Happy Friday Film Fans! At the movies this week, we see Roger Ebert’s Film Festival-Ebertfest 2018 is going on this weekend in Chicago. Some of the featured films this week on the Ebert site include The Rider, praised as …” the best American movie this critic has seen in the past year”, which is high praise indeed for critic Godfrey Cheshire. Also a documentary of Elvis: The Searcher, is featured, which garnered good reviews also
Amy Schumer is out with a comedy called I Feel Pretty and the controversy from the start has to do with the idea of “body-shaming’ to generate laughs. We are indeed in a Brave New World, as I could take my millennial readers on a trip down memory lane where the norm was what is now called “Body-shaming.” We are living in a different world, but funny is funny, and according to most critics, the body shaming critique is not the movie’s biggest problem. *(Hint: Most comedies should be funny!)
There is a Time Media Company list of 100 Most Influential people that includes many current stars like Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman); Hugh Jackman (The Greatest Showman); Greta Gerwig (director of Lady Bird); Director of Oscar winner: The Shape of Water’sGuillermo del Toro; John Krasinski, star of the horror hit A Quiet Place, and ChadwickBoseman of Black Panther fame. All their tributes are featured in 6 Degrees magazinethis week. They’re worth a read.
Last week we listed some of the more interesting upcoming films coming soon; Some will be featured at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival next weekend. There’s also a piece in 6 Degrees magazineabout films that turn 20 this year. It does speak to the idea that there are some films that age well, and some that are forgettable and will fade from memory. It’s a fun parlor game-to think of films you have seen in the past decade, or since 2000, that really stand out in memory….I’ve written about some of these memorable films in the past, but write a comment to let me know if there’s some that stand out for you…
I have a piece that I published this week about some of the spiritual elements from the Oscar winning The Shape of Water. Some other films at the movies recommended are Wes Anderson’s quirky The Isle of Dogs, and we hear Blockers is a good light comedy. For the Armchair Film Fans, TCM is screening W.C Fields’ The Bank Dick and SteveMcQueen’sThe Thomas Crown Affair this weekend. Both are recommended viewing. Till next time, see you at the movies!-ML
Greetings movie buffs! We have an interesting line up of both old and new films in April In the list of films that turned fifty this year we find one of the most famous sci-fi movies of all time, pre-Star Wars, and it is Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Also turning fifty is the campy original classic The Planet of the Apes with Charlton Heston. There’s some good articles on both of these films in 6 Degrees magazinethis week.
At Cannes: The Penelope Cruz/Javier Bardem thriller: Everybody Knows will open Cannes film festival, And we are excited to hear that Ron Howard’s film, Solo: A StarWars story, is going to premiere at Cannes..,stay tuned
The Superhero Watch: Wonder Woman was named the most ‘profitable’ superhero movie of 2017. That is news, because the film that has jumped to the top ten list of highest grossing films is Black Panther. This film has been phenomenally successful, and ‘has legs’ as they say in the buz. I update the highest grossing films list periodically, as it gives us a good window into what the public wants in terms of films, and in some ways, it shows us where we have been and where we are going in terms of culture:
As of 2018:
• Black Panther is Number Ten– Telling us Black Lives DO Matter (but it’s better in Wakanda!)
• Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017- the latest film) is Number Nine
• Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -Part II (2011- the last one) is Number Eight
• Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) is Number Seven – hence…the latest entry is out soon!
• (Fast and) Furious 7 (2015) is Number Six
• Marvel’s The Avengers (2012) is Number Five…We GET it!
• Jurassic World (2015) is Number Four…The new one is also out this summer-see list
• Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) is Number Three-much better than Number 9, by the way! • Number Two: Hanging on for dear life…is TITANIC from 1997-which is ancient for this list!
• Number One: Avatar from 2009, both Numbers 1 & 2 directed by James Cameron, both feature love stories, so perhaps with TheShape of Water winning Best Picture, we realize love may come in different forms, but romance is not dead at the movies!
At the movies; Ready Player One, Spielberg’s offering based on the Video game, has garnered mixed reviews. The film depiction of Ted Kennedy’s tragic scandal Chappaquiddick is also in theatres now. Also set for re-release in theatres in July: The Beatles’Yellow Submarine which I predict will do well in this era and climate of protests as well as the MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements.
