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From the episode on 2/9/2018

In trying to process my reaction to ‘Avengers: Infinity War’, I believe
what can best be said is that this is a film that is pretty interesting
almost—okay, let’s be honest, totally—in spite of itself. Every problem
pertinent to a Marvel production applies in a modulated form: everywhere
in the universe other than New York City persists in being devoid of
life (overpopulation a losing argument already), such that sets take on
a strangeplaying with toys in your bedroom quality. This is not exactly
a compliment, as it plays into criticisms Max Coombes has elaborated
much better than I ever could elsewhere: “the context [of the set] is
activated through fights, and the fights are justified through talking.
To say that the fights are not good fights would require a discussion of
choreography and editing, and both of these things are of secondary
importance to the talking, which means that each blow landed or missed
comes down to where ‘Infinity War’s’ dramatic stakes need to be at that
precise moment, resulting in rote bludgeonings on either side.” Take any
moment from an MCU film and you’re witness to this tautological
relationship between witty banter and fighting, each fuelling the other;
even as sets become radically spare to maximise focus on talking and
ease in painting bodiless action. Conclusion and means of arrival are
pre-set. Physical skills aren’t really required when it’s all digital.
What matters most is construction.

S – Simon Mayo, L – Lupita Nyong’o

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S: Tell us about your character in Black Panther. L: I play Nakia, an
undercover spy for Wakanda. Wakanda is a fictitious African nation that
has kept to itself; it’s isolated, it’s secret, and it’s one African
nation that was never colonized. And as such they have been able to
advance in ways that people are unaware of. I am a spy who goes out into
the world, observes and reports back to Wakanda, and Nakia also has a
complicated past with T’Challa, who is the Black Panther and the King of
Wakanda.

It is in this sense that Marvel’s tendency to shoot and reshoot becomes
palpable at times. There are, of course, the obvious changes in dialogue
between trailer and final cut, as well as say the knowledge that there
exists an alternative version of the film in which Captain Marvel is an
active participant. Yet, what seems most applicable to ‘Infinity War’ is
how it develops the MCU’s collage and stitching approach to editing
scenes, which has a lot to do with “set design” in its way. More than
most Marvel entries, this gives the impression of cycling through and
chopping up shots and takes from various stages of production, stitching
together an end product that hadn’t been fully determined on outset
(e.g. the rotating coverage shot of New York City, à la Killmonger
sitting on Wakandan throne, from the trailer is radically shortened and
re-toned in the final product). In some ways, it’s a style perfectly
suited to the Russo Brothers’ freneticism, in that irregularities can be
disguised in a flurry of movement, handheld camera, and editing. Indeed,
weird cuts between takes and shoots become weirder cuts that reuse
computer-generated shots from other MCU productions (e.g. Thor swinging
Rocket around as rehash of Rocket travelling through wormholes
in’Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2′). However, as much as any film is a
disparate collection of cuts,Infinity Warpresents as the typification of
the MCU in this regard. The films are wholly bereft in their design to
make efficient their manufacture as crowd-tested assemblage. Back to
Max: “[I]t’s the second most expensive movie ever made because We want
more, We want everything, Yes of course we do, and so an intimate and
horrific hero’s journey into large-scale genocide (!) is forfeited for
more and everything. I remember an interview with an electronic musician
who said that with new technologies the artist has every sound, every
texture, at her disposal, and so freedom in the creative act only comes
about through clearly defined parameters. This will obviously never
happen where these films are concerned- where consumers demand and
content administrators listen and then bait, generating content that
exists to generate interest, interest existing to justify content
generation, this toxic relationship, this carrot and stick, this
perpetual trailer.” It is hard to escape the conclusion that one is
witnessing a bastardised creativity wherein an environment of total
media saturation is the overarching parameter that enables the film’s
existence and praise. The filming schedule of the MCU and the editing
process that arrives at the finished product is then entirely parasitic,
and this burrows itself deep into the architecture of their work:
mise-en-scène, the cut, composition, and sound design all banalised and
repurposed to deepen and close the loop between commodity and consumer.
These works aren’t assemblages built on narrative and visual rhythms but
on the creation and movement of mass expectation and desire. Take any
inane fan theory or piece of speculation post-release and you have the
beginnings of the edit of the next instalment. * *澳门新葡亰网站, * * Yet, as I
said, ‘Infinity War’ almost in spite of itself is pretty good, or at
least interesting, in spite of itself. It’s almost certainly the case
that no artistic decisions realised what works in this film’s favour.
When you’re eighteen or whatever instalments into your franchise, it’s
possible furniture moving motivates curiosity by accident. So what is
that garners interest? For me, as one who is a noted “panner” of Marvel
films by and large, I think it has to do with there being next to
nothing to do with Earth politics and the reactionary ideologies the
company is paid to bake-in. It’s refreshing. Character based entries
elaborate all too much what is repellent about each figure: Black
Panther and Thor as affable or relaxed monarchs, Captain America a hot
but boring libertarian, Iron Man a sarcastic billionaire militarist,
etc. etc.. Here, thankfully lacking Joss Whedon’s character wankery, we
have no individual focus allowing us to experience the Avengers in true
toybox style, less as people we can or should identify with and more as
empty vessels doing things. Captain America and his team are basically
zombies and everyone else are so instinctively reactive that A -> B
movements seem to require no consideration or internal logic. – Let’s go
to space? – Okay.</em>

