If you haven't seen Marvel Studios' Black Panther yet, it's either because you live under a rock or the Amish community you live in won't allow it. The movie is as good as everyone says it is. Whether you are a comic book fan, a superhero movie fan, or could care less about any of that and just enjoy a well-told story, you will enjoy this movie.
Much of the media attention that the movie has received is geared toward the cultural representation that director Ryan Coogler has created so well. Black Panther takes place in a country called Wakanda on the continent of Africa. To the outside world, Wakanda looks like another impoverished third world country lacking the common resources and technology of the rest of the world. In reality, Wakanda is home to the world's largest supply of vibranium - the strongest and most precious metal in the world. The Wakandans use the metal to formulate the most advanced technological society on the planet. The Dora Milaje are a group of warrior women who guard Wakanda with more power and skill than most men of other tribes and nations.
Although the vast majority of the feedback from Black Panther has been positive, there have been a few who are critical. In our modern age of strong political opinions both negative and positive, and more social justice causes than anyone can count, some have criticized the movie for being too "politicized." In one criticism I read, some didn't see why so much attention is being paid to Black Panther when other black Marvel characters like Spawn, Blade, Storm, Falcon, and War Machine have already been portrayed in movies. I don't think this criticism grasps the world of Wakanda or the overall message of the movie, however.
I have often heard from many well-meaning Christians that they "don't see color." While I understand what they are attempting to communicate, it is important to know that such a statement is neither biblical nor true. We all see color. I know my wife is white; she knows that I am black. She doesn't wish to be black, nor do I wish to be white. We see the beauty in each other just as we are and we love it. So does Jesus. I am proud of who I am and who God has created me to be, and whether we care to admit it or not, there is a certain level of comfort we feel when works of fiction create characters that we can look up to.
In the modern era of the superhero movie genre T'Challa, the Black Panther, is the first real superhero young black boys can look up to. Blade, while a cool character, is a half vampire antihero. Spawn is also an antihero - an antihero from hell, for that matter. The other black heroes are cool, too, but they are all sidekicks and never the main protagonists driving the story. That's what makes Black Panther different. He is a prince turned king and without question the main protagonist who drives the narrative. It's cool and it should be celebrated that a black man lead such a wonderful movie and be an admirable hero with whom so many black boys can admire.
Don't get me wrong, we can admire Captain America, Ironman, Spiderman, and my personal favorite, Batman, too (not Justice League Batman, no one can admire him). But it isn't the same, and that's what makes Black Panther unique and such a big deal to so many. Aside from the hero, T'Challa, there is also the conflict and community of black culture that is represented so well. I didn't grow up in Africa so I don't know how authentic the cultural portrayal is of Africa, specifically, but I can tell you that the differing ideals of T'Challa and Killmonger, and even Nakia, are so incredibly accurate and representative of the world in which we live. Some guys are like Killmonger who feel slighted and want to act out in violent rage; some are like T'Challa, content with life as is and maintaining his own distinct community; and some are like Nakia, searching for opportunities to build bridges with the rest of the world so that we might all live in harmony. The entire depiction of this Wakandan society comes as such a breath of fresh air and it is what makes the movie so memorable.
I fear that the criticisms about Black Panther being too "politicized" may come from people who fear that what black people want is to be the dominant society, running the world like Wakanda free of diversity. That isn't what I want and that wasn't the message of the movie. T'Challa's final speech is profound for the main message of the movie:
We have more that connects us than separates us.
Racial harmony is possible and beautiful because God created ALL human beings in his image. We all have dignity and purpose and are accountable before God. If any one race or culture finds itself in a position of superior resources and opportunity, as the Wakandans did, then they should do what they can to come alongside ALL of humanity to make the world better overall. I can't speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself. I don't want to see black leaders, superheroes, coaches, CEO's, and business owners because I don't want to see white ones. I want to see everyone with a seat at the table because the Bible tells me that heaven is filled with a multitude from "every tribe, tongue, and nation" singing praises to King Jesus.
There is beauty in diversity and unity when we come together in Christ. I believe Black Panther promotes an underlying biblical ideal that we should all celebrate, and we can enjoy it because it is also a really, really good movie!