It’s Good, Except It Sucks is a movie by movie – and television series by television series – hurtle through the Marvel Cinematic Universe, hosted by Tim Worthington with a series of superpowered guests.
This time it’s Black Panther from 2018, and joining Tim to talk about T’Challa repeatedly being pushed over in some water is theatre critic Shanine Salmon. What will they find to say about Ryan Coogler’s secret James Bond showreel, whether you can make a film by putting a Tim From The Office in it but not having him be a Tim From The Office and whether Blue Afros are an internationally recognised signifier of technological prosperity, and what does any of this have to do with nineties chart sensation Haddaway? Get listening and find out!
You can follow Shanine on Twitter at @braintree_.
This edition of It’s Good, Except It Sucks was recorded shortly before the sad news about Chadwick Boseman was made public, and initially released ahead of schedule as a small way of celebrating his sorely missed brilliance. This is the tribute that I wrote at the time to accompany that release.
Like most of you, I had no idea Chadwick Boseman was even ill. And like all of you, it’s not an exaggeration to say that I was shocked awake by the first headline coming from my radio this morning.
Black Panther was one of my favourite Marvel characters from a very early age – in fact, in the edition of It’s Good, Except It Sucks on Black Panther here, you can hear me talking about how whenever the Fantastic Four took off in the Pogo-Plane, I was always excited in the hope that a visit to Wakanda was on the cards – and the issues surrounding the complexities of global politics and the struggle of balancing traditionalism with a need to embrace the present that came with the character fascinated me more deeply than I think I actually realised at the time. I felt a little bit of that same excitement when Wakanda was first mentioned in passing in Avengers: Age Of Ultron, and even more so when it was announced that Chadwick Boseman – who I had thought was fantastic in 42 and had also stood out in an episode of Castle – had been cast in the role. Past experience has taught me to always be wary when anyone tries to adopt a more complicated comics character into another medium – you have no idea how concerned I was that they were going to mess up Doctor Strange and The Punisher this time around (they didn’t) – but that never felt like even a momentary concern here. Someone somewhere was clearly thinking along the right lines, and his character development from an uptight and insecure prince thrust into kingdom who considers himself inherently ‘better’ than Hawkeye in his first appearance to the noble, benevolent leader with a sense of responsibility to the world and unflinching respect for his fellow superheroes from another continent was little short of mastery of his art. Self-appointed ‘cineastes’ might well be scoffing at that, but seriously, go and watch Black Panther. It might even make you smile a bit for once.
The edition of It’s Good, Except It Sucks covering Black Panther was already recorded when the news broke, and while some aspects of the discussion have taken on a different tone now, I would like to highlight Shanine’s interpretation and understanding of the film’s exploration of AfroGlobal relations and their consequences for tradition and heritage, and delight at seeing uncompromised Black Cinema reach a worldwide mainstream audience that enthusiastically embraced it (as well as some less reverent ‘appreciation’ of Michael B. Jordan). Even if you’ve not seen Black Panther, I hope you will listen to this. And then maybe go on to watch Black Panther, obviously.
What this terrible news means for the Marvel Cinematic Universe going forward – not least with a Black Panther sequel about to enter production – is probably a fairly irrelevant question and the last thing on the mind of anyone concerned mind right now, and my heart usually sinks at the sight of ghouls proposing how they would ‘rescue’ a franchise with their grand total of no years’ worth of experience in the film industry and shrieking car alarms droning on in their columns about how fantasy films are for children, not for grown adults like them et tedious cetera. That said, I think this is one instance where a touch of support and determination from a massive international fanbase would not go amiss. Shuri of course adopted the mantle of Black Panther from her brother in the comics, and at a respectful distance and if Letitia Wright sees matters similarly, a Marvel film with a young black female lead would be a fitting way of continuing what Chadwick Boseman began.
Many are of course sharing their favourite Black Panther moments by way of tribute, though mine is one I’ve not really seen anyone else mention so far. It’s one from Avengers: Infinity War, when in the midst of reality-shattering battlefield chaos, T’Challa yanks a floored Okoye to her feet demanding “Up General, UP! This is no place to die!” . Dignity, stoicism, respect, and a subtle but powerful reminder that in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, race and gender are irrelevant. That moment, and so many others, are a powerful reminder of what we have lost.
In four films across four years, Chadwick Boseman lit up the screen in what were frequently lengthy sequences set in partial darkness. Some may have scoffed that Black Panther and other films like it were a ‘theme park’, ‘not cinema’, devoid of ‘human beings trying to convey emotional psychological experiences to another human being’, lacking ‘imagination’, made ‘like hamburgers’, and swamping cinemas to the exclusion of ‘real’ films that ‘matter’, and all the time this incredible talent was right under their noses and they never appreciated that. I guess some people just don’t actually know what ‘real’ cinema is.
Buy A Book!
You can find much more about my love of the less critically lauded corners of cinema, from Michael Caine and Elvis Presley movies to creaky old sci-fi and ‘Video Nasties’, in my book Can’t Help Thinking About Me, a collection of columns and features with a personal twist. Can’t Help Thinking About Me is available in paperback here or from the Kindle Store here.
Alternately, if you’re just feeling generous, you can buy me a coffee here. Ask Okoye if they’ve opened that Starbucks in Wakanda yet.
You can hear Shanine on Tim’s nostalgia podcast Looks Unfamiliar talking about the 1993 EastEnders theme, Kings Of Comedy, Club Class, hard-hitting anti-drug campaigns aimed at schoolchildren, Sack Race and Kept here, and Married For Life, Habbo Hotel, Blouse And Skirt, Renegade, Night And Day and Neopets – here.
You can find more on Black Panther’s sadly all too few appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in It’s Good, Except It Sucks with Mitch Benn on Captain America: Civil War here, Martin Ruddock with a two-part look at Avengers: Infinity War here and here, Ben Baker on Avengers: Endgame here, and another appearance by Martin talking about What If…? here.
Some Unspoken Thing is a huge feature on the sheer brilliance of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2; you can find it here.
Logo by Graham Kibble-White.
© Tim Worthington.
Please don’t copy this only with more italics and exclamation marks.