There’s a good review of the new Joaquin Phoenix thriller: You Were Never Really Here from Rolling Stone featured in 6 Degrees magazine this week. Isle of Dogs, from director Wes Anderson has also received good reviews. The film starring John Krasinski,A Quiet Place has just opened to good reviews. The novelty in this one is the spider creatures who are attracted to sound, which means much of the movie is viewed in silence, which makes for an interesting premise…
Coming Soon: We will be out with the Summer Movie News in May, but to preview, some of the openers this summer include:
• Avengers: Infinity Waropening on April 27th
• Life of the Party: May 11- a comedy with Melissa McCarthy
• Solo: A Star Wars Storyopens May 25th, and as stated above, directed by Ron Howard
• Ocean’s 8- June 8th, is the female version of the franchise
• Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdomopens June 22nd
• Sicario: Day of Soldado opens June 29th
• Mamma Mia! Here we go again is on July 20th…here we go again…
• Mission: Impossible-Fallouton July 27th
• Christopher Robin opens August 3th- and is a live action version of the well-known children’s story • The Spy Who Dumped Me on August 3rd stars Mila Kunis in an ‘international espionage comedy’
• The Meg on August 10th stars Jason Statham in an action version of “Jaws” with a megalodon monster that measures 70 feet
• Slender Man is a horror flick debuting August 24th
So…lots of variety and a return to good solid storytelling and creative and inventive plots. Of course I’m kidding, this list is a short list with mostly sequels and standard Hollywood fare. Every now and then, there’s a standout like a Juno, or Her, or once in a blue moon you’ll see something wonderful like 2001: A Space Odyssey. Even Planet of theApes, in its original format, was cheesy but interesting enough to spawn a generation of sequels.
As for me, I want to see how Ron Howard handles the Star Wars mythology. And from this list, I have to admit there’s not a whole lot that looks exciting or different to choose from. However, there’s a part of me that loves to see something deliciously bad from time to time....Gidget Goes Hawaiian always makes the cut for me in terms of really bad movies we love to watch against our better judgement. I’m sure everyone has some films on that short list…
Gidget is playing this weekend on TCM, so we can indulge in the short term, and celebrate some of the classic masterpieces that don’t come around often, like 2001: A Space Odyssey, as it celebrates its fiftieth anniversary. Check out 6 Degrees to read up on this classic film. Have fun and till next week, see you at the movies! ML
On this Easter weekend, here is a previously compiled list I made of ten films suggested to watch with the spiritual aspects of the filmmakers in mind. Some are surprising (Harry Potter & Star Wars), and others come from traditional religious subjects and themes. But they all hammer home the message that the spiritual nature of our lives is found not only in churches and in religious settings, but in all aspects of our existence, and in all corners of the universe-even in galaxies “Far, Far Away”….! Happy Easter from Six Degrees!
For some, modern films have less meaning and less deeply spiritual content than films of old. Although there are many recent films that do convey deeply meaningful messages, the great films of the past have the benefit of time to preserve their spiritual themes. But too often, these classics are seen as just old movies with little to say to milennials and they don’t connect with our lives today. As with great classic books, these messages are timeless and not to be over-looked, and the spiritual content of the films endures. Here is a list of ten films-some of them familiar to us, some that are shown on television frequently, some fairly recent, but all with some spiritual message that still speaks to us.
The 3 Godfather’s from 1948 – This John Wayne film is one of the most spiritual films he made. John Wayne stars as one of three outlaws who are transformed through the act of love. They become Godfathers by accident, as they are charged with watching over an innocent baby whose dying mother pleads with the men to protect and care for her infant. The three men, against all odds, facing sure death and agonizing hardships as they cross a desert and battle outlaws, are changed by their unselfish love for the child.
The Wizard of Oz from 1939 – This film is not at first seen as spiritual, but it remains notable for many of us from the moment the audience sees a transformed landscape as the door opens from a black & white cinematic shot of Kansas into a new color-filled world of Oz. The transformation is a kind of metaphor for the realization of a spiritual awakening as found in Christianity and in other religions. It’s a spiritual awakening we all take part in as our eyes are opened to a new life filled with the spirit and mindfulness of being. The message is carried throughout that what lies within each of us is the only true way to our salvation…and to discover it, we need to step outside of ourselves and look within, and be grateful for the lives we have been given
The Sound of Music from 1965: We need to take note that this film was directed by Robert Wise, who was a noted Film Noir director from the forties and fifties. The back shots of the scenes in the abbey give a spiritual aspect to this film that has often been dismissed as light and fluffy family entertainment. As the Mother Superior sings one of the memorable songs, “Climb every Mountain”, it serves as a metaphor for the film.
