A Late-Adopter’s Review of Luke Cage

I don’t know how I missed the Luke Cage wave in 2016 when it first premiered on Netflix but better late to the party than never. Let’s jump in.

*SPOILER ALERT*

The most compelling aspect of any Marvel story, for me, has always been the villain. Marvel has good heroes but he they have some damn good villains.

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MARIAH fucking STOKES: A different kind of crazy but oh, did I love every minute of it.

The whole Stokes family business seemed a dubious enterprise even when Cornell was running things. I went with it because there’s only a certain type of crazy – that both Cottonmouth and Mariah possess – that can make them believe the consequences of their outlandish behavior would not be ruin.

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From the moment that Luke Cage appeared on the scene, Cornell Stokes was sweating bullets. I suspected that Cornell wouldn’t make it through the first season but I didn’t think it would be at the hands of Mariah. The best thing about Cornell was his laugh. He had the cackle of a seasoned super villain. He fought valiantly until the end but Cottonmouth had it coming. Respect, though.

In the case of Willis Striker, revealed in season one to be Luke’s brother, it’s just a lot of misdirected anger. That whole beef could’ve been squashed with a conversation and a hug instead of a Rocky V-style street brawl.

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The Bushmaster a.k.a. John McIver makes an interesting villain for season two. He hails from Jamaica and has come to Harlem to reclaim his birthright – Harlem itself. It’s all over a foul deal between the McIvers and the Stokes that happened when little John was a pickney but he remembers well and spends all of season two trying to jog the Stokes’ memory.

But in the end, “(h)’im finally make it to the top of the mountain, but (h)’im cyan’t even enjoy da view.” He tried to gain the world and damn near lost his soul. I’d love to see Bushmaster return for a rematch in the next season. He was fun.

A word on the women: The women in this show are bad ass. Misty. Knight. Needs. Her. Own. Show. I want more bionic arm bar fights. That actress, Simone Missick, is easily one of the most dynamic in the cast, coming in second only to Alfre Woodard.

A lot of times in fiction, women function as the moral compass to the men in their lives and that’s definitely true with Luke Cage. With all these chipped shoulders and hurt feelings, this show and the men in it need the women characters to ground them in some kind of reality. Claire Temple and Misty Knight are dynamic elements of the show. They bring some much needed realness to what would otherwise be a Marvel-ous (pun intended) display of toxic masculinity and chest-beating.

I can suspend my disbelief just enough to tolerate the way that the second season ended. And that’s all I have to say about that.

 

Wakanda Forever: Thoughts on Black Panther

Four times… and counting. That’s how many times I’ve seen Black Panther and honestly, Marvel can continue to take my money until it’s no longer in theaters.

This. Movie. is simply everything. I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything quite like it. As someone who aspires to write for the screen and work in film, I feel like this movie has changed the game has began an era of clearing the path for folks like me who have new ideas and new stories.

What Black Panther has assured us of is that black does indeed translate internationally. Black entertainers like Kevin Hart have made a point of talking about this very phenomenon in multiple interviews. And Kevin does bring down the house. He’s kind of a superstar. (I mean how many movies has he done in the past five years?) But he’s one guy.

Black Panther gave us a cast full of black excellence, some familiar faces, and some new.

And oh baby, did it travel.

$1 B I L L I O N, and still climbing.

Following Ryan Coogler’s career, I knew he was capable of delivering something of quality. He’s a brilliant story teller, but I wondered how he would bring his auteurism to a studio like Marvel, who, in my opinion, makes movies that generally lack depth. Marvel makes good movies, obviously, but I rarely go to the theater to see them.

The two philosophies pitted against each other in the film worked perfectly as the defining conflict between T’Chala and Eric. Tradition vs. Innovation? What is a nation that has built and sustained itself to do in the context of a global society? Do they have a moral obligation to help those who cannot help themselves? Or should they just mind their business like they’ve been doing?

I knew I smelled a rat. W’Kabi a.k.a. Brutus, Daniel Kaluuya’s character, said something telling in the first act of the film.

“If you bring the refugees here, they bring their problems with them. Then Wakanda is like everywhere else.”

Sounds like a Trump supporter to me. When he said that, I knew I had to watch that nigga. And low and behold, this bitch is leading the rebellion. But he knew he wasn’t stepping to T’Chala – and winning – so he waited for his moment.

ENTER Eric Killmonger.

The beginning of the movie sets up his tragic story and we get some context to what he’s trying to accomplish here. The MO: to liberate oppressed people the world over and usher in a new era of Wakandan global dominance. But his motives are revealed to be completely selfish and ill-founded so the mission was doomed to fail from the start.

