Black Panther: The film’s Hero is Donald Trump whereas the Baddie is Black Lives Matter
There is a ton of thing to like about Marvel’s big-budget hit Black Panther, and almost as much not to like. For starters, director and co-writer Ryan Coogler does an A+ job of world building (more on this later). In addition, the soundtrack and score also deserve an A+. Plus, there are the actors, the greatest cast yet assembled in all of the MCU.
Black Panther is set in the fictional Wakanda, an idyllic country hidden in the heart Africa thanks to an alien metal called vibranium. This resource (delivered decades ago via a meteor) not only grants Wakanda the power to disguise itself as a third-world nation (and thus remain blissfully ignored by the outside world), but to enjoy an extraordinary standard of living via the miracles of technology and science.
The actual kingdom of Wakanda seems like an African nation — open markets, vibrant colors, the architecture, the love of long-held customs… But if you look closer, everyone enjoys the lifestyle of a Silicon Valley billionaire.
Wakanda is ruled by King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), who is also known as the Black Panther. He is big on border security, thinks his nation and people should come first, and relentlessly protects his nation’s culture from outsiders, including refugees. If this is all starting to sound familiar, it should. Also like President Donald Trump, T’Challa’s beliefs are not based on race. This is not a “black thing.” This is a tradition/matter of living thing.
Even the progressive Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) — a more-than-capable spy and the woman T’Challa still carries a torch for (can you blame him?) — does not argue for open borders, liberal immigration policies, and a massive influx of refugees. She merely wants to export vibranium to help mankind.
The arrival of Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (an underused Michael B. Jordan) puts all of these arguments on hold. Killmonger (such a good naming) is a man with mad killing chops and a fiery grudge against the nation of Wakanda. T’Challa might be the Black Panther, but Killmonger is a Black Panther in the Huey Newton-Bobby Seale 1960 black nationalist sense. Similar to the Black Panther Party, he is originated from Oakland, California, and to him everything is a “black thing.” He wants the vibranium exported in the form of weapons to overthrow white people.
Still, Black Panther is not a movie about race, it is a movie about ideas and ideals, about our shared humanity. Our protagonist is not interested in protecting ethno-nationalism, but rather a healthy form of nationalism.
If T’Challa represents Donald Trump, Killmonger is Black Lives Matter.
Did I just write that?
Yes. I. Did.
Black Panther also has a wonderful sense of humor.
For politically incorrect reasons, and for decades, a big complaint of mine has been Hollywood’s marginalization of black actors. I can’t tell you how many times, in some minor role, I have witnessed a charming black actor or actress — one who would blow off the screen these metrosexual good looking boys and shapeless forever-girls we’re being force fed — and ask my wife, “Why in the hell is this person not in every film ever made?”
Multiculturalism is a cancer. Diversity is code for “hire more leftists!” I hate all that stuff. What I like are films and movie stars — masculine dudes, womanly girls — and Black Panther is buried in movie stars — actual movie stars. The women are sexy, the men are men, the talent and charisma overwhelming.
My only gripes, and they do matter, are the pacing and scope. You keep longing for the tale to take off, for the action to become vivid, for the soar. Instead, the rollercoaster doesn’t stop climbing and climbing without ever reaching the top. The best action scene takes place in the first half hour, a car chase in Korea. After that, we end up stuck on the plains of Africa with computer generated actors fighting in hand-to-hand combat.
We are also cheated. After we are made to fall in love with Wakanda, to share T’Challa’s desire to protect it, its people, its way of life, the investment fails to pay a dividend. The nation is never in any real threat, and this seems like a cheat.
Moreover, the action scenes are unimaginative, far from exciting or tense, like a computer-cartoon version of the battle scenes in Braveheart without the visceral moments. Aside from its stars, Black Panther is lacking the awe factor.
The stars, on the other hand, are worth the price of admission. And not just the film’s stars. The ageless Angela Bassett as the queen mother, the fierce and funny Danai Gurira as the king’s chief bodyguard, the endlessly charming Letitia Wright as T’Challa’s sister (and “Q”), Forest Whitaker, Winston Duke… Even the white guys are awesome. Andy Serkis nails his role as a South African arm dealer and Martin Freeman’s reaction-acting is still the greatest around.
Black Panther is filled smart politics, imagination, and movie star charisma — all that is missing is a satisfying payoff.
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