Astrogator's Logs

New Words, New Worlds
Rest
Artist, Heather Oliver             

The Time Between

Long travels are limbo—but, if you can keep exhaustion from overwhelming you, they also grant time to catch up on long-postponed reading and watching. So in my latest Atlantic crossing, I finally read Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven and watched Black Panther.

Station Eleven is close kin to Barry Unsworth’s Morality Play, although their eras are very far apart. It’s elegiac, layered, hopeful about culture surviving a nearly irreversible technological collapse. The framing device of the graphic novel is handled unusually well. And I really liked that its dystopia isn’t the savage type of The Road or The Handmaid’s Tale.

Black Panther was way above the standard MCU movie level: it had flair and style; a coherent story brimming with relevance and cognizant of ethical/moral ambiguities; and vividly etched characters. I particularly appreciated the prominence of powerful women of all ages (and that T’Challa is a thinker, not a reflexive warrior); the portrayal of a never-colonized non-Western culture whose people don’t need external saviors (they showed it as a pan-African mix, but I understand their reasons); and the witty banter.

However, the total reliance of Wakandan long-term viability on a hereditary king (chosen by combat and not constrained by a constitution), is a serious issue in this utopia that remains unquestioned even after its weakness has been fully exposed. Not surprisingly, the film is not entirely free of many standard Hollywood tropes that now pass as universal, (including the perennial Campbell-lite mythical conflicts/dilemmas.

Black Panther is a landmark in many dimensions, and an artistic achievement to boot. I, for one, can hardly wait for a sequel focusing on Shuri the scientist-as-hero—or Nakia, who walks between worlds. [Recent interviews indicate that director Ryan Coogler is willing to do a movie centering the women of Wakanda, if he can get the financial backing.]

But the most unforgettable point of the transition was looking out the plane’s tiny window and seeing a sickle moon, Antares and Jupiter glimmering next to each other, tarnished silver, brick-red, pale gold. Wonder never wanes at such sights.

2 Responses to “The Time Between”

  1. intrigued_scribe says:

    Station Eleven sounds compelling, particularly in how it’s optimistic, rather than containing the kinds of bleakness and brutality in the above mentioned novels.

    The portrayal of T’Challa as a thinker is one of the parts of Black Panther I liked most, along with the deft handling of the character arcs. I’d also love to see a sequel, one that concentrates on Nakia or continues and and expands on the stories of the Dora Milaje.

    And the description of the moon beside Antares and Jupiter is enchanting.

  2. Athena says:

    I suspect a sequel focusing on the Dora Milaje is the likeliest, because of the perennial appeal of women warriors. But Nakia is a more original and intriguing choice.

Leave a Reply