We all must endure the mountains of want and hardship, of suffering and loneliness, and we must scale them to achieve our dream. For Christians, and for other religions, it is an act of faith in life itself, and the promise of eternal Salvation. The Baroness is depicted as so materially grounded, and such an obvious contrast to Maria, who literally has to give up everything to climb a mountain in the end, that many may look at this portion of the film as a typical ‘cat fight’ between two women and just dismiss the purpose. However, when the film is seen in its entirety, the cinematic grandeur of the backdrop, combined with the emotional impact behind the messaging which was based on true events-a family fleeing the Nazis-we see the film as a message meant for a generational message that carries deep emotional impact.. We can look back at the spiritual moments of this film and reflect that it does leave us uplifted and feeling there is a deeper meaning here.
LadyHawke from 1985: Matthew Broderick and his talks with God set this film apart. Broderick is introduced as a thief, and we see him as the Everyman and a flawed hero. Although the film was marketed as a love story between two doomed characters, Broderick’s thief is the one we can most identify with in this story. The spiritual nature is shown when we see there are two parts to every man, portrayed as the wolf and the hawk in the characters of Michelle Pfeiffer as the “LadyHawke” and her wolf-lover, played by Rutger Hauer. The two combine to illustrate that we are both the sinner and the redeeming healers, and the two parts are found in each of us.
The Harry Potter series from 2001 through 2011: Good vs Evil are often very obvious symbols in the battle between Harry Potter and the evil Voldemort. But the theme running through the story of Harry Potter-of nothing is as it seems-found in all of the books and films, is a deeply spiritual message. The message throughout is to be careful of things that seem too good to be true. And the films tell us that we must look beneath the surface to find the true treasure within. The treasure in Harry Potter ends up being the friendships forged and the magic of Love, and the final message that Love triumphs over Evil.
Groundhog Day from 1993:The theme is that the ultimate power of Redemption can change everything; it brings true love and meaning to our otherwise empty lives. We see this in the character of a broken and shallow man, portrayed in one of the best roles Bill Murray has ever brought to the screen, and the life that he must forge as he begins to awaken to this new way of living. He has lived as an invisible man, choosing a non- existence and he is forced to confront his life and transform it into a richer and more fulfilling path. It is a path where he must help others and find the meaning of true love. This is the ultimate Redemption film, and one with deep Spiritual overtones.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back from 1980: Not only is the StarWars mythology of all the films deeply embedded with the symbolism of Good vs Evil; but this particular film highlights the redeeming power that comes from within; when we reject our own dark side even at a great cost.
The message is that we will prevail and come out a better person, and perhaps a different one than we were-in Luke Skywalker’s case, he even has a new limb! The Dark Side is within us all; the power of evil and darkness is all around us, a powerful force throughout the universe, but love will prevail, even with great hardships that we endure
Risen from 2016: with Joseph Fiennes starring as the Roman Soldier. Risen is more than just a “puff-piece” regarding the nature of the Resurrection. This film explores the idea that someone can witness a miracle such as the resurrected body of Jesus, returned in the flesh; and have a transformative experience of faith, and use that power to reject the glory and the material wealth of their lives to follow the true way.
The Nativity Story from 2006: This is the story of the birth of Christ shown warts and all, meaning it reveals the historic timeline that puts us into the scene of where Christ was born and the harsh reality of life for those under Roman rule. The beauty of the story is captured and the simple purity of the tale of the Holy Family comes through in this version.
Marvin’s Room from 1996: We see three great actors, Diane Keaton, Leonardo Di Caprio and Meryl Streep, combine to tell the story of our own lives. It shows us the selfish nature of our existence in the character of Meryl Streep; the capricious and angry emotions that we carry in DiCaprio’s role as a young and troubled teen son, and the burdens and the joys of love in its purest form found in Diane Keaton’s part of the caregiver who is faced with her own mortality.
We are witness to all of this with the themes of love and redemption. There is love for others, in the caregivers role that Keaton has taken on, and the love for family and the love that is willing to sacrifice all in the end. It comes full circle as Meryl Streep eventually redeems herself, from a self-centered sister, daughter, and mother, she gradually learns the meaning of true love and sacrifice for others.
There are many films that give us a glimpse into the human condition, which depict the parts that make up the whole of our humanity, and these films are just a small preview of the many other movies that help us discover our own spiritual selves as we watch and process these stories from some of our greatest filmmakers.