From what I’ve seen on the internet, very few people are acknowledging the voice of reason, Nakia, Lupita Nyong’o’s character, who was basically saying “We don’t have to wage war on the world to help it. We have the juice here. Ain’t nobody fuckin’ with Wakanda. We can all be great.” A happy medium right? I thought so.

T’Chala is ultimately won over by Nakia’s philosophy and he even confronts his dad about it after being revived from the spirit realm. Leave it to a woman to be the rational one.

This is where my absolute favorite comes in. Lord M’Baku of the Jabari people.  He sees himself as this defender of tradition in his initial combat with T’Chala. He’s been watching from the mountains and does not like what he sees. He’s gracious enough to keep T’Chala alive after finding him nearly lifeless but set in resolve to remain neutral in the ensuing struggle for power. But in the end, the Jabari people help to save their Wakanda, realizing that it would be more a crime to remain silent than to let Killmonger and W’Kabi wage war on the world.

Depth. Thought provoking. Insightful. The performances were amazing. The costume design, the detail, the aesthetic, everything about this movie was out of this world. It’s the best Marvel movie I’ve ever seen hands down, but it also one of the best movies I’ve ever seen period.

This was a feat of tremendous proportions and I am both floored and fascinated. What the world is about to witness something I will call the Black Panther effect, pushing forward an era of pushing boundaries, telling new stories, and inspiring new ideas.

And I cannot wait.

What Black Panther Means to Me

Today in Black History, I would be remise without acknowledging the release of Black Panther.

When I saw the photos from the Black Panther premiere, I knew right then and there that the cast and crew of Black Panther was readying themselves to take aim at our necks.

Everyone looked stunning. Just regal. Black excellence.

I overheard a coworker gripping the other day over the fact that all these people were going to see Black Panther who weren’t true fans of the Marvel universe. I rolled my eyes. He’s a white, if you couldn’t tell already… He’s one of those “you can’t wear the shirt if you’re not a fan of the band” type bitches.

To my coworker and anyone else harboring a similar sentiment, this is bigger than your little childish fandom, bitch. Get over yourself or go choke.

I realize that some folks might not grasp the immensity of the occasion, so let me break it down.

First of all, for all the white supremacists talking about how this is some nigger shit and how the Black Panther is some black power propaganda: the character of the Black Panther was introduced in the Marvel comics before the Black Panther Party was formed. With this in mind, we can then conclude that Stan Lee simply thought the Black Panther would be a cool character to add to his comic universe.

While it is a revolutionary thought that an entire African country could exist completely outside of the reality of European colonization and that because of this, they are more technologically and socially advanced, but at the end of the day, Wakanda is fictional. (But oh, can’t we dream?)

Second, the fact that this movie is directed by a black man and features an all black cast is monumental when you consider the discussion about diversity in Hollywood.

Side note on the director, Ryan Coogler

Mr. Coogler’s been working for a long time. His first film, Fruitvale Station, made him an indie darling, taking home the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize at Sundance as well as international acclaim, winning the Avenir Prize at Cannes. He also directed Creed as well as a few other short films.

The #oscarssowhite thing brought the issue of diversity to public consciousness a few years ago, but just because it’s not trending anymore doesn’t mean the work has stop nor that the problem has been solved. Ryan Coogler, along with other filmmakers such as Ava DuVernay, have been out here championing the cause to make Hollywood a not-so-white place.

In theory, this movie should’ve been made. However, I doubt it would’ve been carried out on such a grand scale. There was no Ryan Coogler to direct it (or an Ava DuVernay, who was approached for the project first) and up until recently only a handful of black actors were even getting booked for roles. And the ones who were damn sure weren’t getting booked for Marvel movies. Don’t make me break out the receipts.

As the release date draws near, the girls are readying their hearts and minds to receive something that is way past due.

White people can honestly get over themselves and shut the fuck up.

This movie is not inherently political, but the conditions that even make this movie a possibility are. The fact that the thought of “Maybe somebody black should direct this” actually went through someone’s head is revolutionary. The fact that Marvel didn’t just cast some random white people and white wash this story is revolutionary because we know its been done in the past with no after thought.

If you really wanna know why black folks are going all the way up for this movie, it’s because this is a celebration of us. This beautiful cast is all shades, shapes, and sizes of black. This movie will affirm for so many young black kids that they too can be extraordinary and that they too have the potential to be a superhero.

Not to mention, the soundtrack is produced, at least in part by Top Dawg Entertainment, which…

Honestly, I’ve been burnt out on Marvel movies for a while now. After the Avengers 12 and Iron Man 23, I started to wonder how much more shit these hoes could blow up and smash and destroy with reckless abandon. And for what? (Yeah, yeah, to save the world or whatever)

But best believe,I will be present and accounted for for Black Panther.