Black Panther is Beautiful, but Not as Substantial as Anticipated


Black Panther, a movie that ultimately addresses the duty that the powerful have to the rest of the world, is almost incomparable to other Marvel Studio movies. For one thing, the focus of the movie is massively different from most previous superhero movies in that the focus is entirely diverted from the US. Instead, Black Panther’s superheroes hail from Wakanda, a fictitious nation rather ambiguously described to be in eastern Africa. The conflict focuses on a threat to Wakanda, which comes when Prince T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) unexpectedly assumes the throne of Wakanda after the death of his father, T’Chaka (John Kani), which was portrayed in the earlier Marvel installation Captain America: Civil War.

Despite the setup for this movie having taken place in said previous film, Black Panther stands somewhat independently, another feature that makes it unique in the Marvel universe. T’Challa is the only superhero present who has previously featured in a Marvel movie, and the movie, like the country it is set in, largely establishes and depends on its own mythology. Though it may be an odd change of pace for diehard Marvel fans, the lack of a Tony Stark cameo is refreshing, and allows the movie to set up its own twists, and its own vibrant characters, including eventual villain Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), an attempted usurper of the Wakandan throne; and T’Challa’s sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), who steals the screen as a wisecracking technological genius.

More than the plot itself, which stands on an admittedly important metaphor, this film is so appealing because of the characters, and because of its visual composition. Black Panther is absolutely beautiful visually, with staggering shots of African landscape and sweeps of the elaborately developed Golden City, Wakanda fictional capital, which has a fantastical and futuristic afropunk style. One of the only problems with this movie is how much time it devotes to its beautiful setting, with long pauses between action that are full of sweeping shots designed only to show the surroundings.

Scenery is not the only thing this movie sweeps through. One of the reasons this movie was so widely anticipated is because of the heavy themes it was posed to address. With an almost entirely black main cast and a villain who is essentially created by the circumstances of his childhood in a poor black neighbourhood in Oakland, California, Black Panther sought to address racism and the lingering effects of colonialism, and also posed a question of and rivalry between the ideas of isolationism and interference for a highly developed nation like Wakanda. These are complex issues, with the latter being increasingly relevant to the US, and some of that complexity and discussion was lost in favor of being entertaining. The only issue that was really sufficiently covered was that of colonialism, as Wakanda seems to show a potential African nation, free from the lingering effects of the slave trade and colonialism. Other issues were quickly pointed towards before being swept aside, which is fine for a superhero movie, but meant that Black Panther did not live up to some of the hype.

As entertainment though, Black Panther was smarter, more beautiful, and had a more extensive and well-thought-out plot than the majority of previous Marvel movies. I highly recommend it, though to those expecting a true discussion of racism, be warned that this is not really that movie. Additionally, because it formulates its own mythology and basis, the film doesn’t require much previous knowledge of the Marvel Universe. Despite not leaning on previous Marvel movies, Black Panther definitely helps to set up the upcoming addition to the Cinematic Universe, and is therefore a mustsee for Marvel fans. In general, Black Panther is entertaining, and definitely worth-seeing, but, for better or worse, is definitely not as serious or in depth as it sought to be.