At the movies: This week in movies, we see the opening of another Benji, which has been reviewed as something so close to the original Benji as to be redundant. But those of us who are Uber Dog lovers will not quibble. The remake is sufficiently cute and heartstring-inducing to be acceptable.
The Subject is Objectivity: On the subject of Film Criticism, there’s a good article this week in 6 Degrees magazine about Casablanca, where the critic writes, “How could I have written a…book on 1940’s Hollywood and …devoted so little space to Casablanca?” He goes on to admit that Casablanca isn’t a favorite, and then cites a long list of classics that DO arouse his passion.
I forgive him because if we’re honest, then that’s true of all of us. I do acknowledge many of the classics don’t exactly move me to watch them over and over. However, you can acknowledge the excellence and innovative techniques used by the filmmakers, and still allow the film may not ‘move you’ in a significant way. With film, often there is a gut reaction that embeds them in your psyche and compels you to want to see the film again and again. It can allow you to identify with a mood or character and makes you ‘get it’ on that deeply psychic level.
To that end, in my book, 6 Degrees of Film, I compiled the “List of 100’, and as noted before on the 6 Degrees blog, the endless lists we see, from everything that can be compiled including science-fiction films, horror, rom-com, classics and any combination of categories and genres that go on and on are rendered meaningless by their ubiquitous nature. One of my pet peeves is the overly large number of films listed in these articles (I’ll leave my list of 100 films out of the argument for the moment!).
When compiling the best films lists of any recent year, reaching the number of up to 50 or 100 seems high to me. Yes, we can compile lists for the best films of the decade, or for an entire genre to reach the higher numbers, but there should be some discernment and discretion with critics compiling these long lists of films where, when actually perused, as I have done, seem to include lots of questionable picks and sometimes just feel loosely pulled together in order to create the headline, rather than fulfilling the headline’s narrative with the content required to follow up. (For example: Best Villains who dress well or Best Looking supporting actresses wearing swimsuits….)
Here’s an excerpt from my book that points to the reasons that this film made such a significant impact on future filmmakers such as George Lucas:
The Roots of ILM A Life magazine story from the 1960s summed up the crisis in visual effects in movies: “There were so many innovations occurring in film, but in the field of special effects, there was a dearth of ideas. The big studios couldn’t finance the large Technicolor spectacles that had been the signature entertainment for decades at studios like MGM and Paramount. By the sixties, the film industry had begun to resemble, a company town where the mine has closed.” 116 Demographics had changed, and audiences had changed. Even television had evolved, and the world was rapidly changing too. This meant that movies needed to evolve and adapt to the changing times. There was an opening for a big turnaround movie. One appeared in 2001: A Space Odyssey. At 2001’s release in 1969, Stanley Kubrick’s innovations were the cutting edge in technological advancement in films. But Kubrick’s innovations did not translate into other copy-cat films, and Kubrick remained something of a lone-wolf figure. For one thing, the film was made in England and was too big and too expensive to emulate. The film failed to revive the waning special-effects industry in Hollywood. But it did inspire a generation of young filmmakers who saw that it could be done. George Lucas was one who acted on that inspiration. He said, “Almost from the moment film was invented, there was this idea that you could play tricks, make an audience believe they were seeing things that really weren’t there. But this was completely lost by the 1960s.”
From the list of 100, there are a few more films recommended for viewing this week. One of the films is in honor of St Patrick’s Day, and is usually shown each year for this occasion. The Quiet Man, the quintessentially Irish film for all things Irish that we love….Also recommended, Casablanca, which we’ve discussed recently on 6 Degrees. And one of my favorite Bogey films in the Film Noir category, The Big Sleep.
Enjoy watching the classics and until next time, see you at the movies!-ML
• There is still lots of talk swirling aroundThe Black Panther and its staying power…The film has broken records at the box office, and has proven to have enormous appeal in the comic book film genre as well as for African Americans seeking positive role models in super-heroes. And in the all-important numbers game, The Black Panther has already made the top ten money makers of all time; passing Beauty and the Beast to reach the ninth spot, as it is expected to eventually overtake the last Star Wars entry in the near future.
• A Wrinkle in Time has received mixed reviews…From RogerEbert.com, we learn that the film is a mixed bag with ‘a lot to like.” And this from the Ebert site: ”…in the era of ‘grittiness’ in films, this film has ‘zero interest in seeming cool as it ramps up the sentiment, particularly in the final part of the movie.” From Film Drunk, the analysis is that the film is a series of “affirmations in search of a story.”
