ON BLACK PANTHER AND THE WEALTH OF NATIONS

 

(studio press)

By: Tim cogshell

The narrative of Black Panther, its general entertainment values – which are significant – and its representations of Black folks in the contemporary zeitgeist all matter deeply and have generated for the film and its makers extraordinary reviews and acclaim.  I’ve written about the movie here:  http://cinegods.com/film-review-black-panther/. 

But it’s MONEY that I’m thinking about at the moment. 

A most significant moment in the history of Hollywood filmmaking.

There are practical matters of finance associated with the success of the Black Panther film, the first in the Marvel Universe to generate real wealth (as Chris Rock would call it) that will accrue to a good many Black people for decades to come. As of this writing Black Panther is officially the highest grossing February release ever and it achieved the fifth best opening weekend all time.

Indeed Black Panther has already made a lot of Black folks rich, but will be making them wealthy over time – which is even better.

Wealth – meaning millions of dollars that have already flowed to many Black folks via the film’s substantial budget (200 million) and the healthy salaries already paid to a cast of notable professionals; director, writers, producers, stars and many exceptional designers and craftspeople. Several having academy award nominations already in their credits – none of them cheap. I dare say more money has been paid to Black actors, directors, writers and producers on Black Panther than on any other film in the history of Hollywood.

I just pulled that out of my ass – yet somehow I’m pretty sure it’s true.

For the first time a Hollywood enterprise will make Black men and women rich – and perhaps powerful – in the same ways that big-budget action laden superhero flicks have made so many White male stars and directors and writers very rich – independently wealthy – such that they never had to work for anyone or do anything that they didn’t want to do – ever again.

This will be true for a number of people associated with Black Panther and more than ever before will be Black people. Consider this – how many Brown or Black folks became rich off of the many films and billions of Pounds Sterling, and dollars, generated by the Harry Potter series of films?

If your answer is none, you just pulled that out of your ass – but you’re probably right.

Black Panther, and all the associated income that will flow from its sequels and merchandising for many Christmas’ and Halloweens to come; from action figures to likeness of the characters (ergo the stars), on all manner of properly licensed items will make Ryan Coogler, Chadwick Boseman, Lupita NyOng’o, Michael B. Jordan and Danai Gurira as rich as Jon Favreau,  Robert Downey, Jr., the Chris who played Captain America and the other Chris who played Captain Kirk. Not to mention as rich as Ryan Reynolds, who got to play The Green Lantern and Deadpool before he got a superhero right – and got crazy-paid both times.

And don’t get me started how many White guys Batman has made rich. Prince is the only brotha every to get a nickel out of that franchise. 

The filmmakers of Black Panther will be rich and eventually wealthy – and – powerful filmmakers.

Ryan Coogler, who, with Fruitvale Station, Creed and Black Panther, has written and directed three critically acclaimed hits each more successful than the last, should own this town. He should get card blanche’ to do – frankly – whatever the fuck he wants to do.

Like Christopher Nolan and Paul Thomas Anderson received the power to do whatever they want to do when they had three major hits in a row. Thus pop-star Harry Styles is in Dunkirk and that  nutty ending is in The Phantom Thread – because Nolan and PTA can do whatever the fuck the want to do. Card blanche’. Which is what Coogler should have – now.

So…  for the first time a good deal, if not most, of the wealth and power-capital generated from a big budget, studio produced and marketed, major motion picture will accrue to a bunch of Black people and that’s a seminal moment in Hollywood.

This wealth and stature will be felt and leveraged well beyond the more visible “creators” of Black Panther; the writers and director and glamorous stars. The film’s Production Designers and Wardrobe Designers and Composer, all Black, all earning “A” list incomes for their work on the movie, will earn substantial residual incomes for that work for decades to come.  And their rates just went up. They will be among the best paid in their respective fields because of their work on this movie. And that matters.

As an aside, Black Panther’s cinematographer is Rachel Morrison, a female person who happens not to be African American.  By happenstance, this year she is also the first woman to be nominated for an Oscar in her field for her work on Mudbound. Henceforth Ms. Morrison will be making Roger Deakins money. If she wins the Oscar she’ll make more than Roger – cuz – at the writing of the piece Mr. Deakins has yet to win an Academy Award. Though he is nominated this year as well for his work on Dunkirk and something else I can’t remember at the moment. No matter I hope the “girl” wins. Roger will be fine, he’s been making millions of dollars per-film he’s DP’d for 40 years without the statute. For Racheal it will translate into money and work that may make her as rich as Roger Deakins someday – and she’ll have an Academy Award.

