Written and directed by Ryan Coogler
Black Panther hints at the politics of our world through the fantasy worlds of Marvel.
Imagine a physical showdown between a young Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. King finally gets the advantage and asks Malcolm X to surrender so his life can be spared. Malcolm X prefers to die, likening his death to that of a slave who jumps off a cargo ship rather than face a life of serfdom.
I’ll work backwards from this point on the latest Marvel Studio’s offering Black Panther. The Luther King character is T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman. T’Challa has recently become ruler/’Black Panther’ of the high tech African Kingdom of Wakenda, a top-secret futuristic Xanadu–style nation run from an energy source that plummeted to earth as a comet many, many centuries ago.
Poor T’Challa. Although he has triumphed in the arm-to-arm combat with his war-promoting adversary you know that his victory comes with the bitter acknowledgment that much of what his vanquished cousin said was correct; the flourishing Wakanda and its riches should be used for social revolution rather than remain hidden in the jungle. Wakenda’s centuries old isolationist policy is about to be over. Black Panther is a player.
Black Panther with its glorious and exotic kingdom creation and stunning cast is a little too didactic for adults (it is based on a comic book after all) but perfect for children. There is clearly defined good and bad. There is a moral dilemma of some complexity but not too complex to make the choice of violence a solution and it sets the scene for future screen time with this latest Marvel hero.
Interesting note: The first 'Black Panther' comic hero and the Black Panther activist movement were both created in 1966.