I NEVER do this. I hate when other people do this, but I’m going to do it. I’m going to give my opinion of a movie still in theaters.
My wife randomly asked me if I wanted to go to the movies to see “Superfly” yesterday, and I said yes. I was excited to see it. We have Moviepass, so it feels virtually free to go. The previews to the movie looked amazing! It has great actors like the up and coming Jason Mitchell from “The Chi” and “Straight Out of Compton” as well as one of my favorite actors, Michael Kenneth Williams who will forever be known to me as “Omar” from “The Wire”. We both thought we were headed for a fantastic movie. I didn’t even check the reviews like I usually do. First, I was convinced I had a good sense of what this movie was going to be, and secondly because I knew this was a movie by black folk, for black folk, about black folk, set in Atlanta. How could it not be good?
With that as the backdrop I was in a good head space to be wowed. I wanted to be entertained, and for the most part I was. The movie does have some decent action, all be it way over the top at times. The costumes were fantastic. Especially on the main character “Priest”. His swag made me wonder if I could pull off perming my own hair. The story line was solid. It followed the same over arching theme as the original which was a cult classic. The problem was, once the excitement I brought to the theater wore off, I was left watching what amounted to an extended R rated rap video complete with what felt like a 12 hour shower scene that had no connection to the story at all.
Who doesn’t like rap videos? They are usually so original!!! Clubs, iced out wrist throwing cash in the air, dancing girls, extravagant cars and houses, rappers looking down at the camera, rinse, and repeat – that’s been rap videos since I was 12 years old.
It’s my own fault for being surprised really. The movie was directed by a man who’s renowned for his work on rap videos and produced by Future. Both of these men are tremendous talents no doubt. With this film, they had an opportunity to tell not just a great story, but an important one. Opportunity knocked, and Future and Director X must have been pre-occupied popping bottles to answer.
I assumed that the overblown attitudes toward money and power displayed in the opening couple of scenes was intended to be hyperbolic. I was expecting to see the folly of worshipping money and power brought to light at some point in this film, but I was sadly disappointed all the way to the very end. It seemed to be continuing the same old, tired story of black men seeking to achieve greatness through robbing, killing, and degrading women. Some of that is to be expected from the antagonist of a story set in Atlanta, but in this story even the protagonist is caught up in believing the myth of power and money. The hero in this story has spent his life chasing the myth, and now wants to get out. I wish I would’ve seen the end game of this pursuit played out in this movie, but sadly it ends with madness being rewarded. “Superfly” suggested that after years of flooding the streets with cocaine, perpetuating violence, objectifying women, and blatantly breaking the law, a reward waits for you on a yacht in the middle of the ocean where your LTE has full bars.
I understand that the makers of this film wanted to be true to the original. I know they wanted to mirror as many of the iconic characters and scenes from the original as possible, but cast it against our modern reality. To that end in one of the more potent scenes of the movie, a racist and crooked cop shouts “take your hand off the gun” as he fires several shots at an unarmed black man in the car with his girlfriend, a clear allusion to #PhilandoCastile. In a later scene pointing to America’s racial tension, a statue of a Confederate soldier is knocked down during a car chase. Lastly, in a scene that fed my own carnal craving for vengeance, the policeman who killed the unarmed black man and his girlfriend in the aforementioned “police shooting” scene is shown being beaten to death by “Priest”. All of this would have been great to add to a story if only it didn’t feed into a false narrative.
I’ve written before about how some people refuse to believe that an unarmed black man could possibly be the victim of injustice. They believe there is always more to the story no matter how much video evidence there is to the contrary. This movie surrounded important issues of racism with the kind of foolery that fuels the fires of ignorance. The unarmed black man in this movie had cocaine in his trunk and a couple scenes earlier killed three men himself. The confederate flag was knocked over by a black gangster driving a gaudy Lamborghini on his way to his death. This film fails to contrast evil vs good. It prefers to spend it’s frames contrasting evil with not that bad.
The glorification of sex, drugs, and money along with the myth of power have been a plague to the black community. Black people aren’t solely responsible for the plague, but I’m really disappointed when I see and hear black artists and film makers cooperate with oppression by telling stories that propagate destructive ideas.
With just a little bit of attention to detail and a conscience, Superfly’screators could have told a powerful story exposing the folly of chasing superficial joys and still spoke to the injustices of American culture. Instead they chose to bury a conscious message beneath cheesy villains, gaudy portrayals of black culture, and dangerous notions of vengeance and escaping consequence.
I wish I could have found the movie more entertaining. I was willing to suspend my disbelief and just let it be like Empire or a Tyler Perry movie, but once they introduced important issues like police brutality and America’s history with racism I held them to a higher standard. Maybe I’m being overly sensitive or expecting too much from a movie or from rap videos for that matter. Perhaps I’m being too harsh, but the times we live in demand more from all of us who are using a platform. Whether that is social media, music, movies, or sports. If you use a platform, use it well.
Do you have a platform you use for sharing values that make the world better?
If not, why don’t you?
If so, how have you used it?