My former movie review partner at KungFuMagazine.com, Patrick Lugo, posted an expanded version of our 2018 review of Black Panther yesterday in honor of Chadwick Boseman’s passing. You can find that here: Review Revisited: BLACK PANTHER: Come out Fighting (the original review is here: BLACK PANTHER: Come out Fighting). Patrick and I co-authored around dozen reviews. We attended dozens more screeners together, taking turns on who would review the film depending upon who had a better foothold on the film. You’ll find all of our reviews listed in the KungFuMagazine.com article index here. Patrick has been republishing expanded reviews on his own blog site, and seeing those reminds me of all those screeners we attended together over the years. It was a precious perk of our jobs. This was yet another reminder of how much I miss going to movies at the theaters during the pandemic.
When it comes to Boseman, in all honesty, I’ve only seen him as Black Panther in the MCU and in Da 5 Bloods, which I watched to see Veronica Ngo’s performance for a piece I wrote for Den of Geek (see The Old Guard: How the Immortal Quynh Was Brought to Life). I’ve been meaning to watch more of Boseman’s work, and his passing will motivate me to bump those films up higher in my queue. Reading the flood of tributes in his wake is heartbreaking, as if we haven’t had enough heartbreak this year already. What a truly exceptional human he was.
The tribute that really got me was from Simu Liu, whose social media I’ve been following since he was cast as Shang Chi.
As a professional movie reviewer and a lifelong fan of film, representation in cinema has always been at that forefront of my mind – now more then ever with all of the racial tension in the U.S. However, while we both suffer from prejudice, being Asian is a different experience than being Black. I had plenty of Asian cinematic role models within Chinese and Japanese film, both of which had huge moviemaking industries since I was a child. Growing up, I watched Kung Fu and Kaiju movies where Asians were heroes (and villains) regularly, working my way through those funky subtitles and dubs. The African continent doesn’t have that level of film industry yet. Only a few African films have made it across the Atlantic although more are on the way. For as long as I can remember, there have been more Blacks represented in Hollywood than Asians, but both of our communities are grossly underepresented given our national population. I can only imagine what impact Black Panther must have had on Black Americans. It’s refreshing to see any people of color in Hollywood.
I had hoped this year would be the year of Mulan. This Disney tentpole promises to be a major breakthrough for Asian representation, as well as a boost for the Chinese martial arts industry. I was a week away from putting Mulan on the final cover of Kung Fu Tai Chi but it fell through, and now in retrospect, I’m glad that didn’t happen. What’s more, I was booked to attend the Mulan screener. It was one of my first dates that was cancelled by the pandemic, just a few days before everything shut down. The reservation was for the AMC Metreon on March 23rd and it was the IMAX presentation. Watching the rescheduling of that, and the final move to Disney+ was just more heartbreak, another reminder of how much I miss seeing movies at the theaters.
China’s movie theaters have already reopened. Frankly, it’s not the ‘China Flu’ anymore. More Americans have Covid than any other nation. China has quelled it, so much so that a few days ago, Variety published China Is World’s First Market to Achieve Full Box Office Recovery, Says Analytics Firm in the wake of The Eight Hundred earning $119 million over the prior weekend. Mulan is approved for a theatrical release in China although at this writing, the date has not been set. If it releases there on the same day Disney+ offers it, Mulan will go head-to-head with Tenet, another major 2020 blockbuster that I would love to see on the big screen.
When will the U.S. theaters open? We have to get those Covid numbers down first and that will take more unity than the United States seems capable of at the moment. We need a leader that can unify us again. Heading into the most divisive election I’ve witnessed in my lifetime, that’s almost unimaginable. Here, it is often said that there’s a price for freedom. Our citizens are free to ignore science. We are free to believe that the pandemic – which has impacted the entire world – is a hoax. We can disregard the measures that other nations around the world have implemented to successfully control the virus. That is the price for our freedom now. Seeing movies in theaters may be a small price to pay compared to the impact upon our medical system, our economy, and everything else, but freedom has a lot of hidden charges.
I hope that someday, Patrick and I can bring fresh reviews to KungFuMagazine.com again. It was often a challenge for us to find the Kung Fu connection in some of the films we screened. And it was always fun to pack as many MartialArtSmart.com items that we could into our reviews to help fund the website. Like with Chadwick Boseman, I was unfamiliar with Black Panther when we saw that screener together and like usual, had to default to Patrick’s comic expertise. He wrote the lion’s share of our Black Panther review, which is why he is credited as first author. On several occassions, we attended screeners that had a marginal martial connection, which we wouldn’t know until we’d already seen it. Attending a screener obligated us to produce a review with in a certain time frame, so we’d have to sort that quickly, usually on our own time (screeners are usually held the week of the premiere which only gives us a few days to turn it around). I remember watching that amazing single-take casino fight scene in Black Panther, and nodding approvingly to Patrick as we watched on, enthralled by the film.
I truly hope Black Panther 2 can still be made although I cannot imagine who could possibly fill that panther cowl like Boseman. While some iconic superheroes have switched actors like Batman, Superman, Spider-man, and more, Boseman’s performance was so groundbreaking that it’ll be difficult. Most of all, I hope that we can overcome this pandemic and return to moving forward – forward to a new normal or whatever – and get back to the movies.
Rest in power, Chadwick Boseman. Wakanda forever.