the OST (the original soundtrack or otherwise known as the orchestral score) was bland, even with infusions of traditional African sounds. The CGI was great at times and terrible at others. But the set design was amazing. Oh, and so were the costumes. But I thought that the acting for at least a third of the cast (Black Panther himself and Killmonger) was weak. And finally, one of the weakest characters in the movie is actually the titular character of the movie.

OK, so is everybody ready? Again, I give it a B-.

Prepare for SPOILERS because there are spoilers ahead and I'm gonna breakdown all that I did and didn't like.



Let's start with a summary of the movie. It takes place one week after the events in Captain America: Civil War and picks up with T'Challa going home with his father's body presumably stored as cargo on his advanced plane. With him we see the general of his army Okoye played by Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead). For those that know of CA:CW, I guess we are assuming that he either has Bucky on the ship too, or that this is a second mission away from home to go pick up another main character. This third main character is Nakia played by Lupita N'yongo. She is supposed to be his love interest and ex-girlfriend. Let me say that I found it interesting here that they went with the super western and modern take on dating where the partners choose each other rather than some kind of arranged marriage. It felt very non-traditional for an African country that supposedly has stayed traditional for thousands of years. I digress.

We get our first action scene where BP fights some jungle slave merchants to rescue Nakia, but she hardly needed rescuing because she is a spy for Wakanda and was going to stop a truck of women from becoming slaves somehow. BP freezes at the sight of her, presumably because she's so beautiful, however I would've loved if he told her how beautiful she was. Black women are both oversexualized and undersexualized in media; they are often shown nude or ass-shaking but are rarely called beautiful by characters in films. I just would've liked a few “your skin is beautiful” in there. And does that sound cheesy? Yes, but the film had its fair amount of provolone. Anyway, he tells her that his father has died and he wants her back with him in Wakanda as they undergo the transition.

We get to Wakanda and break through the invisible barrier to see an amazing city that mixes old world African huts with new world skyscraper designs, along with a myriad of color. But here is where things start to get somewhat sticky. Apparently, though T'Challa is the prince, he must still battle for the right to be king. Tradition says that he must drink some kinda detox juice to get the powers of the BP out of his system before taking on any challenger that wishes to fight him for the throne. Yes, this is important for the rest of the film. He does that and defeats the leader of the fifth mountain tribe, then retakes the BP powers by drinking the juice from a purple herb and traveling to another realm to talk with his dead father about not being ready to be a king.

Here, I backtrack to the very beginning of the film because it becomes important as we switch to the villain. At the film's start, just after the story about Wakanda's existence, we flash back to the 90s where we learn that T'Chaka (T'Challa's father) as a young king sent out his only brother to be a spy in America. As it turns out, his brother had some radical ideas about the world and Wakanda's Vibranium and betrayed the king by stealing and selling it to villain Klaue (played by Andy Serkis). T'Chaka begrudgingly kills his brother to save his other spy's life and leaves behind his brother's son—a byproduct of a relationship with an American woman. That boy grew up to become Erik somebody, better known as Killmonger.

We first meet adult Killmonger in a British museum working with Klaue to steal some vibranium. For non-comic book readers, Klaue is one of the main villains of BP. He also appeared briefly in Age of Ultron where Ultron sliced off his arm. Anyway, Klaue led a few missions into Wakanda and has stolen Vibranium countless times, so he is number one on the nation's most wanted list. As luck would have it, BP and his people back in Wakanda hear about him readying to make another vibranium sell in South Korea. Nakia has contacts there that they can use to get Klaue once and for all. So they all go there with tech created by T'Challa's younger sister Shuri (played by Letitia Wright in a breakout role). Shuri, to put it bluntly, is the younger, blacker, maybe smarter Tony Stark who has not only created a new BP suit, but leads the science division for all Wakandan technological advances. She can drive a car remotely or do a bunch of other stuff too.

Anyway, Klaue comes to the meeting and runs into both BP and his crew (General Okoye and Nakia) but also Agent Ross (Martin Freeman) who we saw in CA:CW. There's a fight, they capture him and Ross interrogates him only to have Killmonger come rescue Klaue while also shooting Ross in the back, nearly killing him. So while BP takes Ross back to Wakanda where they have the tech to save his life, Killmonger kills Klaue and takes him to Wakanda. His plan: turn in the most-wanted criminal and claim his birthright, which is a chance to challenge the king for the throne.

T'Challa at left, Killmonger at right
And he wins, tossing T'Challa off a cliff. Killmonger's real plan is to take all the vibranium and weapons Wakanda has and send them around the world to oppressed blacks so that they can rise up and subdue their oppressors (mainly whites). He sees history as not having been fair because whites always had better tech while Wakanda stayed out of it.

Naturally BP's family objects to this while Okoye swears her loyalty to the nation and traditions of Wakanda, though she is conflicted. Her presumed boyfriend W'Kabi (played by Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya) has always wanted to see Klaue dead because his father died in one of those Klaue invasions, so he is all for Killmonger's plan.

Well, Killmonger becomes king, drinks the purple flower stuff, gets the powers of the black panther and starts to enact his plan. But T'Challa's family finds the defeated king and gives him the purple drink too. He has another vision where he suddenly disagrees with his father, then awakes and devises a plan to reclaim his throne. In a big final fight, Agent Ross has to shoot down the planes carrying vibranium out of the country while Shuri, Okoye, and Nakia fight against an army of Killmonger supporters and BP fights Killmonger himself. The fifth tribe comes down to help in the fight, siding with T'Challa. Killmonger is defeated and stabbed in the chest and delivers one of the best two lines in the film about a little black boy growing up in the inner-city believing in fairy tales, and about his ancestors jumped off slave ships because they knew death was better than bondage. We end with T'Challa deciding to open Wakanda's borders to the rest of the world. And in a second after-credits scene we see Bucky finally getting up from out of a tent in Wakanda and still having no arm.