S: When you first talked to the director (Ryan Coogler), what was it
that hooked you in? L: First of all, I felt like he was telling quite a
radical story, and I was surprised that it was a superhero film and that
Marvel had greenlit it. […] In regards to Nakia in particular, he
definitely wanted her to be a love interest but not your typical love
interest. She is more than just the man who’s pursuing her or the man
she’s pursuing. She has her own agenda, her own drive and ambition and
we see that. It was a refreshing take on that aspect of storytelling:
the romantic story is more in the background than it is in the fore,
because Wakanda has a lot to deal with. And she’s part and parcel of
what Wakanda has to deal with and what the future will look like for
Wakanda. I just thought it was really refreshing to have that kind of
love interest who affects the narrative so directly.

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S: When you said you were surprised that it was a superhero film and it
being greenlit and it being radical, was that what you were talking
about or was it the political side of things? L: Well I think the film
is just very honest about a lot of pan-African issues. It’s a film that
honors the past in terms of African culture and historical context, but
it also offers a future. We see a country in Wakanda that has figured
out that the way forward is to allow all its citizens to realize their
full potential. So women alongside men are allowed to assume positions
of power, and their assuming those positions of power don’t diminish or
threaten the men in their lives. So you see kind of an idyllic society
in terms of gender relations. That image becomes that much easier to
image in this world that we live in. And just the issue of what borders
mean…the film is so layered and deep, and it’s allegorical, folkloric,
mythological, it’s like a new kind of mythology that we’re offering the
world in the Black Panther story.

Relatedly, ‘Infinity War’ also seems to boast what can be best as a
staggeringly disjointed vignette structure. There’s a way in which
individual scenes seemed hermetically sealed from each other, which is
no surprise considering that the actors didn’t know what the hell was
going on and the editing of the film is composed of scenes with utterly
disparate logics. However, despite this, it’s the first Marvel film that
is constantly transporting you to new places. I count at least fourteen
individual interplanetary spaces characters interact with, even as they
don’t appear to innately interact with one another. Some of these places
are cool and interesting while others are dumb and probably ugly, but
it’s the first film in this series that feels like it’s truly moving.
Yes, the pacing is kind of wild, like it’s happening at light speed with
the effects of time dilation as internal to your bones; but it’s a
special kind of boredom in which you become aware you’re seeing
something distinctive and new. What I’m putting forward here might
appear as faint praise—it probably is—but I do actually like this film,
perhaps precisely because what I’m talking about with relation to
character, plot structure, and environmental design is how each work to
make it all the more distant as an emotional object that simultaneously
treats its spaces with some care. The conclusion of the film then
becomes what is under discussion here, as all the doing and isolated and
barely tethered movement come to a head in events that make one think of
the ‘What year is it?’ of ‘Twin Peaks: The Return’. It’s a fitting
analogue, as the ‘What did you do?’ and ‘Where did he go?’—articulated
as reactions to a violently distant, unknowable, abstract terror
embodied all too close—break the distance that’s been apparent all
throughout. Bodies are dispersed as they become fully present in this
space. It has the effect of the film realising itself most completely
not in how this event is happening to these people but in how it could
happen at all. It’s a vital presence found in the dialectical nature and
incomprehensibility of the event itself, situated as it is between the
immediacy of the sonics and weirdness of its space and the abstraction
events and character have had up until this moment. Sure, yes, it’ll all
go nowhere, but until then: ‘Where did he go?’

S: It’s also very much a Marvel film, with all that history that ties
completely into this 52-year-old comic book story, that’s an astonishing
achievement. L: It really is. The very fact that Black Panther was born
of the Civil Rights movement and came into being then, the radical
nature of it is in its origins. Marvel honoured that, and has allowed
for this particular part of the universe to stand on its own, have its
own rules and its own identity. I think Marvel does a really good job of
that with all its superheroes, each one fits a different genre within
superhero genres. It does have that kind of reach: Marvel is appealing
to the masses, and so the fact that this story gets to go around the
globe and that it’s made of such strong and deep stuff, is really
amazing. We dream to be a part of something that is both popular and
meaningful.

S: It’s certainly the most African film I’ve seen in the mainstream,
though I would mention that David Oyelowo was on the show a couple of
years back for Queen of Katwe, and you were in that, and that was
blazing a trail. L: Yes, that’s why I signed up for it. I’m obviously
very attracted to stories that demystify what it means to be African and
really puts the African context on a global scale, as is Black Panther.
In a way it feels really futuristic, but it also honors and pays homage
to real African cultures. Ruth Carter, the costume designer, pulled from
real ancient African cultures that are unfortunately dying. This film
brings them to light in such a special way, because Wakanda is a country
that was never colonized, never interrupted by that assault, there is
identity; their relationship with their ancient tradition is modern. And
we see the way in which those cultures are modernized and how they are
preserved, not in a way that keeps them archival, but practical. We see
tradition and modernity, and the modernity of those traditions. That’s
such a rich image, and a key one for those of us of African descent to
look at and ponder on, that conquest does not mean the dismissing of
traditions.

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