In the future the CG effects in Black Panther will probably look laughably bad, as all CG effects are doomed to – eventually. Still the money spent to generate all the special effects, and everything else that went into making the first Marvel Superhero film to feature a Black lead – and a predominantly Black cast – will be providing significant income – wealth – to a lot of Black folks and women for decades.  Thus making the arrival of the Black Panther seminal in the history of a Hollywood in a number of ways above and below the title. This transfer of wealth from Hollywood coiffures to the bank accounts of Black folks and a lot of women – many of them Black women – is as notable an event associated with the movie industry as any in its history.

I’d put it up there with the additions of sound and color. No pun intended.

*** Black Panther generated $25 million in pre-sells and $300 million plus world wide over its opening holiday weekend becoming the highest grossing February release ever and the fifth best opening weekend all time.

FilmWeek: ‘Black Panther,’ ‘Early Man,’ ‘The Party’ and a discussion on the 2018 foreign film Oscar nom’s

 FILMWEEK FOR FEBRUARY 16, 2018

LISTEN HERE: FilmWeek: ‘Black Panther,’ ‘Early Man,’ ‘The Party’ and a discussion on the 2018 foreign film Oscar nom’s

 

(L-R) Actors Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, and Chadwick Boseman arrive at the red carpet of the Seoul premiere of 'Black Panther' on February 5, 2018 in Seoul, South Korea.
(L-R) Actors Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, and Chadwick Boseman arrive at the red carpet of the Seoul premiere of ‘Black Panther’ on February 5, 2018 in Seoul, South Korea. 

HAN MYUNG-GU/GETTY IMAGES FOR DISNEY

Larry Mantle and KPCC film critics Christy Lemire, Charles Solomon, and Tim Cogshell review this weekend’s new movie releases.

CRITICS’ HITS

Christy, Charles & Tim: “Black Panther”

MIXED FEELINGS

Christy: “Looking Glass”

Tim & Charles: “Monkey King 3”

MISSES

Christy: “Poop Talk”

GUESTS:

Tim Cogshell, film critic for KPCC, Alt-Film Guide and CineGods.com; he tweets @CinemaInMind

Charles Solomon, film critic for KPCC, Animation Scoop and Animation Magazine

Christy Lemire, film critic for KPCC, RogerEbert.com and co-host of YouTube’s “What the Flick?”;she tweets @christylemire


Review Black Panther

By: Tim Cogshell

Black Panther, the first studio produced, major motion picture to feature a Black superhero and a predominantly Black cast is a very good movie, exceptional beyond its big-budget entertainment value in a number of ways. The film is full of all the standard big-budget entertainments.  Computer-generated bells-and-whistles are all over the place, from vistas of the fictional African land of Wakanda to the sleek, midnight-black tech-enhanced superhero suit of the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), there is plenty of Wow, Smash and Bang!  Yes, Black Panther is as well-produced a Marvel movie crap-fest as any, but none of that CG-poo is why this is a very good, indeed often exceptional superhero flick.  

High praise from a critic – me –  who has been experiencing a diminishing return of enjoyment-to-time-spent-in-the-theatre ratio as related to most recent superhero fare. I was disappointed (to say the least) by Man of Steel, Superman V. Batman and Justice League.  Deadpool was a hit but I thought it was a crude, loutish bore of a movie, while Suicide Squad made me want to kill myself, if not the filmmakers of that pile.  As for those Thor movies, which many enjoy, and did have a certain “Shakespeare for Dummies” quality, they’ve become tiresome.  Wonder Woman, Logan and the first Guardians of the Galaxy movies were all good. Those movies, like Black Panther, issue a certain humor and charm along with a measure of gravitas with their requisite CG crap.

In any case, Black Panther does not disappoint even a fair weather fanboy such as myself. Its greatest achievement is its ability to be a movie in deep contemplation of tribulations of Black people while not being a movie against or even about White people. It even manages to render one white guy (only one) a heroic, if comic, figure. Martin Freeman reprising his role from Captain America: Civil War as CIA operative Ross, is a comic-hero repping White folks in much that same way that Black sidekicks and foils have provided comic relief for the White heroes of all other superhero films.  It’s Anthony Mackie’s job in the Avengers series. He’s a good sport and Martin is too.

Written by Ryan Coogler (who also directs) and Joe Robert Cole (television’s “American Crime Story”), Black Panther is a film with wide appeal and deliberate intentions. It’s moored in contemporary issues wrapped in imaginary circumstances. Some of those issues  were relevant even when the hero was conceived by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby back in 1966 about the time of the creation of Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, which was founded later the same year by Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton in Oakland, California.

