is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
I feel a little sheepish about confessing that I didn’t really like “Black Panther” all that much, especially after the nearly universal acclaim that greeted its debut last month. I went to see it on opening night with high expectations, in part because I thought director Ryan Coogler’s previous film, “Creed” was pretty close to a masterpiece. And while I was impressed by the cultural significance of “Black Panther”—it’s a total triumph on that front—I found that, narratively, it was as messy, as poorly paced, and as unconvincing as any other Marvel film.
In fact, I find myself pretty much at the end of my rope with Marvel movies. I still believe there’s a lot of interesting things that can be done with this genre, but I’m exhausted by the studio’s obsession with continuity and crossover appearances and, well, merchandising. Every outing seems to lead to the same large-scale, bloodless and mostly stakes-free battle scene, and only serves to queue up the next installment.
Also, as a designer, I’m tired of the milieus of these films all looking almost exactly the same. Whether it’s a technologically superior African country or a mythological realm of Norse gods or even the Second World War, these worlds are all dreamed up within a very narrow band of imagination. The costumes and the technology and the sets and the effects all look like they were designed by Nike.
Admittedly, “Black Panther” does sidestep some of these problems. It’s more of a standalone film than its predecessors, if not by much, and it poses some genuinely interesting social questions. And the injection of African dress and aesthetics into Marvel’s usual quasi sci-fi production design did make it moderately more intriguing. But I found myself largely bored unless Michael B. Jordan’s Kilmonger character was on screen; not only is he a better performer than leading man Chadwick Boseman, his character was just many times more engaging on screen.
People do seem to adore this movie though and so maybe I ought to watch it again. But it used to be that the only time I’d want to rewatch a movie was when it was so good that I felt compelled to experience that excellence over and over. But with these movies that hail from heavily sequelized cinematic universes, the sensation is closer to feeling duty bound to watch so as to be sure that they’re not bad. Partly that comes from the sunk cost fallacy; I’ve invested so much into these franchises that I want to find something worthwhile in them, if for no other reason than to be able to properly consume and appraise the next sequel. That is a bad way to watch movies.
Anyway, in addition to “Black Panther” I also watched twenty-three other movies last month. Here they are:
- “Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner” Only for die-hards.
- “Boogie Nights” I didn’t like it when it debuted and I still don’t.
- “It Might Get Loud” Kinda fun.
- “U2: From the Sky Down”
- “Heaven Can Wait” This is the 1943 original. A little tedious.
- “Too Late” A bit misshapen but really interesting.
- “Battle of the Sexes” Run-of-the-mill biopic.
- “A Prophet” Amazingly good.
- “The Beguiled” Not too bad at all.
- “Nine to Five” Hilarious.
- “Alan Partridge’s Scissored Isle” Also hilarious.
- “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” Rewatched this for like the fifth time. Easily the best of the franchise.
- “Wind River” Left little impression.
- “The Maltese Falcon” Delightful.
- “Good Time” Really well done but I’m not sure I’ll ever want to watch it again.
- “The Raid” If you’re into this kind of thing.
- “Breaker Morant” Excellent.
- “Black Panther”
- “Brighton Rock” Excellent also.
- “American Made” Yeeeha! Forgettable.
- “Allied” Not as bad as expected.
- “Bringing Up Baby” So terrific.
- “The Brother from Another Planet” Glad I watched it but nothing special.