[***Spoiler warning: Outcome of movie referenced towards the end of this article.***]
I’ve seen the movie BLACK PANTHER twice and feel like I can still watch it again and derive more to think about. I have read a few articles written about the film, including a very critical one, which has also helped me to mull it over further.
Practically speaking, Wakanda is an anachronism, not to mention an obvious bubble of a utopia, placed outside of the context of linear, “real” time as most, if not all, of consensus reality would dictate. Still, this fictional land with its ancestrally “pure” people and the narratives that unfold from it comprise a pertinent allegory of a “place” from which to derive and better understand generalizable truths or large-scale shared experiences about the human condition, some of them just discussed above. Given that “universal” has become understandably so associated by many with overly-absolutist, simplistic, monolithic thinking, I am purposefully not using that adjective here before the word “truths.”
From a political perspective, I appreciated the complex “villain.” Effectively played by the handsome Michael B. Jordan, the anguished character Killmonger has a good primary intention. He plans to balance out mass injustice via powerfully arming (with Wakanda’s unique vibranium-made weaponry) oppressed populations around the world. All downtrodden African descended peoples are his understandable main concern. However, fulfilling his vision would have led to draining Wakanda of resources in fairly short order and putting the country in imminent danger to other, larger superpowers.
I felt ambivalent about the anti-immigrant message conveyed in the film. But, then, Wakanda is not representative of, say, the U.S.A. It is a small country with unique resources to protect, especially from falling into the wrong, corrupt hands. I could imagine how welcoming immigrants into the little nation would lead to endangering Wakanda’s particular integrity. I imagine others have thought this issue through more than I have, however, and am open to hearing/reading other views on this. I did find that King T’Challa’s opening up his country the way he chose to at the end was naive and not well-thought-out, as much as I deeply appreciated his magnanimous intention behind doing so.
In BLACK PANTHER, the protagonists and main antagonist (Killmonger) were neither “all bad” or “all good” in the tired, formulaic, Manichean way of character presentation in a drama. This was both refreshing and a big nod back to the ancient Greek tragedies, where every main player had a tragic flaw that left them vulnerable to downfall while they also possessed humanly relatable and well-meaning intentions.
BLACK PANTHER is undoubtedly one of the most thought-provoking Hollywood blockbuster movies I’ve seen in the longest time, if ever.