OK, so let's unpack. There are so many things here that I did and didn't like, so maybe we'll take it slow and do a few comparisons with Wonder Woman to start. Note: Wonder Woman was certainly not a better film than Black Panther but is also noted as a supposed turning point in the comic book genre. There are things that it did better and things that it did worse, but I feel that by pointing out a few key comparisons, you can understand my critique of both films better.

Left to Right: Nakia, T'Challa (black panther), Shuri

To start, Black Panther is far more of a feminist film than Wonder Woman. You literally only see the titular character Black Panther as opposed to his normal name T'Challa (note: he does not have a secret identity within the nation of Wakanda but does in the rest of the world, similar to Wonder Woman) a total of three times: once at the beginning during a fight scene, a second time during a chase scene through South Korean streets, and finally at the climactic end. The majority of the fighting and, frankly, the majority of everything that keeps the film pushing forward comes from the women. Women are the army, they don't just run it. Young Shuri runs the technological developments for the entire nation with seemingly few people under her. T'Challa's ex-girlfriend and future queen (maybe?) Nakia serves as one of the many Wakandan spies. Even though we see Forrest Whitaker's character taking care of a garden at one point, it is mostly the women who take care of the gardens that keep the special flower that gives Black Panther his powers.

In Black Panther they show the women doing pretty much everything, even having a hand in governing, but in Wonder Woman we get very little of this. While we open the film on the island filled with women, so little time is spent on that island that you barely get to know any of the characters and the film's overarching message of female empowerment and yay, feminism gets muddled, especially after you leave the island and only see three female characters from then-on: WW, the secretary and Dr. Poison with that village woman as an honorable mention. Black Panther's women are smart, dedicated to a cause, loyal to their men, brave, and wholly capable on their own. Wonder Woman was more of a baby in the world, constantly having to be ushered from location to location and innocent to the wicked ways of men, yet had supposedly read tons of books. Black Panther is incapable of just about any action unless he is heavily assisted by the women in his life. Even when he is defeated in battle and presumed dead, it is the women who come back and help save him after he is found by the fifth tribe's ruler. This does far more for female empowerment than anything that came out of WW.

WW, however, has a clearer message and theme within the movie whereas Black Panther does not. The idea from WW is that women are strong and that men have created a world that lacks love—the ethereal power that can truly conquer all. Black Panther is a movie that is built around making a statement about race, about the identity of blacks within both the microcosm of America as well as the macrocosm of how we are seen throughout the world and how we view ourselves, and sprinkles in a little immigration politics. It is a movie that, by its very existence, should make a statement about what it means to be of African descent, yet it doesn't. At least it doesn't make any clearly defined statement about anything. And don't for a second take these neo-philosophers of Youtube talking about hidden messages and deeper meanings in the film. This film is really not that deep. It's not that deep. There is no fight between the Ego and the Id here, and if you think so, then you don't understand Ego and Id.

This is also partially indicative of all Marvel movies, including the ones made by Sony and FOX. They go more for popcorn fluff rather than trying to make a statement about anything. The one that has made a decided statement and kept to that theme, oddly, is Captain America. Captain America's theme is not doing the right thing or that America is the greatest country, but simply that friendship is something that should be, nay, must be cherished above all other things because friendship is love. So the progression between Bucky and Steve throughout all the films grows exponentially until we got what we did in Civil War, making for a potentially ultra-emotional end in Infinity War. No homosexual romance between them, yet Bucky and Steve only have each other in all of this craziness in the world. That has transcended Steve's patriotism as Bucky is/was a Russian operative, transcended his romance with other female agents, and even transcended his commitment to the Avengers.

Last year's Logan, which I only just saw, tried to have a theme to that movie as well, speaking about how everything must end and something new can come along, and touching on the debilitating feeling of losing a parent/friend due to disease, however, I thought that it failed in that pursuit unlike so many others that loved the film.

General Okoye
Black Panther, presented with a glut of potential messages and themes that it could tackle that would resonate with the audience as a whole, fails to really choose one or at least one that is poignant enough to be remembered. Again, while it has a strong line of black feminism through it, it never makes a definitive statement about said female empowerment. Does it say that blacks are stronger together? No. Does it say that we should take personal responsibility? Not really. It tries to make some mixed up notion that we as blacks or as a society should share and help other nations but to what degree? And haven't blacks already been doing that and don't get any of the credit nor riches due to them? No offense to any white readers, but there are still some of you sitting around right now not knowing anything about the myriad of inventions just in your house that have come from Blacks. And we're in black history month!!

Does it make a definitive statement on border security and immigration? It attempts to, but never explores the deep-rooted fear of why Wakanda's “tradition” of staying hidden should have remained intact. The assumption is that they fear the vibranium will get out and be used to negative effect, but that's never shown. We never hear nor see anything about a vibranium weapon or villain causing mass havoc. There's never an impetus for staying hidden unlike in the current US and UK's immigration debate that broaches both violence from immigrants and job loss. Moreover, their unwillingness to let the outside world in supposedly because it brings war is actually proven when Killmonger (Wakandan by birthright, but outsider nonetheless) comes in and starts a civil war within a few days of being there. They let one outsider in, and he nearly destroyed the country. That brings Nakia's whole idea that “we have enough resources to both help the outside world and keep ourselves safe” into question if your whole society can fall in a matter of a week due to one person.

It tries to pull a Star Wars: The Last Jedi and suggest that getting rid of the past ways is the best way to move forward, suggesting that blacks all around the world need no longer dwell on past transgressions like slavery, but even that is weak and far from a good point in this political climate. Honestly, the closest real statement I could come up with that the film made is that we as black folks and as people in general must be much wiser and more careful in how we choose and who we choose to lead us, which I guess can be partially seen as a warning about Trump. In any case, there was no other real message that I could assess from the movie, at least not a good one anyway.

