It is never a surprise when a Marvel film tops the box office, but Black Panther has surpassed everyone’s expectations and has become one of Marvel’s most successful films to date. Not only has it currently made over $700 million at the global box office, it has also achieved critical acclaim.
Black Panther has made waves due to its inclusivity, diversity, and its original and fresh addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Communities have flocked to see themselves represented on the big screen and the overall impact of Black Panther has been amazingly positive.
As well as its brilliant representation and inclusive message, Black Panther is also a great superhero film. It doesn’t suffer from some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s weaker elements and watches as a highly entertaining and engaging film which looks awesome on the big screen.
With seventeen previous instalments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is a big statement to call Black Panther Marvel’s best. But with so many elements of it being excellent and considering its impact, it is hard not to. From recollection, no other Marvel film has been reported to have audiences crying and clapping in theatres, and giving standing ovations.
This article looks at some of the many reasons that Black Panther is the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s best film yet. Before reading on, please be aware that there are spoilers throughout. But hey, it is hard to discuss why Black Panther is brilliant without them!
1. It is entirely self-contained
One of the great things about the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the way that all the films are connected and take place in a shared universe. This means that each film is open to crossing over certain plot elements, characters, settings and locations.
This is a great way of storytelling in that it allows the audience to become infinitely familiar with the characters and completely invested in what happens to them. However after seventeen Marvel films, this formula is well worn and expected. What makes Black Panther stand out, and makes it feel fresh and original, is that it is a completely self-contained film. It has hints to the shared universe but these hints are not needed to fully enjoy the film.
Black Panther fits well into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it is all the stronger for not getting bogged down in the overcrowded Avengers’ world. And the missing usual cameo from a smirking Robert Downey Jr. who is most likely collecting on a massive pay check makes a nice change as well.
In fact, bar a cameo in a post credits scene, the Avengers are all but missing from the world of Wakanda. This makes it easier to focus on the brilliant new characters that we are introduced to.
This self-containment also makes Black Panther more accessible for cinema goers that are not necessarily Marvel fans. Black Panther has opened up a backdoor into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, inviting in those who have not yet been enticed and not deriding them for it with multiple in jokes and references.
2. Villains done right and done good
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has gained a bit of a reputation for its villains. And this is not the good kind of reputation, but more of a snigger and point reputation. For example, remember the time Marvel tried to make Hitler and the Nazis look like the lesser evil with Red Skull? Sure that makes Red Skull super, super evil but perhaps downplaying the historic bad guys wasn’t Marvel’s best move, That notwithstanding, one mention of The Mandarin and we will leave it at that.
What is smart about Black Panther is that it sets up Andy Serkis’ Ulysses Klaue as potentially being the main villain. He has all the villainous traits you would expect and is crazy to boot. Plus his previous appearance in Avengers: Age of Ultron means that he is well established already. Michael B. Jordan’s Erik ‘Killmonger’ Stevens at first appears as a secondary villain to Klaue, so when he kills Klaue and brings his body to Wakanda as an offering to gain access, it is a great twist and a good way to show that Killmonger is willing to do anything and go to any lengths.
Killmonger is able to claim the throne from T’Challa in a way that you wouldn’t expect from a conventional villain – by playing by the rules. By defeating T’Challa in hand to hand combat, he wins the throne fair and square. Another unique aspect to Killmonger is that for some audiences he is actually a sympathetic character that they can relate to.
Firstly, Killmonger’s actions are driven by his tragic past. But perhaps even more than that, his frustration in the oppression of black people across the world and his determination to change that is something that people can relate to and even respect. When Killmonger says “Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from the ships, because they knew death was better than bondage,” audience members cheered and clapped in some theatres.
As bad guys go, one that you find yourself relating to and who isn’t just bad for badness sake, is always going to be a compelling villain. Add in Jordan’s fantastic performance, and Killmonger is an outstanding villain.
3. Strong female characters
The female characters in Black Panther are one of its strongest assets. And not just because they can kick serious butt. They are funny, passionate, and manage to avoid some of Hollywood’s biggest tropes – namely being helpless without a man present. In fact, it is rather the opposite and the female characters often come to the help of the men as well as being part of pivotal moments in the film.
Even the harsher critics of Black Panther have commended it for its approach to its female characters. The three main female characters – Nakia, Okoye and Shuri each bring their own distinct strengths and more importantly than that, their sex appeal is always secondary to their personalities, wit and skills.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe, although not completely lacking strong female characters, has definitely got an underrepresentation of them. Black Panther is a major step forward in letting female characters take centre stage, and letting them shine. There have been rumours of an all-female Marvel film in the works, with actresses Scarlett Johansson, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff and Tessa Thompson pitching the idea to Marvel boss Kevin Feige themselves. And with the success of the female characters in Black Panther, this looks to be even more of a possibility now.