The eighteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and directed by Ryan Coogler, Black Panther picks up after the events of Captain America: Civil War when T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), heir to the hidden but technologically advanced kingdom of Wakanda, must step forward as King to lead his people into a new future. However, when an old enemy reappears on the radar, T’Challa’s mettle as King and Black Panther is tested when he is drawn into a conflict with Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) that puts the entire fate of Wakanda and the world at risk.
Black Panther is the superhero film that nobody was asking for, but suddenly the one that we all needed. There are so many other Avengers characters who are yet to have their origin standalone film, like Black Widow and Hawkeye, so when we were first introduced to Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War, we didn’t think that Black Panther film would be the next instalment in the works (although it has been listed as part of Marvel Comics’ film slate since 1997).
I remember thinking at that time that he was the last character I wanted to know more about (purely because of him being the most recent addition to the team), but what I didn’t think about was the bigger picture. Whilst the MCU has taken us to visionary new worlds set in space and everywhere beyond, Black Panther opened up the opportunity for a whole new, futuristic world to be created, but one that was still on Earth and that felt very real.
And that’s why Black Panther became so revolutionary. As Marvel fans grew tired of the New York/San Fransisco setting, Black Panther expanded the MCU to Africa, enabling Marvel to create a film that could avoid the stereotypes we are used to seeing and, instead, portraying this community and culture in a colourful, exciting, and more positive light, one that is far more appealing than bustling streets and sky-high buildings.
Alongside the brilliant cast including Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Sterling K. Brown, Angela Bassett, and Forest Whitaker, there’s so much to find appealing about this film. There’s also the clothing and make-up, traditions and rules, set designs and locations.
It is a landmark film, representing not just one black superhero or one black actor, but representing a community and a whole host of talent. Despite there being so many new characters, each and every one of them make an impact. And let’s not forget the strong female characters, too, who strong in both will and strength.
It is a superhero film with its own sense of identity. It isn’t just one of the most visually striking Marvel films, but Wakanda is also so rich in detail and history that everything stands out. The film seems to make a point in everything that it does, showing viewers that there are other ways to portray certain people and characters in film, whether it be because of their gender, race, or sexuality, and that, like Wakanda, this kind of film-making is the way forward.
There’s a lot to admire about this film’s quality and significance. But would it have been worthy of a Best Picture win at this year’s Oscars? I think it’s great that a film like Black Panther could get nominated in the first place, but it wasn’t even the best Marvel film of the year, for me, having to compete with Avengers: Infinity War. Still, it’s a strong instalment in the MCU and one that will hopefully inspire any of the standalone films that are sure to follow.