Now, if we want to talk about a fairly bad message that I could produce from the film, then that would have to be the same one that American black men and children have been hearing for years. Take the main villain in Killmonger and strip him down to his bare bones and what do we get? We get an African-American who had a rough childhood (his father, who we can only assume was his only care giver because we never see a mother) is killed. He grows up in the mean streets of an inner city with all sorts of violence and because of this he becomes a homicidal killing machine that is well-trained and who only wants to do more killing in order to even the score with whites. Yet, he educated himself, tried to make something of himself with an MIT degree, joined the military and fought to get out of his proverbial “hood.” In other words, he grew up, rose through all the difficulties he could only to still not be worth a single damn as an adult black man who had nothing handed to him. In other words, you as a black American male, if you are born/raised by a single parent and/or grew up in the inner-city, no matter what you do in this life you will still be the subject of ire for others because you are, by nature, filled with hatred.

As if that message isn't enough, rather than trying to figure out some great way to bridge the gap between Africans and African-Americans, this exploits the trouble and strife that already exists between the two groups. Side note: If you as a white person or even as a black person have never known or seen this strife, then hang on for a quick history lesson. Do many blacks try to band together for civil and social justice? Yes. However, there has always existed some tension between emigrant Africans and African-Americans. For one, many Africans see AAs in the same light that some whites do: that we are lazy, ghetto and complain far too much about slavery having set us back. Regardless of whether they come from a poor or rich African country, to them America is seen as a land of golden opportunity, and they can't believe that AAs haven't made more of it. On the reverse many AAs believe (especially some older ones) and rightly so that a great many of the African tribes that were able to stay in the “motherland” were traitors to and traders of their African brothers. It's a well-known fact that in the African diaspora some tribes fought against the enslavement process while others sold weaker tribes out and even helped to hunt other blacks in order to sell them to the whites for the triangle trade. Hence, some AAs blame current-day African's ancestors for being the very reason why AAs ever got onto this continent in the first place.

Left to Right: Killmonger, W'Kabi

What does the movie do? Not only does it pit the “I grew up without a father, poor, bitter and angry, and thusly someone who you can easily deem a villain” Killmonger against the “when you look deeper into my character you will really see that I'm a rich, self-entitled prince turned King who grew up in a highly protected land and became an adult with the guidance of my two loving, ALIVE parents” Black Panther, the film also plays directly into the overall disdain between AAs and Africans. The very nature of Wakanda is isolationism, a “we are better than the rest of the world, including other blacks” mentality. We stood by and watched as other blacks were sold into slavery. And even though T'Challa finally calls out his dead father and the rest of his ancestors for such a decision, there's never a definitive statement to Killmonger that they were wrong; in fact, Wakanda's reveal of themselves to the rest of the world is treated more as an arrogant, showy shrug-off of all the atrocities that they had previously ignored. Black Panther smirks at the UN's question of what he has to offer. There was something so icky about it which leads right well into my next point: the characters.

Many people have praised Marvel and Michael B. Jordan for this rendition of Killmonger. Even harsh critics of the film are saying that they enjoyed his villainous portrayal because he was understandable and you could kind of see his point. And here is where they are actually half-wrong. As I said before, being likable does not a good villain make. But nor does understanding the villain's motivations. While the latter is very key in building a well-rounded villain, the most key ingredient of making a good villain is... (drum roll)... making a good protagonist. The problem with saying that Killmonger is a good villain is that it totally ignores the fact that Black Panther is a supremely weak hero. You can't have a villain without a hero and BP really is not it. In fact, you can fully cut him out of the film and just have the final battle be between Killmonger and BP's three women (Shuri, Nakia, Okoye) and lose absolutely nothing. And when I say cut him out, I mean cut him almost completely out. Literally the only scenes you need him for are the two waterfall challenges. That's it. Hell, he even disappears from the screen for a full 10 minutes of runtime. OK, question for those that have seen it: after watching the film what can you tell me about Black Panther that you couldn't tell me about him after seeing Captain America: Civil War? What are his motivations? Why does he do practically anything in this movie? Why does he change his mind about allowing Wakanda to be seen by the rest of the world? More importantly, who is he as a person? A king? A warrior? What's that one ideal that he lives by, that you can point to and say, “That's definitively Black Panther!” Hell, what even is his story arc in this film?

In each case of criticisms I have, I can only ever think of one or two answers at the most. The only new thing that I know about BP personally after sitting through this nearly two and a half hour film that was supposed to be about him is that he gets super nervous around his ex-girlfriend, but who doesn't, especially when she's as fine and smart as Lupita N'yongo? But outside of that, BP is the weakest character in the film. While everyone else is making a case for what they believe, you never hear what he himself believes and why, until the end when he regurgitates what all the women have told him he should do. You never quite get that he's a strong traditionalist which is why he wants to keep Wakanda hidden. You also never quite get that he's a new-age thinker, ready to implement his own new, revolutionary ideas and abandon the old ways of his father and ancestors. None of that character development is there. And while heroes are always more reactive, while the villain gets to be proactive, he is reactive even when not around his antagonist.

Shuri Shows Her Brother New BP Suits
If you think back through the film, literally every conversation he has, save for three, maybe four has the same structure: someone tells him how they feel about some subject, they tell him what they think he should do about it, he then tells them that he doesn't know/think that that is the best way to handle it. And then in the next scene the plan goes awry. That's the whole movie. “Bruh, you should kill Klaue on sight.” “Eh, I don't know.” (Klaue is rescued, then subsequently killed by Killmonger). “Bruh, you shouldn't fight this new dude/your cousin who just showed up.” “Eh, I don't know. He does have royal blood and it is in our laws.” (Killmonger tosses him off a waterfall and becomes king). Every time something came up he was indecisive or said that he would do the recommendation only if it came down to that, and it always went left.

The worst part about this Killmonger is a good villain/Black Panther was a weak hero thing is that in the end BP sorta ends up doing a similar plan to what Killmonger had in mind. Wakanda revealed itself as the technologically advanced society it has always been, but instead of allowing for other oppressed blacks to have the tech that would help them to rule, he's gonna share that same tech with everyone, including the white oppressors. So, in a sense his plan is actually worse than Killmonger's plan, and don't for a second think that all the weapons they have won't somehow get out of the Wakandan borders and that only the good tech (breakthroughs in medicine and math) will reach the outside world. He, essentially, is doing a reverse Tony Stark in giving more weapons to the world.

