The Battle of Wakanda (SPOILERS)

An INFINITY WAR critique, with SPOILERS

 

AGAIN: SPOILERS.  NO KIDDING.

 

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Still here?  Then I continue.

 

The last sequence of the new Avengers movie takes place in Wakanda, where Steve Rogers asks T’Challa to help them remove an Infinity Stone from Vision’s forehead.

 

This leads to a tense scene with super-genius Shuri trying to get that stone free, and the Wakandan army, side-by-side with most of the Avengers,  standing against Thanos’ legions.  I saw that coming in the trailers, and it looked exciting.

 

The only problem is that it makes no sense.

 

As John Ringo pointed out on his page, the Wakandans are considered to be (one of) the most advanced societies on the planet, with technology beyond any other nation.

 

Umm…in this battle, what the hell are they doing running toward their opponents with spears?  Aren’t these spears said to be capable of taking out TANKS?   Where were their land-mounted versions of such things?  Fortifications?  How about air power?  Those wonderful cloaked airships?   I could easily see a battle between two advanced forces, and if you want hand-to-hand, well, you can choreograph that in and around the larger actions, and have all the thrills you want.

 

But…why did T’Challa allow Vision to come to Wakanda, knowing that this would bring Thanos’ legions to their doorstep?  Surely he might have made the decision to do this, but shouldn’t we have seen him making his argument to the council of tribes?  Further, where were the panicked Wakandan citizens fleeing for their lives with their children?  What would THEY think of their king and the choice he made?  Again, the case can be made that Vision would have been given sanctuary…but if you show normal life in New York before the chaos begins, giving us a sense of Paradise Lost…why not here too?

 

And isn’t there a little sense of “he’s doing it because Captain America asked”?   How exactly does that sound like a sovereign ruler concerned for his people?

 

I suggest to you that the director and screenwriters had two problems:

 

  1. They were unfamiliar with military tactics, even tactics from the Civil War (the 1865 version).
  2. They were not invested in Wakanda as a real place, with real people, with real hopes and dreams and blood and tears.

 

They weren’t.   Wakanda was a “cool” place to stage a massive battle.  Wow! Watch ’em die!  Isn’t this fun?

 

Wanda can refuse to remove the stone from Vision’s head, killing him. So he comes to Wakanda, bringing death. Then, after Shuri runs out of time to remove it, Wanda STILL refuses until the last second, so that Thanos was capable of reversing her action and re-constituting the stone.   And using the completed Gauntlet to take out half the universe.

 

All those dead Wakandans. Because Wanda.  All right, I can accept a tragic love story killing tons of folks, and I could stifle my irritation with so many of those folks being African, while all the white Avengers, who just happen to match the ethnicity of the writers and directors, survive.

 

Coincidence.

 

Except for the stupidity of the defensive action.   It ONLY makes sense in terms of “let’s have cool action on the way to the Avengers feeling depressed and beaten.”

 

All those dead Wakandans were MEANS rather than ENDS.  They had no “inwardness”, were chess pieces manipulated to achieve the effect of guiding the audience’s emotions toward a given effect.

 

And while it is not uncommon (well…probably ALL writers do this to one degree or another) I refused not to notice what they did: moved the battle to a place where the filmmakers could choreograph “cool” action without regard for the humanity of the participants.

 

This is PRECISELY what I was afraid would happen with BLACK PANTHER. PRECISELY why I was thrilled that they chose Ryan Coogler to direct it, and frankly PRECISELY what I was concerned about had they hired a white director: no real concern for the “inwardness” of the characters.  Tony Stark had Pepper and Peter Parker to care about.   Steve Rogers had Bucky to care about.  Bruce Banner had Natasha (they REALLY gave that short shrift, didn’t they? But then I didn’t believe Banner’s emotional arc, starting with making him a dim bulb in RAGNOROK. But that’s a different matter).   Hawkeye was off with his family.  Thor was mad with grief over Loki.  Wanda, of course, had Vision.

 

Did War Machine have anyone? Has he ever?   Did Falcon have anyone?  Has he ever?

 

T’Challa had no one to care about except his people, and he brought death to their doorstep without the slightest moment of visible hesitation, and then defended his nation like an idiot.  Yeah, I said it.

 

This is the reason that diversity BEHIND the camera matters.  Would that have fixed the problem?   Considering that Tony Stark was a fine strategic thinker (he knew he had to take the fight to Thanos, or have Earth devastated) we can assume that a black director would have given T’Challa the same respect, and asked “what would he do?”  And once you ask “what would a warrior do?” You might, just MIGHT do what you do if making a boxing movie: ask boxing coaches about the training, tactics and strategy involved. Or in this case, ask a military strategist how an advanced nation would defend itself against an attack like this.  It just isn’t that hard…if you care, and if you think “these people are brilliant. What would they do?”  instead of “what would look cool” when you don’t really, REALLY believe they exist.

 

This is why diversity matters behind the cameras. Why it is critical for people to write their own stories.  If they had gone directly from “Civil War” to “Infinity War” without the humanization of “Black Panther” I’d be incensed.   As it is…it is just business as usual.

 

If you agree, let me know. And if you agree…patronize and create the art that DOES embrace full humanity…and intelligence.

 

Write with Passion!

Steve

www.afrofuturismwebinar.com

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