With most movies, it is important to view the film in isolation. Base the movie off its on merits; its own script, its own camera work, its own music. However, some films require a different critical lens. Some pieces of art are inseparable from their time-period, borne from their tumultuous surroundings: films like Full Metal Jacket, pieces like Symphony No. 13 and paintings like Saturn Devouring His Son.
BlacKkKlansman by Spike Lee joins this list. Born out of the heightened race relations of the Trump administration, it takes a critical assessment of today by examining the past. This message is the movie’s strongpoint, but also its biggest downfall.
BlacKkKlansman critically assesses today’s political landscape by showing what post-civil rights movement looked like in America. The movie does a stellar job at showing the structural inequalities: how a police unit of no racist cops can still be racist. This point was exemplified by the end of the film, by the chief. T
he chief, while not consciously a “bad guy”, shuts down investigation into the KKK, as the higher-ups decided that it was harmful. While the individuals are not the villains, the structure as a whole is.
While the themes and messages behind BlacKkKlansman are very powerful, the movie falls into the trap of trying to force the message down the audience’s throat, which ultimately ruins it.
The parallels were extremely obvious for anyone watching the movie, but Spike Lee decides to add a five minute clip tacked on to the end in order to display the turmoil going on in today’s time, featuring footage and interviews of the 2017 Charlottesville protests, and dates the film. When people look back and view BlacKkKlansman, they will have no idea what those clips were and will most likely ignore the film because of it.
Based off its own merits, the filmmaking of BlacKkKlansman is quite excellent. It is in fact a quite light movie, with a dousing of life lessons trickled in. The camerawork and acting is of course excellent, which is what you would expect from an Oscar nomination. The script is not the greatest in the world, but it does a well enough job to keep you engaged throughout the film.
Overall, BlacKkKlansman is a great film. The film making present throughout is quite excellent, with great cinematography, good acting, and a solid script. The messages and themes present in the film is extremely relevant and needed in today’s society of heightened race relations. However, this film stinks of trying to hard to get its point across.
Its ending makes it seem like BlacKkKlansman is just a vehicle in order to lecture us like children—not unlike VeggieTales, an entertaining film whose main purpose is to get their messages across. Which is a shame, because BlacKkKlansman is a well made, entertaining film.