• Believe it or not, one week after the Oscars have ended, there’s speculation about nominees for the 2019 Oscar nominees…! Wes Anderson is an acclaimed director still looking for his Oscar win. And Martin Scorsese has another big budget film out, The Irishman, with a star -studded cast. Nominees from this year, Margot Robbie and Saoirse Ronan are starring in Mary, Queen of Scots.
• This week in Bad Movies: Dwayne Johnson accepted the “Razzie” for his part in last years forgettable Baywatch film version. There’s some talk of Spielberg having a dud on his hands with Ready Player One but it’s too soon to tell. In my opinion, the video game industry is a rather dicey venture when it comes to recreating its success in a Hollywood film. But even if it’s a dud, Spielberg’s film may not be so worthy as to be dubbed a “Razzie” entry. Films require that special something to belong in the classic Bad B Movie category…
• Women’s empowerment and diversity are still on the ascendance in Hollywood these days. The next big film festival, the South by Southwest Festival, is debuting several films from female filmmakers.
• On the Sequel front: Several entries that are already set for 2019 include How to Train Your Dragon 3;The Lego Movie Sequel; Godzilla: King of the Monsters;Avengers 4; a Men in Black sequel; Toy Story 4;The Secret Life of Pets 2;Top Gun: Maverick (33 years later!); Angry Birds 2 and Kenneth Branagh’s return as Poirot in Death on the Nile. The long-anticipated sequel to one of the most successful box office animated films of all time from Disney- Frozen 2, is set for November of 2019. And the sequel department would not be complete without the last entry in the granddaddy of all film sequels: Star Wars Episode IX out in December of 2019.
That’s it for this week. There are still some Oscar nominated films that are now On Demand that I want to see: The Darkest Hour is one of them. Next week, a look at some of the small screen films that deserve a viewing at least once in your life….The Armchair Film Festival is always one of my favorite festivals! Till then, see you at the movies!-ML
The Oscars show was always a big deal for me…but in recent years, …not so much. The glamour is not there, and there are so many award shows, it just doesn’t pack the same punch. The turning point for me happened when they sent the Disney characters into the audience one year and Tom Hanks and Paul Newman just looked embarrassed. They don’t seem to know how to bring the show into the modern era
The biggest problem that has been widely documented is the diversity issue. The Academy was an “Old White Guy” organization and it showed. They have worked on trying to repair the breech, but it’s been painfully slow to watch.
Some stand-out moments I remember from recent years occurred when Lady Gaga sang The Sound of Music, and then when Billy Crystal returned to host the show it just seemed funnier, but James Franco remains, in my opinion, the worst host in Oscar history. I hope the show isn’t overlong, and the disaster of an announcement for Best Picture doesn’t occur again…Warren Beatty is probably blackballed forever. I keep watching it out of habit, but with each passing year, the glitz and glamor of a bygone era becomes more painfully evident.
One of my biggest beefs is that even in the twenty-first century the Academy Awards show looks a lot like a holdout from a bygone era. The glitz and glamour are not as believable when there is so much more to the film industry in the modern era. The age of computer imaging and video games and the type of sophisticated special effects used in modern films are barely acknowledged. Little mention is given to the separate awards ceremony held for the scientific and technical awards. James Cameron invented a new method of filmmaking, and George Lucas and others initiated many breakthroughs in the way we see things on film. But none of these accomplishments are honored. New categories should be created to acknowledge these developments so they can be brought to the public’s attention. The global village of filmmaking is compartmentalized into one or two categories of short films and the foreign film category. Even though Slumdog Millionaire won several Oscars in 2009, the film is treated as if none of that ever happened. The encapsulated world of Hollywood elites still appears to be fairly homogenized (barring a few obligatory jokes about Jews in Hollywood). The only nod to the changing of the guard was in 2010 when Barbra Streisand handed the Best Director award to a woman (Kathryn Bigelow for Hurt Locker) for the first time, and when Halle Berry, the first African American woman to receive the Best Actress award, acknowledged Hattie McDaniel and all of the women of color who had come before her. If Hollywood and filmmaking are a large part of the American persona, and this show is one of our best chances to advertise our unique and diverse American way of life, then why doesn’t Hollywood pull out all the stops on these occasions? Instead, the powers-that-be in Hollywood present a timid and tepid tribute to films in a way they have done many times before. Shouldn’t there be some acknowledgement of innovation? To my mind, that is “the stuff that dreams are made of,” which Bogey spoke of so long ago….
