Movie Review: Black Panther

So, after work I went to see Black Panther to see if all the hype was worthwhile.  This is a movie which was first brought to my attention because of the controversy involving racist review trolls whose negativity sought to bring the score of the movie down on Rotten Tomatoes, and that does feature a bit into my thoughts about the movie.  I did not know about Black Panther growing up as a kid who was mildly interested in Marvel comics, as my heroes of choice were the X-Men and I was regularly cast by my neighbors as the brainy but paralyzed Professor X.  Given my lack of context going into this film I felt like the white guy called “Colonizer” by the Wakandans here, and just was along for the ride, continuing my spotlight on films involving race [1], I suppose.  My short take on this film was that it is not only a great superhero film and deserves to be considered among the best of all the Marvel Extended Universe movies so far but that it aspires to be a great movie and invites some thoughtful questions on the larger scale of history and culture and politics that are worth wrestling with.  This film is not only a great genre piece, but an “important movie” in general.

The plot of this movie can be summarized briefly as follows, without too many spoilers.  A young man who is noble but not particularly dramatic becomes ruler of an obscure African nation called Wakanda after his father dies in a terrorist attack in New York City, and he is faced with the dilemma of whether to continue his nation’s policy of isolationism or to seek to encourage the rise of African nations (and poorer nations in general) through developmental aid because of their immense resources in Vibranium, some sort of unobtanium like-substance.  While the first act of the movie or so focuses on a rogue South African arms dealer as the villain, played ably by Andy Serkis, the real villain of the film comes into relief as a cousin of the titular hero who has been raised in Oakland and is seeking to avenge the death of his father and the revenge of the exploited black folk around the world through the use of Vibranium-based weaponry.  His arrival in Wakanda opens up huge social divides about whether it is best to remain isolated or whether Wakanda should make a bid for world power in the face of entrenched racism and exploitation around the world.

As I mentioned, this film does invite some serious questions and some of them are directly asked by the film’s characters, particularly its politically motivated antifa villain.  While many viewers are likely to appreciate the spectacle of the film’s amazing special effects and vivid fighting scenes, other viewers are likely to find the film’s rhetoric more than a little bit troubling.  Why indeed would a massively advanced Central African Empire somewhere in the forests near the Congo hide away from the world while Africa’s people were being taken to slavery in the Middle East or Americas and while the resources of the country were being used for the benefit of various colonizing powers?  The film as a whole focuses on an advanced and vibrant if not very democratic black culture where white people are merely peripheral (at best) rather than central to their existence, but even if the film rejects the villain’s political worldview, the fact that it is put on the table as an option and one that is appealing to many Wakandans is something that troubles this viewer at least.  Would reviewers be nearly so positive about this film if it featured a sympathetic white supremacist lead bad guy?  What does that asymmetry say about our contemporary culture and our views of racial politics?

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2013/11/30/dignitas-in-extremis/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/01/07/movie-review-hidden-figures/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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2 Responses to Movie Review: Black Panther

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Eyes Of Africa | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: A Game Of Cat And Mouse | Edge Induced Cohesion

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