It’s been a long time coming, but finally Black Panther’s is in cinemas and ready for audiences around the world to enjoy. All the signs before its release were positive, particularly when a slew of positive reviews went live just prior to the movie’s opening. I’ll admit that I was cautiously optimistic before going into the movie. While the trailers had all the pizzazz normally associated with blockbusters of this scale, particularly in the area of Marvel movies, I felt like the movie could falter, particularly when seeing, in the trailers, Michael B. Jordan’s character Erik “Killmonger” Stevens put on a similar Black Panther costume and fight it out with Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa in scenes eerily familiar with the endings of Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Man of Steel, etc… where the hero basically fights an identical version of himself. However, despite these worries, Black Panther is a big triumph, and Michael B. Jordan’s character in particular is a standout, in a movie that succeeds on a number of fronts. The movie has had a lot of weight on its plate prior to release, being heralded as a shining example of how a black cast can marshal and lead a major blockbuster all around the world. At a time of racial strife in the United States, many see the release of this movie from a major US studio as a sign of change in a time where adherence to foundational and traditional beliefs is being championed as a way to make things great again. Black Panther, among many other things, highlights how striving to maintain the old world order is foolhardy and embracing change is the way forward in a unified and united world.
One of the themes of the movie that particularly struck me upon viewing, was the way in which the sins of the past, “The Sins of the Father“, were dealt with. The idea of punishing people for the crimes of their ancestors has been common throughout history and it’s something that rears its head in Black Panther as Killmonger returns to Wakanda to seek revenge for the death of his father at the hands of T’Challa’s father. But Killmonger’s desire for retribution goes much deeper than this one act of murder. He seeks to replicate crimes of the past to usurp power from oppressors and hand it to the oppressed in a violent and bloody attempt to right the wrongs of the past, without realising that this act simply perpetuates a vicious cycle of hate, division, and resentment. Killmonger’s desire for revolution to tear down the old world and replace it is set in stark contrast to T’Challa, who over the course of the movie sees that Wakanda is clearly in need of a revolution to bring it into the modern world, but not one soaked in blood. No more can it sit back and enjoy the riches it possesses while others suffer around the world. T’Challa’s revolution rejects Killmonger’s violent rebellion and the old world order perpetuated by his father, and those who came before him. T’Challa embraces a new way forward in a poignant scene where he refuses to join his ancestors in the land beyond, which is reiterated at the end of the movie when T’Challa speaks at the United Nations, where he opens Wakanda’s knowledge and wealth for the rest of the world. In a time of wall-building, T’Challa calls for the walls of division and isolation to be torn down for the collective good of the human race. We are after all, like T’Challa states, one Tribe, one People; irrespective of skin, class, or creed.
Black Panther will no doubt be lauded as an amazing black superhero, and with good reason; but he is a superhero for everyone. His messages of harmony, peace and healing, ring true to all people regardless of skin colour. We are not bound to repeat the mistakes of our fathers; our ancestors; our histories. Our future is yet to be written, it’s up to us to create it together, unbound by the past.