Granted, I understand the cage that Ryan Coogler and all MCU writers are put in because they have to make things fit into the overall vision that Feige and the other Marvel brass have for the universe, so Wakanda needed to be revealed in order to set up Infinity War, but did no one see this conflict in circumstance? I almost feel like Killmonger's real objective and accomplishment was not to become the king of Wakanda, but to Inception the hell out of T'Challa and make the new king think it was his idea all along to give the vibranium and other scientific discoveries and weapons to the rest of the world because then they'll destroy each other quicker and Wakanda will rise from the ashes. Hell, we even had T'Challa turning from his father's old ways and becoming “his own man” and his father sorta being cool with that. Killmonger: We should send out these weapons so that oppressors can be destroyed. T'Challa: Nah, bruh, we should share 'em with everybody, including oppressors. Killmonger: Ooohhh! I ain't think of it that way.” The breakdown in logic is breathtaking.

Every other character was either good or so-so. Shuri, as was evident from her first scene, stole the show, and I really love that young black girls have her as a fictional role model to look up to while she also gets to be cool and young. Would've liked to know how she was so smart, though: was she our equivalent of a doctor, had she studied for years (how old is she), was she born a genius, what's going on? I also loved Okoye. The wig scene was a bit much but every other scene was good. Wish I would've seen more with her and W'Kabi. They couldn't sneak in a little kiss? Missed opportunity or maybe it landed on the cutting room floor. I thought that Sterling K. Brown was good but wasted in his role as Killmonger's father. As someone who would've made a great villain or fellow superhero in this world or in the MCU at all, killing his character off so easily was a bummer. Frankly, the same goes for Klaue. They haphazardly used him in Age of Ultron which felt like it was building up a great battle between him and BP, then had Killmonger off him? Disappointing. I loved the fifth tribe's gorilla men and their leader, reminding me of the Q-Dogs or some other black fraternity. I wish that they gave Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett more to do than just stand around and look older and wiser than everybody. On top of that Angela just disappeared after the mountain scene. I know BP asked for her to stay there, but it didn't even feel like a proper send-off between her and the rest of them. Like, her whole family could've been dead in a matter of a few hours, but she doesn't get a tearful goodbye to her daughter, soon-to-be daughter-in-law or her son? Hm. Sad.

Oddly enough, I thought the worse one was Agent Ross. Look, I enjoy Martin Freeman and think that he is funny in the movies I've seen him in, yet they hardly give him any funny lines here and at the end, in the strangest twist of fate, they still have him play the white savior. Did no one else notice how it really didn't matter if those who agreed with BP and those who agreed with Killmonger all killed each other? The most important part were the ships getting out, which Ross stopped. In fact, that final battlefield scene was rather silly because neither side was really protecting anything. The ships had already flown away. At least in Wonder Woman when they got there Trevor had enough time to fly the bombs away from the area where it would harm people and Wonder Woman and the others had to make sure he had the protection to do that. And considering the scene further, what was the point of shooting down the ships when BP decided minutes later to reveal Wakanda to the world? The whole scene smacked of blacks around the globe squabbling with each other while whites came in to do the “real work.” 

Agent Ross Shooting In South Korean Fight Scene
Speaking of, there are lots of plot holes and inconsistencies that just don't make sense if you give them even a modicum of thinkery. Going back to that final scene where Ross is shooting down the planes, uh... why? Based on the film's parameters, it should be safely assumed that the majority of their technology can be operated remotely. We see this with the car and with the planes/jets/hovercraft thingys. If that is the case, then should I not also be able to assume that there are remote pilots of those flying crafts, too? Why not just find those people and stop them? And if there are real pilots up there, do they just not care about killing their own people in Wakanda? Like, I thought this was supposed to be sort of a paradise for blacks but apparently it's just a more technologically advanced American city. And if both of those first two statements are false and those things are just programmed to fly, then can't they override the programs? Or even better, don't they have those EMP balls that they can shoot at the planes like how they stopped the cars at the beginning? Look, I know that this is supposed to be one of, if not the richest nations on the planet and T'Challa is the richest character but you really just don't care about wasting resources at all? Damn! Well, OK.

While I can get behind the fact that I assume Shuri has some kind of contact with the outside world as she knows a lot about memes and even gives her brother the finger at one point, why am I having trouble figuring out why Black Panther needs that costume? Everyone in Wakanda knows who he is, and from what I surmised, Black Panthers rarely went outside of the real Wakanda to play superhero unless it involved their own spies, which seems like it would be a rare occurrence, so why the suit? Again, I get it as a battle suit from back in the day when the Black Panther first came into being, but now...? At least Batman had a legit reason for having the suit regardless of where he went: in Gotham he was Batman and in Metropolis he was Batman. Here, Black Panther is Black Panther to the rest of the world but if he wants to go out on a nighttime crime-fighting patrol in Wakanda won't they just say, “Hey, there's King T'Challa lurking around again.” It was a pet peeve that bothered me because I thought it was something more to it than that. I feel like even if there wasn't more in the comic, they should've tried to elevate the source material so that it makes the stories even better, but I don't feel they did that.

M'Baku Leader of the Northern Mountain Tribe
And then there's the purple flower drink. OK, so one must drink the “purple stuff” (usually kept in front of the Sunny D in the fridge) to not only become the BP but also be the king and walk with their ancestors on a different plane, and that the drink gives them the powers associated with BP which is equal parts magic and science. I get all of that. But where I start getting a little fuzzy is in the drink's effects. So, throughout the first half of the movie we see BP getting stabbed-up like a bagillion times. Not only that, but the wounds should be mortal wounds. That White Gorilla dude stabbed him literally an inch or two from where his heart should be, and Killmonger nearly disembodied him with that slash across his gut and a stab into his chest. So I'm guessing that this purple elixir gives one healing powers, too. No wonder Drake and other rappers are constantly talking about mixing the purple with the Sprite. But if this is the case, then how strong is this elixir and does it ever degrade? I ask because, for one, it would seem like T'Chaka, BP's father and the king that died in Captain America: Civil War would have still had that stuff flowing in his blood, no? Or do you have to give over the warrior duties to your offspring while you retain the governing duties as you age and become less able to jump around?

