The world has been abuzz over Marvel’s Black Panther. And rightly so. Not only is the movie is a celebration of all things black, it’s also very cerebral, well-acted, well-directed, and very pertinent to issues faced by the world today. BP rivals Wonder Woman as one of the best comic book movies ever made. I could turn this into a post reviewing the movie, but I won’t. So instead, I’ll simply say – in a word – the joint was amazing! I’ve seen the movie twice so far (OK, I paid once and watched it again bootleg. Don’t judge me.), and I’ll definitely see it a few more times this month.
In my excitement from watching the film the first time however, there were several things I missed before. But now having seen it again, I’m left with some questions not directly addressed. So I’m going to commit this post to sharing a few of those thoughts and burning questions.
**As if I needed to say so, there are MAJOR spoilers in this post. Just wanted to throw that out there. I know how you ninjas get.**
1. Why did Killmonger bother trying to form a working relationship with Klaue? If Killmonger’s plan all along was to curry favor with the Wakandans by delivering one of the countries greatest enemies on a silver platter, why not kill him from the jump? His plan seemed to be to kill Klause, gain access to the country, win over the people’s hearts, beat T’Challa, claim the Black Panther mantle, and control the distribution of Vibranium across the world. Makes sense. But what was nonsensical was all the unnecessary scheming from an otherwise really smart guy. Being chums with an evil, colonist-minded Klaue at the beginning made no sense. As a side note: how did Killmonger actually find Wakanda in the first place? He hadn’t been there since he was a baby and Klaue (his…um…guide?) was dead.
2. Why didn’t Killmonger simply challenge T’Chaka earlier on? If my take on the timeline is correct, King T’Chaka death in Captain America Civil War had only taken place about a week or so leading up to the events of Black Panther. Why would Killmonger wait until T’Challa is already kind to make a challenge himself? He could’ve challenged T’Chaka which, frankly, would’ve made more sense. Since T’Chaka killed Killmonger’s old man and was the one responsible for Wakanda’s isolation from the rest of the world, it would’ve made more sense for Killmonger to direct his anger at T’Chaka, not his son. Besides, at T’Chaka’s age, Killmonger would’ve beat him within minutes.
3. Speaking of Killmonger and his challenges, when are we going to admit that he beat T’Challa fair and square? A lot of people (correctly) pointed out that according to Wakandan battle rules, loss is obtained either by concession or by death. But where in the rules does it allow outside interference to influence the outcome? On two separate occasions outsiders prevented T’Challa’s death. The first came when Zuri (played by Forest Whitaker) stepped in as Killmonger was going in for the kill. The second – not so obvious – was when M’Baku AKA Man-Ape nursed a badly wounded T’Challa back to health. Killmonger threw T’Challa’s beaten and unconscious body down a waterfall into the river below; where he would’ve surely drowned.
4. Why no mention of the final Infinity Stone? Is it in Wakanda? Marvel movies have a penchant for centering their conflicts around the infinity stones. Infinity stones, for non-comic folks, are stones that possess unique powers which – if used together – can control the universe. So far, five of the six stones have been discussed and accounted for in Marvel movies. The next Marvel joint – Infinity Wars – is setting the stage for supervillian Thanos in his effort to locate and obtain them all. Since the next movie is coming up, it stands to reason the sixth and final stone is somehow tied to Wakanda. Why not include that?
5. How does Wakanda connect with the rest of the world? Better question: do they? T’Challa’s little sister sure-i is a genius (get it? Oooook, never mind). She has a technical IQ that rivals other great minds in the Marvel universe like Tony Stark, Reed Richards, T’Challa, and Hank Pym. And yet, there is no indication that something like the Internet – a global system of connectivity – exists in an isolated Wakanda. I mean, even Shuri refers to the famous “What are thoooooose!” meme; something she wouldn’t know about unless she was able to access the internet. Amirite?
6. Where’s Cap? OK, this isn’t really a burning question. It’s just me being impatient. At the end of Civil War, Cap and Bucky are with T’Challa in Wakanda. T’Challa offered the use of Wakanda tech to descramble Bucky’s brains, which was later seen as a success during the post-credit scenes. But where is Cap during all of this? Is he still in Wakanda? Did he leave and head back to the Avengers HQ? Is he covert? I guess we’ll find out during Infinity Wars.
7. What will it mean for T’Challa now that he’s opening up Wakandan technology to the rest of the world? The movie touches on the hypothetical situation of an African nation untouched by colonization. But what happens when it is revealed that this untouched country possesses one of the most precious resources on Earth? What kind of problems will that bring about? There are already rumors floating that BP actor Chadwick Boseman will play this iconic role at least five times (two Infinity movies and some other stuff beyond that). If that’s true, my guess is new bad guys will surface due to T’Challa opening it’s borders.
8. Why do so many Wakandans speak English? I know this is an “American” film, but far too many Wakandas know English, considering it was never colonized. I know T’Challa and Shuri were brilliant. But, the rest of the country?
9. Will Shuri’s Outreach Center play a role in the MCU? As a part of his outreach efforts, T’Challa commissions an outreach center be built and headed up by Shuri. Oakland (Harlem in the comics) plays a key role in this movie not only as Killmonger’s home as a child but now also as the city where the Wakandan global reach will first be established. But I’m left to wonder if this center will merely be symbolic to this film or if it will play a role moving forward. Speaking of Shuri, will she ever don the Black Panther suit herself? Possibly with tech developed in this new outreach center? I know. I’m all over the place with this one.
10. Was Killmonger really a bad guy? Probably one of the most complex villains in movie history, I have a hard time believe Killmonger was horrible. Yes, he killed. Yes, he had moments where he was a jerk. But there’s much more to his character than that. I’m going somewhere with this. Hear me out.
To fully appreciate Killmonger, you have to use history as context. Killmonger isn’t just some greedy, selfish, monster. He’s what happens when you take the shame of a history’s worth of colonization, slavery, genocide, and modern-day institutionalized racism and allow it to manifest in a single character. Killmonger’s desire for vengance is a driven by hundreds of years worth of people suffering unimaginable pain and turmoil. So can you really expect him to anything but angry? The movie went to great lengths to show how his upbringing as a poor, fatherless, black kid growing up in the height of racially tumultuousness shaped his worldview. Meanwhile, Africans were across the pond relishing in their isolationist environment doing nothing as the rest of the world burned. Wakanda knew of the sufferings of black people across the world. And yet, with all their technology and all of their riches, they sat by idly. He was understandably pissed. Even Chadwick Bosemen agreed that T’Challa was mostly blinded by his own privilege.
I’m sure I’ll think of more questions each time I watch this movie. But here’s a good start.
The floor is yours.