Black Panther is a thoroughly enjoyable movie from start to finish. It finally gave us a memorable and relatable villain, something with which previous Marvel movies have struggled. Most importantly, it did not shy away from big ideas and questions and dealt with them in an impressively mature manner for a superhero movie.
The movie lays out 3 different visions for African states:
- One ravaged by war and poverty caused or exacerbated by centuries of colonialism; Wakanda’s neighbors are the archetype and the reason the country is an autarky by design
- The second, championed by Nakia: “an African nation that could serve as a beacon of hope—curing diseases, offering foreign aid, accepting refugees—across the continent and beyond” (The Atlantic)
- Killmonger’s: a powerful state leading a global and very violent insurgency to upend the racial order
T’Challa might be thrown into the deep end when he takes up the royal mantle, but one thing from which he never strays is his conviction that two wrongs don’t make a right: that going to war beyond Wakanda’s borders to supposedly right the wrongs of colonialism would transform the African nation into the thing it hates the most.
The overarching moral of the story is that a nation can preserve its heritage while still being open to outsiders, that the greater the challenges faced by the world, the more important it is to show restraint and cooperate; tribalism and identity politics are not winning bets.
Big shoes to fill for Infinity Wars, which hopefully won't be lazy and rely too much on the 'wow' factor of all the superheroes you can think of joining together.