I can live with that explanation which would explain why he died so easily, but that wouldn't explain why Killmonger died so easily, or at all. When he and BP fight at the end, I'm not even sure that three days have passed since he drank the purple drink and had all the flowers burned. To me that means that it should be nearly as strong inside of him as it is in BP. So why then is it that Killmonger can be stabbed through at the end of the film and is presumed dead by the audience? (And the filmmakers want you to assume this). I get that the magnets messed with the suit and allowed for BP to stab Killmonger in the flesh, but they had all been stabbed in the flesh throughout the film. Why does this one stab in the gut kill Killmonger when he takes out the dagger? It makes little logical sense in the movie. The purple drink should be able to heal him fast enough to keep him alive. Or did I miss where the dagger was some special dagger or something? I don't know.

The pacing in this thing was atrocious. For starters, not only does it feel like a long movie, but you don't need a lot of the story, and I'm not even talking about all the world-building stuff that they did. Klaue is superfluous to this story as is Agent Ross. I feel like the only reason they appeared in this was so that they could say they had two white people in the film. Yes, Klaue's death is important to W'Kabi and Killmonger briefly, but the latter's entrance into Wakanda could've been accomplished multiple ways that had nothing to do with Klaue. Replace Klaue with Killmonger in that casino scene and you save at least 15 narrative minutes and may have a stronger film. Speaking of Killmonger, why was he so slow on his plan? We see Killmonger fairly early in the film then he's dropped for about 30 minutes of screen time before he re-emerges to rescue Klaue only to kill the dude. But it feels like a better narrative if he stole the vibranium himself and returned to Wakanda with a stockpile of it that he maybe stole from Klaue to prove how loyal he is to Wakanda. Then save Klaue for the main villain of a second film. I say this because Killmonger's plan, for someone MIT-taught, seems very on-the-fly. If he always planned on killing Klaue, then why not just do it when he first meets up with the man? Why wait? Why work with him to steal a tiny bit of vibranium? Why then make a big spectacle out of rescuing him? None of it makes sense within the confines of the movie-verse. One of the biggest movie sins is having smart people acting stupid for no reason. They can act stupid, just give them a smart reason for doing it.

OK, This Is A Bad Picture, But It's Killmonger Readying For Final Battle

Moving on, the CGI was good at some points and terrible at others. Basically, all the stuff that you see in the commercials is the good CGI because they had to focus on it looking good in order to lure you into seeing the film. Almost everything else (big CGI) looks rather bad. They have some fake rhinos which look as bad as the fake rhinos in Jumanji (both Jumanjis); the final physics-defying fight between BP and Killmonger both in a panther suit looked more like someone was actively photoshopping out the two characters and moving them across a black screen trying to figure out where to put them. It looked horrible. On the bright side, the costumes, set design, makeup, hair and cinematography were all pretty good. I really enjoyed the shot in which Killmonger is walking into the throne room as the new king and the camera is turning from upside down to rightside up, symbolizing that this whole situation is not how it's supposed to be.

Let's briefly touch on the music because I'm tired of saying this to Marvel and they clearly don't care. The music was dreadful. There is a difference between the soundtrack and the Original Soundtrack better known as the Score. The soundtrack curated by Kendrick Lamar is pretty good and a few of the songs (two at the most) fit really well into the film, but others do not. Again, I hate when black films put rap or hip hop in the film during fight scenes because they rarely have the same cadence as the fight which makes it less impactful, but they did it in a chase scene to so-so effect. Taking out the soundtrack songs and focusing on the score, it's rather bland. Each of these films generally have their own composer and I hear that Coogler got permission to work with his usual composer, and I'll even commend them for doing what they were supposed to by incorporating authentic African rhythms into the music, however this was not good.

First, all great composers from Bernard Herrmann of yesteryear to Hans Zimmer of late know that you incorporate bits and pieces of whatever culture the movie is steeped in into the music. For example, the whole Desi (deshi) Bashara chant in The Dark Knight Rises was in there to remind/reference the middle eastern vibes where Talia was supposed to have been in that hole with Bane (I know Bane was supposed to be from South America but that wasn't it). So while Black Panther gets credit for it, it was what they were supposed to do. However, they went the easiest route by incorporating nothing more than a few drums and maybe a horn. Africa has more instruments than just drums, and they are rarely ever shown or heard in film scores.

Shuri Looking Dope
If that wasn't enough, the score is super forgettable, overly repetitive and leaves not a single mark on the viewer-listener past the wastebaskets placed at the theater exits. And while you can't easily slot most of the songs into any other Marvel film (one of my gripes on other Marvel films), you can slot it into just about any other film made about non-modern Africa ranging from any era previous of the 1980s. You could probably slot this into the new Roots film or you could slot it into Lawrence Fishburne's Madiba mini-series about the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela and not have the audience blink an eye or bend and ear in either film. It doesn't really offend, save for maybe the fact that it is so nauseatingly redundant that it might stick in your head like a bad jingle or catchy song (remember “Who Let the Dogs Out?” Who?! Who?! Who?! Who?! Who?!). It's just not good. Thankfully there is some hope due to the first Infinity War trailer. It takes the old, rather bland Avengers theme that they've used since the first film and made it tougher, bulkier and far darker, which made that trailer feel all the more epic.

