Over the last handful of years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe wasted no time in expanding their horizons. Movies like Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy and now Black Panther are stretching the series into a new and interesting territory. With box office and critical expectations coming back incredibly high, what do you need to know about Black Panther, the latest entry to the MCU?
Black Panther follows the adventures of T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) in the weeks following Baron Zemo’s (Daniel Brühl) attack on the United Nations and the death of his father, T’Chaka (John Kani). His problems during the difficult time are compounded by the arrival of Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) and Eric Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). Both men have ideas of their own relating to Wakanda’s wealth and political goals… and they don’t involve the country’s new King. The film is directed by Ryan Coogler who shares credit on the screenplay with Joe Robert Cole.
This film shines brightest in its world building. While we’ve seen hints towards Wakanda and the Black Panther universe in previous MCU films, it existed only in tantalizing tidbits. However, the world springs to life fully formed in this movie. Coogler gels completely with his creative team, crafting stunning visuals to fill the frame. The costumes, the make-up and the visual effects all come together flawlessly to create this previously unexplored corner of the MCU.
There will be a lot written about this movie and representation. Wonder Woman kicked this topic wide open last year, and Black Panther will undoubtedly show just how powerful it can be. This movie puts forward amazing performances by all… Michael B. Jordan fans, make sure you see this movie. However, Black Panther deserves special love for putting forward the best, butt-kicking group of women to grace the MCU. They have tough competition from the GoTG ladies, but Okoye (Danai Gurira), Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and Shuri (Letitia Wright) are absolute gems. Each woman easily establishes her own completely unique character within the course of the superhero narrative. They are smart, funny, powerful and not only hold their own opposite the dynamic male characters, but even save the day. Show us more of these awesome ladies, Marvel.
Coogler works incredibly well with his actors, creating such positive and progressive perspectives. What made Wonder Woman an absolute joy is that Patty Jenkins created a powerful woman, completely devoid of a sexualized male gaze. Coogler matches Jenkins in that his camera is devoid of forced sexualization. In the hands of a different filmmaker, this could have been an incredibly challenging and problematic film. However, Coogler handles everything masterfully in the movie’s treatment of gender, race and above all, identity.
Okoye, Shuri and Nakia’s identities as T’Challa’s love interest, sister, and friend don’t define the film’s female characters. Rather, they are also a Wakandan intelligence operative, the head of the countries tech and scientific development, and the head of the Wakandan equivalent of the Secret Service. Each of these women not only have their own identities allowing them to stand out on their own, and not merely defined by their relationship with T’Challa. In terms of characters for today’s kids to idolise and respect, they are perfect.
The film’s biggest problem lies in its pacing. The script attempts to cover a lot of ground. There’s a ton of previously established MCU stuff to get through. Ultimately, this weighs down parts of the first and second act (no spoilers!). However, once Black Panther focuses on its own established narrative, the movie absolutely soars. As one entry in a massive cinematic universe, any film is going to undergo some struggles. In the grand scheme of story problems, this is a completely minor issue.
All in all, Marvel Studios hits it out of the park with its latest installment, Black Panther. The thriller thrives in the act of building an entirely new world for the MCU to play in. Coogler’s script also populates the film with some of the most fun and interesting characters in the Marvel series to date. This is going to be a popular entry into the MCU, and greatly deserves all the talk surrounding it. If you’ve been following the Marvel films at all, make sure you add Black Panther to your list.
Black Panther opens in theaters around the country starting Thursday night.