And here we are, five years after 6 Degrees of Film was published, and I still have the same complaints! There are no innovative new categories, and the diversity issue is still front and center. We are still talking about the ‘old white guys’ show, with few exceptions.
But this year may be different. In this changed atmosphere, post #MeToo and Harvey Weinstein, then there may be some movement in the gender discrimination category.
Would it kill them to be innovative and come up with some new categories? Such as best “Breakthrough Performer” or Most Promising….really anything that smacks of “Something Different.” There’s been some discussion of late about naming the Best Picture that was awarded the Oscar for “Best Picture.” The Godfather and Lawrence ofArabia come to mind.
Movies of the 21st Century
Winners in this category would be Slumdog Millionaire, with The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, A Beautiful Mind and Gladiator being on the short list.
Nominated films that were superior include: Lost in Translation, Capote, Munich, Juno, There Will Be Blood, Up, The Social Network, Inception, Moneyball, Gravity, Her, The Big Short, The Revenant, Arrival, Fences, and a few more that define the times we live in much better than the films that won the Oscar.
This year, Lady Bird and Get Out will probably not win, as they are not odds on favorites. The Shape of Water is an interesting entry, and it gets my vote, but Three Billboards is an outside favorite that has a good chance.
The point of it all isn’t really that these winners are the “Best” films, but the films with either more popular votes from Academy winners, or they represent a snapshot in time, and may or may not have staying power. Most of the recent winning films are forgettable.
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Sign up for my mailing list to see all the latest news in film each week in Friday Flix. 6 Degrees of Film magazine features all the latest reviews and articles from leading publishers about current and classic movies. In editing the magazine, I make a point of going into the archives as well as searching the internet to find the latest reviews and summarizing the Big Picture each week in Friday Flix.
6 Degrees of Film blog features quarterly newsletters, weekly film reviews and reports, as well as excerpts from my 2013 book6 Degrees of film: The Future of film in the GlobalVillage. We also include reviews of classic movies, and current films in theaters and recommendations on television in the recurring feature: The Armchair FilmFestival. In other words, 6 Degrees is your one-stop shopping for all the film news that’s fit to print. Join us as we go through the latest winners and wrap up the Oscars report this week. We love to hear from you all….Enjoy the show and until next week, see you at the movies!-ML
I’ve seen so many reviews of this film that center around the ‘feel good’ politics of Black Panther. I’ve seen the fantasy politics of Black Panther listed, as well as the spoiler alerts tying the film into the Marvel Universe. There’s the record breaking box office numbers, as well as the stories of the many groups of young African American children going to see this film. And others who see it are wearing traditional African garb. In short, it’s a phenomenon…a ‘thing’.
And the film has been well received. Of the films in the superhero universe, this one is a cut above the rest. The plot centers around the rise to the throne of T’Challa, who is the new king in the fictional African country of Wakanda. Wakanda has hidden its amazing and superior technology from the outside world, and this is the central debate later in the film. Should they share this knowledge, or continue to keep it hidden…?
Without too many spoilers, the film is driven by the rise to the throne of the new king, played by Chadwick Boseman. The Black Panther’s super powers include not only superior intellect, but his strength which is derived from the special formula that is given to the king to drink. And then there’s the technology, similar to James Bond’s, where he dons a special suit made of the miraculous fictional metal mined only in Wakanda known as Vibranium. The Vibranium makes him impervious to bullets and other weapons of dastardly origins.
But in my estimation, the thing that sets this superhero apart is the fact he is touted as a man with a heart. His father talks to him from beyond the grave, telling him, “You are a good man, and that is something that may bring trouble for you”, which is a wise thing to tell your son, if you only have a few moments with him in the afterlife. The film centers not entirely on the concept of this superhero saving people and thwarting dastardly deeds, but also working to help others, to find himself and to find his true love.
In other words, it may depict the life of an ordinary man in an extraordinary world, or the reverse of this. That is the debate in history: Are great and exceptional men made so by the times they live in, or is greatness thrust upon them due to the circumstances in which they find themselves? We think of our Founding Fathers and the greatest Presidents and leaders of the Civil Rights era. These men all had great hearts, and although most had their share of flaws, they were able to rise above and to grasp the moment and meet the occasion to prevail.
In this film, T’Challa may or may not be the one who is the strongest fighter, but he is the one who is the ablest, the wisest, and the one who will prevail. This is the takeaway that is most heartening for any of the superhero films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Perhaps, in the end, at least according to the laws of this fictional universe, not the strongest but the wisest will be the one who prevails. It’s a good lesson in life.