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Black Panther Review

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Photo courtesy Flickr user Gage Skidmore

Photo courtesy Flickr user Gage Skidmore

Photo courtesy Flickr user Gage Skidmore

Last weekend, the much-anticipated “Black Panther” was released in theaters. The film garnered a great deal of buzz because of its primarily black cast and socially conscious storyline. A superhero flick with heavy Afro-futurist vibes, the movie engages the zeitgeist and brings afloat current racial issues.

The plot centers around Wakanda, an African country that prospers because it harnesses the power of a special metal, “vibranium.” This material is a strong source of energy and its abundance ensures the country’s stability. The leaders of Wakanda keep the country isolated for fear of losing the stability for which they had worked.

All this changes when a young man, Killmonger, infiltrates the country to bring about change. He declares that Wakanda has the power to emancipate oppressed black people all around the world, but chooses not to out of selfishness. Therein lies the dilemma.

The divide between the Wakandans and Killmonger is an obvious metaphor for the divides in the world today, particularly in the U.S. What is the best way to end a history of oppression toward black people? Killmonger’s view of rising up against tyranny mirrors the strong political ideologies that have received much media coverage in recent memory. It is very difficult to argue against him, given the horrific white supremacy that has plagued our nation since its birth. However, the Wakandans’ more moderate view is enticing for many, because it appears less romantic and more rooted in policy.

This conflict was effectively crafted in order to force the audience to question itself. The lines of good and evil are blurred as we search for justice … not from a superhero but from an ideology. The biggest issue is in how to watch the film. An African country in search of the most efficient way to help other black people is thrown into imbalance by an impatient extremist. Or as Barbara Ehrenreich tweeted, “a black monarch colludes with the CIA to crush a black revolutionary.” The film is a Rubin’s Vase of racial politics that doesn’t let you sit on the sidelines. It forces you to engage with its subjects in a way that is atypical of Hollywood.

What makes the film so peculiar is how earnestly it displays this divide. It was almost surprising to see such nuance in a mainstream context. If Killmonger is so relatable, why is he the villain? Maybe that’s the point.

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Black Panther Review