First off, Black Panther is a movie, not a movement. I waited for the release date for over a year and when the pre-screening happened weeks before the premiere, many of the industry’s elite called it the best thing to happen since Jollof. Ryan Coogler (Director) and his crew seemed to had turned comic book to a generational hook – Wakanda Forever. But was/is it as perfect as the gods at Hollywood had/have declared, keep reading as we journey through the undulating mass that is fictional Wakanda. This movie is hardly T’Challa’s origin story; Captain America: Civil War did some justice in that department. This instead explores into the peculiarities of Wakanda and its feral yet divine culture. Spoilers ahead, continue reading at the peril of your enlightenment… Lol
Let’s dig in. Long, long ago a meteorite containing vibranium dropped somewhere in East Africa, sending five surrounding tribes into battle. A fierce warrior is visited by a mystic Panther Spirit, consequently he ingests a herb nourished by the meteor and gained superhuman powers, becoming the first Black Panther. Fast forward to 1992, King T’Chaka travels to Oakland California to visit his clandestine agent brother, N’Jobu. N’Jobu is found to be complicit in the black-market trade-off (Vibranium for ammunitions) with Klaue, number one enemy of Wakanda. N’Jobu is killed by T’Chaka and leaves his son Eric Steven, later Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) behind. The plot ensues!
The theme of the movie is centred around isolationism for the good of Wakanda or intervention for the sake of our “brothers and sisters” around the world. The neo-liberal screen writers created a world completely dissimilar to the rest of the marvel universe. A world where white “colonizers” oppress black folk through mechanisms such as the transatlantic slave trade and CIA interventions in African countries. This movie is inaccurately political, patronizing to black people and racially insulting to both black and white people. The rest of the Marvel Universe doesn’t reconcile with this sentiment. Black Panther is completely centred around race… Does the world need such a divisive tale told now? There’s also the subtle analysis depicted here between the victimized Killmonger and the gloriously successful T’Challa, who is of course basking in prosperity because the outside world (White People) had not interfered in his life, in contrast to Killmonger.
Take nothing away from Ryan Coogler’s creation though, the acting was mind-blowing, the combat scenes were furious, the CGI and the rest of the imagery were the most visually compelling I had seen from a Marvel movie in years. There were scenes that held me spellbound, especially those involving Klaue (Andy Serkis), who supplied just enough foolery and villainy. There were incredible solo performances too from Letitia Wright (Shuri), Michael B. Jordan (Eric Stevens), Winston Duke (M’baku), Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa / Black Panther), Lupita Nyong’o (Nakia) and Danai Gurira (Okoye). The movie has a large canvas of fantastic characters. Also, we had an amazing OST album curated by Kendrick Lamar, plus an African musical score that was pure fire.
But some of the message in this flick left questions asked rather than answered. Even when Wakanda decides to help, it doesn’t help the neighbouring countries in Africa, the continent it is placed in, the continent that is home to the “ancestors who jumped from ships”, the continent where dictatorial governments perpetrate inhumanities, the continent blessed in resources and yet languishing in poverty. It instead helps Oakland, California, United States of America. A first world country.
A movie that mentally shifts the responsibility of self-advancement to a group of people, solely because they are pigmented different is a tad bit racist. For one group of people to succeed, the other don’t necessarily need to feel like losers. You cannot fight racism with racism. Hollywood’s furtherance of social justice, diversity and identity politics is killing merit and there’s no stopping it. But again, take nothing away from the picture, it might still be the best cinematic rendition this quarter of the year.