Notice The Color Scheme of Green, Black, Red, same colors of Pan-African Diaspora Flag

Again, this was a C+ movie at best, but I bumped it up that minor grade to a B- because the joy on all of those little black kids' face was so melaniny magical and pure that I softened my judgment of it by the tiniest of percent. It was a decent start to the character's own corner of the MCU and hopefully they can really do something phenomenal with the characters and Wakanda in the future.


Speaking of the future, what does this all mean for the MCU going forward? First let me get a few caveats and disclaimers out of the way and say that a few things I had to look up. They include: the chronology of all the films and TV shows combined all the way through Avengers 4 (that includes Ant-man and the Wasp, and Captain Marvel), the whereabouts of all the infinity stones, and who is and isn't under contract for more Avengers films as well as how their pay bumps up with each film. And I also had to look up a few story lines surrounding Thanos, and all that Marvel has been building up to, as well as what that could mean for the next stage of the MCU. And finally, I talked to some of my insider contacts that are working close to Marvel. So, with that said, I am going to drop some “theories” that I think could happen and may or may not blend in some stuff that I already know will (or could) happen.

So, let's start with the obvious and say that at least half of the fans believe that the upcoming Infinity War and Avengers 4 will, essentially be two halves of the same movie, meaning that little to no time passes between the end of the first and beginning of the second. That would mean that the two films released between those two films Captain Marvel and Ant-man and The Wasp would have to take place before Infinity War. Captain Marvel we already know will occur in the 90s (keep this in mind for later), so we then must look at Ant-man and the Wasp being somewhat out of place. With the movie referring back to the airport scene in Captain America: Civil War, many fans have said that this film takes place one week after CA:CW similar to Black Panther, which means that both of those films would take place somewhere in the calendar year of 2016 I believe. If Infinity War then takes place in 2018 that means that two years are missing from the earthly calendar in the MCU (more like a year and a half) if you believe that the airport scene occurred sometime in the late spring or summer of 2016 and Spider-man Homecoming takes place at the beginning of that fall. That means that the only film even close to our current year is Thor: Ragnarok which supposedly takes place sometime in 2017 or even early 2018 if you believe that Hulk has been gone for two years as Thor states.

Again, I'm giving you a rundown of people's consensus about the timeline because it plays heavily into my ultimate “theory” of what we could see in these next two Avengers films. Just know that there is still about a year and a half between the Infinity War film and both Black Panther and Ant-man and The Wasp within the MCU, meaning that they could still have sequels to both films and release them after Infinity War, but set them in that space of cinematic time, you get me? You'll understand why this is important in literally the opening line of the next paragraph.

We move on from the timeline to the potential deaths (yeah, you're having your own “oh!” moment right now and wishing that I'd just get on with it). Ever since Feige and the Russo brothers announced that there would most likely be a death of one or more of the superheroes, fandom has debated and theorized about who could meet their maker. I can tell you that it is definitely going to be more than just one person. So what I have done is approached it as a writer. In a story, when trying to build emotional resonance for a huge finale, if you haven't already killed off a bunch of people and you have a group of no less than 12 main characters, the magic number is four. Four characters is the baseline of how many you should kill off, otherwise don't even bother, and here's both the breakdown and why you do it this way.

The four characters that you want to kill off are: someone who is obvious, someone who is loved/hero, someone who is loved/hated villain and someone who is completely unexpected. You do this because it gives the fans every satisfying and “entertaining” feeling that they can have. The obvious one satisfies the mystery lovers who are obsessed with “getting it right” so they can turn to their friends and say, “See, I told you so.” The loved/hated villain is the person who you admire for his badness and dubious coolness, but he's been causing so much trouble that you are satisfied to see him die. And both the loved hero and the unexpected person are two that give both the film and the characters left alive within it the emotional weight the story deserves. Their death elevates the narrative to something classic and draws the audience into the silence of the moment. With that said, let's get the first two deaths out of the way.

The obvious death we will have to see (we basically half see it in the trailer) is that of Vision. In Infinity War Vision will most likely die for two reasons: he is the least used character in the films, and his very life is predicated upon one of the infinity stones. Vision was really only relevant and useful in the Ultron storyline, and while he can be used to fight Thanos and be somewhat of a robotic superman, his lack of overall appeal in the MCU has put him on a surefire DOA list. Plus, he can't keep flying around with the life(?) stone in his head. If we are to assume that Thanos will complete his quest to put all the stones into his gauntlet, then that stone has to come out of his head. Don't worry though, because while his body might die remember that he started as Tony Stark's personal computer-jeeves, so he could come back as a program if really needed.

The next death, the loved (hated) villain death is somewhat of a toss-up between Guardians' Nebula and Thor's Loki. I know, when I said villain in the list of four you all immediately assumed Loki which I do think it will be, but don't count out Nebula as having this honor. The thing here is that both Nebula and Loki have had dealings with Thanos and have essentially served as his minions. Nebula was given a task and kinda failed, and the same goes for Loki; in fact, not only did Loki fail to attain the Tesseract (one of the infinity stones) but also allowed for the mind stone (his staff thingy in Avengers) to also be taken by humans. Nebula and her appearance are the physical manifestation of how harshly Thanos takes failures. Every time she failed to defeat Gamora, he took another part of her body away and replaced it with electronics. Seeing as how they both failed him big time, it might be a good bet that he kills both of them.

Now, let it be known that Karen Gilliam (Nebula) so far as I know is still under contract for a few more Guardians movies, but that doesn't mean much because both Guardians films supposedly only take place a month or so apart from each other. That means that both the 2014 Vol. 1 and the 2017 Vol. 2 occur in 2014. So it may sound crazy, but we basically haven't seen the Guardians in 4 years cinematic time if Infinity War is assumed to take place in 2018. That gives them four years to fill in if Marvel wants to have Vol. 3 take place before Infinity War. Still, I think that Loki is the most likely choice here as Tom Hiddleston is trying to branch out and see if he can't flex his leading-man muscle. He already did that with a successful King Kong film that is building its own cinematic universe, so he might be good with leaving the MCU behind.