Oakland, CA circa 1997 is where and when the movie opens.  Aside from being the birthplace of the Black Panther Party it’s also the city from which Coogler hails; and a city that has suffered more than its share of poverty, crime and other depredations over the years.  In 1997 Oakland was the polar opposite of the mystical nation of Wakanda, a hi-tech land-of-plenty with an abundant Black population and the fictional element vibranium, source of the nation’s advanced technology and wealth. A source of power, actually, that Wakanda has chosen not to share with the world. Not to share with other Black people – children of Africa one might say – oppressed and left behind because of the choices of the many kings of Wakanda.

In this narrative the miseries of the descendants of Africa, miseries that continue to this day, are principally because the Kings of Wakanda will not share with their kin the means to better themselves and rise. Perhaps even rule. In this scenario “Whitey” is mostly irrelevant. Which is refreshing. Although, one of the principal bad guys in Black Panther, Klaue (Andy Serkis), is a white guy.  Klaue is a carry over from Avengers: Age of Ultron (also a whiny bore of a movie), and Andy Serkis plays him like a raving loon. Klaue is a crazy, murderous mercenary, but he’s not particularly racist. Which is also refreshing.

Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal of T’Challa, the Black Panther, is stately, suave and heroic. His accent, ever so slightly Kenyan, yet not Kenyan, is measured to register but never overwhelm a subtle, clean performance. He’s never loud. He is never angry. He is guilty over being unable to save his father (killed in a previous film), but not vengeful. He is, perhaps, a bit naive about what it means to be king, and he is struggling with the disturbing legacy of his forefathers.

Mostly, he’s worried about his people.

The theft of enough vibranium to wreak havoc in the world ostensibly drives the action of Black Panther. T’Challa and his royal entourage must prevent the ore and the location of Wakanda from becoming known to the world. To this end the film is ordinary in its superhero movie pursuits. There are a half-dozen big set piece battle sequences wherein all the laws of physics are broken in service of cool… stuff. T’Challa’s praetorian guard, Danai Gurira (“The Walking Dead”) as General  Okoye and  Lupita Nyong’o (12 Twelve Years a Slave), as Nakia, an accomplished spy and warrior, lead most of the battles and do a lot of the cool stuff.  These are some serious ass-kicking women who find themselves saving their king’s ass on more than a few occasions. This is a correct representation of the relationship of most Black women to most Black men in my personal experience as a Black man. That said, the Panther’s mom is played by Angela Bassett with an overly meek demeanor for a Queen Mother. She looks like Toni Morrison with thick white braids, but she has no agency. She’s the only gal in the movie that don’t break something (or somebody) on purpose. I didn’t care for that.

As noted, beyond the ordinary pursuits of a Marvel comic book adaptation Black Panther has its present-day concerns. It’s concerned with the lives of boys raised without fathers and what that manifests. It’s concerned with our personal responsibility to set ourselves free from the circumstances that oppress us (whatever our race or creed or gender), and it questions what we should be prepared to do to affect our own circumstances. The slave-turned-preacher-turned-freedom fighter-turned-martyr, Nat Turner, posed these questions. Black Panther is concerned with our responsibility to our sisters and brothers when they are being subjugated – when – we have the wherewithal to free them. The firebrand abolitionist preacher and American terrorist, John Brown, felt that responsibility, too. To that end we have the extraordinary film-stealing performance of Michael B. Jordan (previous Coogler-written-and-directed films Fruitvale Station and Creed) as Erik Killmonger. One imagines the character’s name gives away his nature. Yet it does not speak to the rationale of his raison d’etre; a righteous indignation of Nat Turner and John Brown proportions, that, as with those heroic figures, is not exactly wrong.

Killmonger is pissed and he’s got good reason to be pissed. We empathize with him even when we cannot condone his actions. Michael B. Jordan gives a performance in this movie akin to Heath Ledger’s Joker in Batman Begins. He’s that good. He’s gorgeous. He’s darkly funny and he’s hellbent on vengeance. Hellbent. And sometimes we root for him. At least I did. Sometimes. Michael B. is acting his ass off in this deeply-layered, highly-motivated role. He embodies every young Black man (perhaps every person) who has ever been filled with an abiding hatred of a system that wrongly stole their life away – and all those who stood by while it happened – and did nothing. Especially the Kings.

Next year this time – awards season – I’m going to remember this performance. I am, and you will too.