The Black Panther was a good movie (for a Marvel movie). It is definitely a emancipatory experience for many but it’s definitely not a decolonial movie. It was fun to see how white characters are bashed on screen, told to be silent while the heroes of the story talk. White character were only used for comic relief and depicted as amoral and/or goofy. Some segments of the white characters story arcs were cut away and only mentioned through the heros dialogue (The event were CIA agent Everett K. Ross is locked in his room is not depicted on screen). The director Ryan Coogler is aware of what he is doing and not shy to show the reality which he has to work trough. The casino scene is a great example: T’Challa the king of the fictional Wakanda kingdom wins at the roulette wheel but a battle erupts before he can collect his winnings. A random casino visitor, depicted by Stan Lee casually collects the chips and cracks a joke while ripping him off.
Unfortunately the movie depicts muslims as savage kidnappers and offers a universalist techno-optimistic narrative. The Wakanda nation (an utopian African nation which is untouched by colonialism) has developed exactly the same technologies as their North American peers. Their military corps use remotely controlled drones for abroad military missions. They weaponize cars to pursuit their enemies remotely. The capital city of Wakanda is a mirror image of Manhattan, only color schemes and building facades look different. Wakandan scientist are shown to use medical technologies which penetrate bodies and produce 3D renderings of injuries.
As if unhinged innovation would result into identical technological development in every culture. There is a joke about this in the movie when Shuri (naïvely) invents a Wakandan version of sneakers (so that the Black Panther can move silently). The joke was fun until a quick search online reveals multiple franchise deals with multiple shoe companies, licensed to manufacture Black Panther branded footwear.
Despite the faults it’s great that a mainstream superhero film from Hollywood discusses colonisation and the history African slavery. As a part if the plot a museum is shown to falsify African history, so Erik Killmonger as a museum guest (a decent of a culture which artifacts are on display) reclaims the items from the museum (the museum staff is killed in the process). M’Baku the Man-Ape is a cool hero, he is proud to display his raw strength and savage attitude (the character feels like a direct comment to the H&M “coolest monkey in the jungle” controversy!). The movie plays on a binary reversal of stereotypical roles, which makes it difficult to sypher. Some parts feel like meta-critique of western-white-culture but the binary reversal somehow turns against itself. The movies fetisizes the US army trough the figure of Killmonger: The characters military merits and killcount are casually drooled on.
The most radical part of the movies was a scene where T’Challa and Okoye (Bodyguard from the all-female special forces of Wakanda) negotiate with CIA agent Ross how to organize the interrogation of a prisoner. The agent informs them that the CIA will handle the situation and advise them to stand down. T’Challa and Okoye ignore him casually, they don’t even understand what the agent is saying: They can’t even imagine taking orders from a representative of a foreign nation – They can’t imagine a reality were whiteness grants authority.