Over ten years have passed since “Iron Man” kicked off the widely successful franchise known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, an ever expanding amalgam of popular superheroes coming together to defeat the forces of evil. With 17 other films under their belt, one would believe the superhero trope would be worn very thin at this point, but “Black Panther” breathes new life into the genre and delivers an impressive experience that has exceeded expectations.
Continuing after the events of “Captain America: Civil War,” “Black Panther” focuses on T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman, as he adjusts to becoming the new king of a fictional, technologically advanced African kingdom known as Wakanda. But when an outsider challenges the throne, T’Challa must look within himself, and the traditional customs of Wakanda to decide what would be better for his nation and what would be better for the rest of the world. Breaking away from the typical superhero movie formula, “Black Panther” acts as a driven character piece, delving deep into the psyches of both the main protagonist as well as the main antagonist of the film, trust me we’ll get to him later. Not only does T’Challa have to adjust to becoming the leader of an entire nation, he has to deal with issues and events set in stone by his predecessors, causing him to see Wakanda in a new light and changing his previous views about what it means to be the Black Panther. The best superhero movies deconstruct the character down to their core and focus on developing the rea son behind the mask, rather than just having a recognizable character fight a generic bad guy.
When the first trailer for the movie dropped, many were worried that Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan, was simply going to be another foil for the film’s protagonist, a character with the same abilities as the hero but just evil, like Iron Monger in “Iron Man” or Yellowjacket in “Ant-Man.” However, it is safe to say that this is not the case. Unlike many of Marvel’s previous villains, Killmonger is an incredibly well written, compelling and relatable villain that does nothing but exemplify the overall theme that the film is trying to invoke, showing the extent that one man is willing to go to in order to do what he thinks is right. The only issue is that there is a significant gap during the film’s second act where he simply isn’t there, and that gap can really be felt. Killmonger’s inclusion adds so much more to the film, with some of the best and most engaging moments being those where T’Challa and Killmonger combat idealistically with each having their own valid and well supported points of view. Since “Thor: Ragnarok,” Marvel has really been improving the quality of their villains, and Killmonger may be greatest yet.
“Black Panther” is more than just an average superhero movie. Of course there are still impressive action scenes and typical Marvel humor sprinkled throughout, but when compared to the other 17 films in the franchise, “Black Panther” drastically stands out in terms of visuals, characters and overall story telling, not only making this entry one of the best in the MCU, but one of the greatest superhero movies to date.
Joey Menendez // Editor-in-Chief