Black Panther: A Cinematic Game-Changer
Marvel’s newest and most unique addition to its cinematic universe is here. Black Panther has been anticipated as a very different kind of superhero film and on that level it doesn’t disappoint.
It’s fitting that the first superhero of African descent to grace the pages of comic books is also the first to get his own solo film. We were first introduced to Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa in Captain America: Civil War. In that film, we witnessed the assassination of his father and his own evolving perspective of ongoing events, ending with him hiding Bucky in Wakanda for his own safety. Wakanda is also going through it’s own civil war of sorts in this film, with T’Challa at the center of it.
Now we get his first solo film and we realize just how much like Captain America he really is. He’s righteous to a fault, almost boringly so. He’s driven by a desire to do nothing but what he feels is the right thing at all times. He’s a superhero who remains the idol of a nation.
T’Challa is now the new king of Wakanda, the most secretive and technologically advanced country in the world. With his newfound power comes a bunch of burdensome responsibilities and challenges (literally, in terms of challenges to the throne) that he must deal with. The most trying of these challenges are internal. He’s a reluctant heir to the throne dealing with the loss of his father and the perhaps unfairly high expectations of his nation.
As good as Boseman is, he is outshined at times by the supporting cast. Michael B. Jordan is phenomenal as Erik Killmonger, the antagonist who had been cast out as a child and is now returning to challenge for the throne. His humanized villain steals every scene he’s in. You’d actually empathize with him if his methods weren’t so downright evil. Still, there’s a part of you that feels for him, and he has an impact on T’Challa’s transformation.
Letitia Wright is also fantastic as Shuri, T’Challa’s sister and the tech guru of Wakanda. She is to Wakanda what Tony Stark is to America; all new inventions come from her. She has a long future in the MCU and I hope to see her role expanded even more.
This movie isn’t jam-packed with action, but that’s part of what’s so refreshing about it. A lot of time is dedicated to building the supporting cast, all of which are extremely talented actors. There’s emotional and intellectual growth to spare.
This is the first MCU installment to really tackle ongoing societal themes. From social injustice to isolationism to the idea of a tyrant in power, many themes in the movie hit home to what is actually happening in the world around us.
Unlike some other MCU movies, Black Panther doesn’t rely on its connection to the greater universe. Sure, there are numerous references to T’Chaka’s assassination in Captain America: Civil War and some characters we’ve seen before like Everett Ross and Ulysses Klaue (not to mention that end credits scene), but none of it would leave you lost if you hadn’t seen previous films.
Black Panther’s diversity is a game-changer for the MCU and for the superhero genre overall. It’s the first superhero film with an almost total black cast, and what’s so unique is that it truly is very much an African movie. The culture, the tribes, the settings, the soundtrack, the sense of history. All of it gives off a truly African feel, and that’s a true first in the genre.
This movie stands alone. One of the MCU’s most successful with a $242 million opening weekend, there aren’t many movies that receive an applause when it ends, but this one did. One of the best installments in the MCU, it deserves every bit of praise it gets. And that includes kudos to Marvel Studios for allowing Ryan Coogler the creative freedom to make the movie he wanted to make. Marvel should lock him up for the rest of the Black Panther franchise.
I’m glad we don’t have to wait long to visit Wakanda again. We’ll be there with this cast of characters in just a couple months in Avengers: Infinity War.