Now we're getting into the harder deaths to call. Speaking of that four year gap between the last Guardians film (the teen Groot credits scene is partly the indicator for knowing that a lot of time has passed between the very end of the movie and that scene) we might see a Guardian or two die. What I think is that Drax and Mantis, after having had years to grow together, will have had some romantic relationship, but that will have to be cut short once Drax finally gets a chance at his most reviled nemesis, Thanos. Drax has wanted to kill Thanos since the first Guardians film and won't let anything stand in the way of trying to do it. As a lovable hero, I think that surprisingly both he and Mantis will die while trying to fight Thanos, and probably quite early in Infinity War seeing as how Thor ended with him running into Thanos' spaceship. If they are able to rescue Thor after a brief battle with Thanos, I don't doubt that they'll have a second brief battle with Thanos in which Drax dies before Thanos takes off toward earth or Asgard, and the guardians and Thor play the chase game. That would be the unexpected death.

I'll get to the fourth and potentially final death in a second but first let me talk a little plot. At the end of Thor we were left with Thor, the Asgardians, some of those prisoners from the Grandmaster's planet, the Hulk, Valkyrie and Loki all on a ship toward earth we're assuming. They run into Thanos' ship in the end credits. So, with Cate Blanchett supposedly having played Hela and some of the comic book lore stating that Hela and Queen of Death are one, I'm going to make a guess that at some point Thanos discovers that she is dead and either will use one of the infinity stones to try to bring her back, or he will be partly motivated to kill everyone based off of revenge for her. I know that revenge sounds like the worst motive for the ultimate villain, but love is all a part of that. I think that we'll start off with Thanos invading the world, then jump around in time to show how he got there.

What I'm thinking is that Thanos will first land in... (drum roll)... NOT New York. It might sound completely crazy seeing as how NYC has been the backdrop for the Avengers for tons of battles that they've had, not to mention it serving as the home for many of our favorite heroes and was the setting for the final battle scene in the first Avengers, however I think that his first landfall on earth will actually be in either Washington, DC or New Orleans. Why? I believe that both of these places have a connection to the future MCU character Captain Marvel. Granted, I do not believe that that character will make an appearance in the first Infinity War film, but I do believe that Thanos wants to first go to the place where the government runs or where a Kree/Skrull invasion has taken place because he knows that those places will be some of the strongholds that will properly challenge him and help announce his arrival. I know that it shows Peter in a school bus looking back at that spinning space gear in what appears to be New York, but I think that comes later. In fact, I think that is one of the many portals he will have around the world.

Next, after battling with Thor and the Guardians some more, I think that he will make a concerted effort to try to start gathering all the stones, so he (and when I say he, I mean him and/or his minions) will go to Wakanda. After a brief scene showing where everyone was during the invasion getting around the world in record time, we'll catch up with Bucky, BP and non-Captain America and see what they are doing. Thor will have stayed with what's left of the Guardians to go and warn Stark and the other New Yorkers while War Machine and the Hulk will go to Wakanda because of something about the scientific breakthroughs that they have maybe being able to help control the beast. We'll get a scene between him and Black Widow and some talkie bits between all the team before action starts again.

The action will come because Thanos and his goons will believe that the last infinity stone, the soul stone, is there because of the meteor that crashed and all of that. This is when we get the battle we see in the trailer. However, after reeking havoc on this land, he'll learn that it's actually not there and that the thing that everyone thought was a soul stone is nothing more than something that was influenced by the soul stone at one point, like a radioactive signature left behind on the meteor by having once been in contact with the stone. In this fight, do not be surprised to see someone die.

Finally, Thanos will end up in NYC where the biggest battle will take place. After the Wakanda thing and multiple visions of destruction shown all over the world, Tony and Cap will finally realize that their feud is futile (War Machine will already have forgiven Cap which is why you see him in the trailer flying in behind Hulk), and they will try to band together to defeat the big guy. Spider-man will try to stop one of those transporter rings himself but will fail, and here is where I will put my fourth death.

Not one, but two beloved characters will die here. That's right, I “believe” that both non-Captain America and Tony Stark will die in this film. After they come together and defeat a couple of Thanos' minions, I have a strange feeling that either Pepper Potts or Lucky or someone close to Tony will be threatened with certain death and non-Cap will step in to save them. At this point, Dr. Strange will start a time loop where only he and Tony can see what's going on and in every iteration of the loop, no matter what they do, someone always has to die. The deaths that could be faked: Spider-man, Thor, Hawkeye, Hulk, Scarlet Witch and even Nick Fury. Somehow, using his own time stone Thanos will break the loop and, in a moment of self-sacrifice as shown to him by non-Cap, Tony will jump into the way and self-destruct his suit in order to provide the surviving team with a moment to escape.

Thanos will not chase them immediately because at that point he'll still be looking for the final stone and will consider their escape a triviality. He will want real competition because he will believe that his mistress Death, while she loves dying and destruction, holds a difficult death in the highest regard. So, and here's the kicker, he might actually leave Earth or at least go away for a reprieve while the team licks its wounds and tries to mourn the losses. Finally, while he is away the final infinity stone will show up in the form of...

Adam Warlock. OK, I had to look this up. Remember that post-credits scene in Guardians Vol. 2 with the golden people? The golden high priestess is sitting in her room and says some stuff about destroying the guardians, then turns to look at some kind of strange chamber? Well, if you aren't a comic reader you wouldn't have a clue what she meant when she called her “creation” Adam. Apparently, Adam Warlock is a character that is inextricably connected to Thanos in the comic book and appears as his most notable adversary outside of the Avengers and X-men. He supposedly helps defeat him in the Infinity Gauntlet/War saga. I believe that Infinity War will end on a shot of his arrival to earth, which will serve as both a perfect cliff hanger and the definitive end to a standalone film. Essentially, he will be like a Nick Fury character coming at the end of Iron Man, saying, “Need any help?”

