Black Panther: The Confusing Antagonist
Updated: Oct 4, 2019
Overall this was a very good movie that suffers from a couple of glaring plot holes. It's also the first movie I've seen that successfully blends African culture with advanced technology, and does so whilst simultaneously providing an explanation for the stagnancy of their foreign policy. The movie is fast paced, giving the viewer little chance to stop and wonder where it might be going, but still delivering a good plot. And the banter between Shuri (played by Letitia Wright) and . . . well, everybody actually, provides a good deal of comedy without overstepping itself. Overall I am definitely glad I saw this in the theater. And now we take the gloves off. As you've probably guessed from the modified title, the only real failure in this movie is in the portrayal of Eric 'Kill-Monger' (what is it with Marvel and enemy-mongers?) played by Michael B Jordan. I don't fault Jordan for the issues, as he does a marvelous job of portraying blind bitter rage, but the writers aren't getting off that easily.
Lets start with the lesser of two evils here; how he could have manipulated Wakanda as well as he did, when even the CIA had no idea about its truth. Even if we assume that his father's notebook could have put him in contact with Klaue, it still seems unlikely that it would have detailed information on the various players in Wakanda at the time. It is even less likely that it would have information on the reaction to Klaue's heist at that time. And it certainly wouldn't have any information on the current political environment. Yet, somehow he is able to manipulate the social and political environment of a country that the United States government thinks herds goats and makes clothing with Machiavellian flare. Seems unlikely.
Equally confounding to me are Eric's priorities. Consider that this man spends nearly his entire life preparing to take revenge for his father's murder. But upon completion of this life long endeavor what does he do? He declares war on 'colonizers'! And it becomes clear that what he means by that is white people. All of his statements suggest that somehow his rage shifted from T'Challa's father to all white people. I'm not exactly sure why. It is a virtual certainty that many of the people who trained him to get his vengeance were white. We see in the beginning of the movie that blacks in Africa have it far worse than blacks in the US. Yet his opening salvos are supposed to be against the US and Great Britain. Britain who never degraded blacks the way the US once did. And if we're going to dredge up history, then blacks have done far worse to blacks then whites by far. And all of this is supposedly because his father was killed by his uncle . . . a black man. Unless this is intended as a satire of the Black Lives Matter movement (that only seems to take notice if a black man is killed by a white man) I'm really not sure what the author is thinking.
Not that T'Challa is perfect. Consider that at the beginning of Captain America Civil War Wakanda is an active member of the countries protesting The Avengers violating other countries' sovereignty. And T'Challa certainly seems to be supporting those priorities. Yet less than half an hour into this movie he does the same thing in his hunt for Klaue in South Korea. Dare I say more people died in that particular quest/high speed chase? And at the end of the movie he opens an outreach area in California. Again, didn't we already establish that blacks have it worse in Africa then in California? Why isn't he starting there? It is possible that this was a symbolic message, him opening the first outreach in the building where his father made such a terrible mistake. But if that's the case this scene should have come after the revelation of what Wakanda actually was. Which brings me to . . .
The very lackluster manner in which that event occurred. Nothing screams reality like seeing something with your own eyes. There is no digital media one could show at the united nations that would be taken seriously. Impact: Paperweight. What they should have done was invited the world's leaders to the edge of the cloaking field over the country. All T'Challa would have had to do was walk up, drop the field, and say 'We will be watching'. Impact: meteoric.
Aside from these issues I still enjoyed this movie. It contains a good story about a man struggling to understand what is right, and the value of cooperation. It enshrines the concept that one should try to understand the morals they've been taught instead of blindly following them. Life is about change. Morals that made sense two thousand years ago may no longer be appropriate to day.
It seems to take T'Challa longer than it should to realize that there are more options for helping people than domination on the one side, and refugee camps on the other. Still, I think what I most enjoyed was Chadwick Boseman's portrayal of a king worthy of the name. T'Challa is a man of thought, of action, and of conscience. Hell if you find a leader with any two of those qualities you've hit the jackpot. Overall I'd give this movie an 87%.