Marvel Studios’ track record across its 18-movie filmography has been nothing less than extraordinary. Most new entries into the franchise have been met with critical success, all have been met with financial success, and “Black Panther” soars above most of the collection in almost all areas.
Compared to the average Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film, “Black Panther” gives the viewer a lot more meat to bite off. Instead of relying solely on solid comedy and engaging action set-pieces like other great Marvel movies, “Black Panther” seeks to emotionally invest viewers in the traditions, politics and struggles of Wakanda and its new king. And it manages to do so excellently, thrusting a conflicted prince struggling to understand and overcome the mistakes of his ancestors and a man abandoned by his country fighting to take hold of the future together in one of the most fully realized hero-villain arcs the superhero genre has ever seen.
“Black Panther” seeks to emotionally invest viewers in the traditions, politics and struggles of Wakanda and its new king.
Of course, the conflict between Black Panther and Killmonger would not be so compelling were it not for the attention-holding performances courtesy of Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan, respectively. While T’Challa is stoic, reflecting upon the past in order to overcome the tragedies it hides, Killmonger is aggressively passionate, lamenting what the world has stolen from him with a rage that can be felt in every line. Both actors play up this parallel incredibly well, leading to a climax that is immensely emotionally gratifying.
Many have complained of a scarcity of action scenes compared to other MCU installments. But really any perceived lack of action can be attributed to the film’s focused pace and the general importance of politics and traditions to both the story and its characters. As a whole, it doesn’t detract from the film’s entertainment value. In fact, the action scenes weren’t even the most engaging scenes in “Black Panther”- those were the scenes that fleshed out its rich cast of characters and provided emotional subtext to the movie’s central conflict.
It isn’t without its flaws, however: like many Marvel movies before it, “Black Panther” takes some of its characters for granted, killing off promising figures in order to further progress the story and provide a somewhat artificial sense of stakes. There are some inconsistencies in character motivations and actions, particularly where characters like W’Kabi and Okoye are concerned. And the film doesn’t steer clear from the plot contrivances and tropes typical to modern superhero movies. But overall these are not glaring issues in a movie with as much ground to cover as “Black Panther.”
The film doesn’t steer clear from the plot contrivances and tropes typical to modern superhero movies. But overall these are not glaring issues in a movie with as much ground to cover as “Black Panther.”
Ultimately, “Black Panther,” in similar fashion to “Iron Man” and “Captain America: Winter Soldier,” represents the gold standard of what Marvel Studios movies, and superhero movies in general, should be. That is, more than just a great superhero movie, but a great movie overall.
- Smart writing
- Strong performances
- One of the best conflicts of any modern superhero movie
- Some shaky character motivations
- Overly convenient tropes
Photo courtesy of the Marvel franchise