The first issue was right at the start, in the story of the origin of the Wakanda people. The idea of a people hidden in the heart of Africa, shielded by their magnificent technology, left me cold. First, the thought that they could come up with the technology so immediately and hide themselves so thoroughly required a suspension of disbelief that is beyond me. For a tribal people to be able to suddenly and completely conceal themselves upon discovering a miraculous mineral required me to suspend disbelief at the technological level (how would they develop the cloaking field so quickly?), and the sociological level (what human race has ever sat on such power for so long and remain so hidden without using that power to conquer its neighbors?) Had these people been aliens who landed on earth with the required technology and moral development, I would have found it far easier to enter the story.
The origin story also cast a moral shadow on these people right out of the gate. If they were such good people that they could hold such power without using it to conquer their neighbors and so powerful that they could perform all manner of technological marvels (including completely healing bullet wounds in a day), why hadn't they used that power for the good of their neighbors before now? Africa has suffered grievously from all manner of warfare, oppression and disease in the last three millennia; why had these miraculous people not used their power to help this stricken continent long before, rather than contentedly sitting on it and allowing the suffering to continue? They condescendingly called white people "colonizers", but the fact that they stood by and did nothing to prevent any suffering caused by the colonial powers makes them at least complicit in the suffering and leaves one wondering what kind of moral standing they have to tell our world how to live. Had the story been cast in a world that less closely resembled our own, I would have felt these tensions less starkly, but the real history of Africa was far too visible in the movie to ignore, and it cast an unavoidable shadow on the Wakanda people.
The unreality of these people - made instantly technologically advanced simply by the possession of a miraculous mineral and simultaneously virtuous enough to not use it to conquer their neighbors and cruel enough to stand by and watch their neighbors suffer without lifting a finger to help - continued to unfold throughout the movie. That such a technologically advanced people should rely on hand-to-hand combat to decide succession to the throne was equally incredible to me. Why would a mighty king submit to such an indignity as being stripped of his physical powers to fight as an equal with any muscle-bound contender who might show himself? In what sense could this be considered either good for the king or good for the people he ruled? Has there been no king in all the long history of Wakanda who simply refused to endure this abuse and abolished this primitive and brutal tradition? And that a king should be surrounded by a female bodyguard with no hint of sexual tension between them is likewise implausible in the extreme. Though the Wakanda people look like us, they are scarcely human in any fundamental sense, making this story far less real to me than many stories with more incredible technology but more real and believable characters.
The spirituality of the Wakanda people also was disappointingly deficient to me. There was nothing in the encounters that the various kings had with their ancestors that gave any clue that these ancestors had grown in any significant way as a result of their death and transition to the ancestral plane. There was no hint of any additional moral insight or wisdom that would have made them worth consulting; indeed T'Challa is wiser and better than his father, who has no viable explanation for his past actions and no counsel worth offering to his son. It seems that the best that can be said about those who die is that they continue to be the people they were in this life, in an existence that lacks any of the color or energy of this world. Certainly there are more hopeful futures offered by other world religions.
So when these unreal people with dubious morality and an impoverished spirituality make their digs at "colonials" throughout the movie and stand up at the end to offer to make the world a better place, I feel like they are the real colonials, not us. What I'm seeing is just racism reversed, a condescending paternalism that without any real moral authority presumes to instruct us on how to live our lives. How do they propose to heal the world? By giving us their marvelous technology? They already have made it clear in the story that the theft of this technology would trigger massive warfare; should we just take it on faith that they know how to prevent this from happening? By advising us to live as unreal human beings with no desire for power, no sexual energy, and no future worth having beyond the grave? This is just religious proselytization, and we already have religions that offer us more.
Though the movie was in many ways attractive, Black Panther simply had too many issues for me to enjoy the movie. It felt too much like an effort to tell me that this is how the world should work, an effort made without adequately understanding how the world actually does work. Had the movie either been kept more separate from the world that we know or made less of an effort to critique the world we live in, I would have found it much more approachable.