I also believe that his very existence is either charged or fueled or somehow influenced by the soul stone, meaning that Thanos will have to come back to the earth (though I think there will be another battle on a different planet before returning to earth) to get the stone, which will happen in Avengers 4. Oh, and I believe that Avengers 4 (which previously had the title of Infinity War Part 2 and was stated as having a plot-revealing title that would spoil Infinity War) will be named Avengers Re-birth, Avengers Resurrection or Avengers Paradox, or some play off of those names, symbolizing that not only will one of the characters potentially be brought back to life, but that the entire Avengers team will be “re-born” into a completely new identity with new members and a new strength behind them. Granted, it could also be called Marvel Re-Assembled too, but it doesn't have as much panache to me, though it has a more poetic meaning behind it.

You ready for the crazy part? The crazy part is that I have another theory. I'll try to keep this short. In my second theory, I believe that just about everyone does, in fact, die, with the exception of Spider-man (just because he's owned by Sony) and Black Panther (he might have already been filmed as dead but after the box office of this film and the overwhelmingly good fan reaction, Disney might shy away from killing him even if they will just bring him back later). Remember how I said hold on to that nugget that Captain Marvel takes place in the 90s? Well, you mix that with the idea from Dr. Strange that time can be manipulated with magic and the fact that one of the infinity stones is a time gem and you have a very intriguing set of circumstances. Somehow, they will have to get Brie Larson's Captain Marvel character either to the current timeline 20 years after her movie is supposed to occur, or bring that timeline to her. From what we've seen of Avengers 4 footage, many of the characters I said would die are still happily walking around set. That could be in a flashback or it could be in some kind of time manipulation that Dr. Strange has conjured long before the NYC battle.

What I would theorize is that Thanos arrives on earth with the Guardians and Thor in tow. Loki is still alive only because he says that he knows where another stone might be (I think Dr. Strange had one of them) and that he will take Thanos to said stone. They start a small fight in NYC and Thor, the Guardians and the Hulk are quickly defeated. Hulk falls through Strange's magical book shop or whatever it is and tells Strange of the impending doom that is coming. So, in his wisdom, Strange sets a time marker right then and there before just about anybody dies, creating the start of a potential loop that then spans the rest of the movie. We still have the other battles as I explained before but when we get to the end and Strange has seen all the deaths and carnage, he decides to rewind the loop, undo the deaths and start over at the Hulk falling through his place. But he doesn't stop there. Somehow, in the final fight, before doing the rewind, he gets the time stone from Thanos' gauntlet and uses it to boost his power in order to go farther back in time (this is now going into Avengers 4), and tells the original team of their impending doom and the world's destruction. Even though they train for his arrival, they are still defeated by Thanos, which makes him go back in time yet again to Captain Marvel (his arrival in the 90s would be an after-credits spoiler in her film) to ask for her help because she was supposed to have helped defeat a previous alien invasion. She begrudgingly goes with him, not knowing if she can fully trust him, and finally appears in Avengers 4.

Still, some of the same people die or retire from their superheroism, and she comes to take up the mantle as the group's new leader because Black Panther, while he would do it, is still busy being a king and must figure out a way to rebuild his kingdom of Wakanda which now truly does sit in ruin after Thanos' attack. Also, Adam Warlock arrives somewhere in the Avengers 4 (and not at the end of Infinity War) and helps to defeat Thanos. Crazy, right?

Well, that was a super lot and I guess I sorta hedged my bets by giving two theories, but what if both of them prove to be a little right? Captain Marvel has to find a way to get to this time somehow, right? And I don't know her powers but freezing her like Captain America doesn't seem like it will work. They could shrink her into the subatomic zone where time becomes irrelevant, which is why Ant-man and the Wasp is released after Infinity war, but I don't know. Anyway, it will be a fun year and a half to wonder how this will all end, and begin again.

What do you think? Have you seen Black Panther? Did you enjoy it? What was your favorite part? Favorite character? Did you think Killmonger had a point and was right, or did you disagree with him? And what do you think will happen in the rest of the MCU? Who do you think will live and die in the next two Avengers films? Let me know in the comments below.

Check out my 5-star comedy novel, Yep, I'm Totally Stalking My Ex-Boyfriend. #AhStalking If you’re looking for a scare, check the YA novel #AFuriousWind, the NA novel #DARKER#BrandNewHome or the bizarre horror #ThePowerOfTen. For those interested in something a little more dramatic and adult, check out #TheWriter. Seasons 1, 2 and 3 are out NOW, exclusively on Amazon. Stay connected here for updates on season 4 coming summer 2018. If you like fast action/crime check out #ADangerousLow. The sequel A New Low will be out in a few months. Look for the mysterious Sci-fi episodic novella series Extraordinary on Amazon. Season 2 of that coming real soon. And look for the mystery novels The Knowledge of Fear #KnowFear and The Man on the Roof #TMOTR coming this fall/winter. Twisty novels as good as Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train, you won’t want to miss them. Join us on Goodreads to talk about books and TV, and subscribe to and follow my blog with that Google+ button to the right.

Until next time, “What's your name?”
'Kunta Kinte' (whip!)
“What's your name?”
'Kunta!' (whip!)
“What's your name, boy?”
'Black Panther! It's Black Panther.'
“Good. Now give us the vibranium before we chop off your foot.”

P.S. Aww, I know it's a terrible joke to make fun of two black films that mean so much to the community. I still vividly remember the first time I saw Roots and how powerful it was. So I started to do research from that day about Africa, and you know what happened? About 15 years ago I decided to outline a film trilogy I called “Africa.” The worst thing about life and especially this entertainment industry is that timing is crucial. So many motifs and things from my “Africa” trilogy would've been groundbreaking before this movie. Now, if I ever do release it, I will undoubtedly be called a copycat of this film or people will say that I was “inspired” by this film. No. Just no. This film is important for the time, but we have to wait for ten years after this to see if Black Panther truly had a profound effect on the film industry and western culture as a whole. Anyway, I'll try to think of a better sign-off next time.
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