How much better would most superhero movies be if, rather than fall back on the plain anonymity of World War I and II villains, they rooted themselves in a live, urgent sense of culture? What if Christopher Nolan’s Batman films had anchored themselves in a genuine sense of economic disparity, rather than continually paying lip service to that idea through a vaguely conceived millionaire and his abuses of power? What if the Avengers’ Ultron had more of a palpable fear of public surveillance? Seeing Bruce Wayne or even 007 get a tour of their new toys, meanwhile, is always fun, as tropes go, but imagine that those toys, and the monied, technologically advanced societies they imply, had become possible only through an element that had the power to reverse the course of colonial history. Wouldn’t those tools seem more powerful, the stakes in their design that much higher? That’s what it feels like to watch Black Panther.
The revolutionary thing about Black Panther is that it envisions a world not devoid of racism but one in which black people have the wealth, technology and military might to level the playing field—a scenario applicable not only to the predominantly white landscape of Hollywood but, more important, to the world at large.