So, if you’ve made it this far then I can only assume you’ve been to the cinema to watch Marvel Studios’ latest cinematic extravaganza, Black Panther. The movie – the 18th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – is directed by Ryan Coogler, stars Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther, Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger, Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia & Danai Gurira as Okoye.
Black Panther, in my humble opinion, is one of the best Marvel movies ever produced. But is it the best Marvel movie?
Hmm… let’s consider what’s on offer.
Every time a new Marvel movie hits cinemas, it is usually followed by applause and praise, with critics hailing it as ‘the best Marvel movie to date’. Perhaps the biggest reason for this is because despite the standard formula that Marvel adheres to (action, mild peril, a bit of comedy, likeable characters etc), each entry feels fresh and a little different from the last.
You want an old school adventure romp? Then Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) is for you! A comedic road movie, you say? Why, Thor: Ragnarok (2017) would be the movie of choice! Sure, both of these movies have superheroes in them and they both adhere to the Marvel Studios formula, but when you see them in action they are clearly very different beasts. You see, Marvel might specialise in putting heroes up on the big screen, but it’s the bigger picture that the studio really excels in and that’s what really makes the difference.
Step forward Black Panther.
As much as Black Panther is a movie about a superhero in a swish outfit, it is also a film about so much more. Black Panther puts forward a scenario about passion and pride, asks you questions that you weren’t expecting to be asked and challenges you to think outside of the box. It is for this reason – amongst others – that Black Panther is currently being hailed as the best of the best.
On the surface, Black Panther can be viewed as a straight forward tale of good versus evil, with the good King T’Challa doing his level best to defeat the baddie of the story – Eric Killmonger (more about him later). However, look below the surface and think about the bigger picture, and Black Panther is a movie about how patriotism, blind loyalty and fear can lead to divisions and bad decisions.
Yep, it is about what you think it’s about.
Let’s just get this out of the way now – the parallels with the Trump Administration and the divisions it is currently creating are indirectly referenced in Black Panther. No matter your political allegiance, this movie wants you to think about what is going on in the world – whether you consider the actions of this administration, the next, or the one after that.
The most notable example of this political commentary – where this is effectively pointed out on screen – is during the conversation between Nakia and Okoye, where the two characters discuss their loyalty to Wakanda. Nakia believes being loyal to Wakanda means being loyal to the leader who has everyone’s best interests at heart. Whereas, Okoye believes being loyal to Wakanda means being loyal to the current leader, even if her views differ.
Perhaps the biggest question this scene poses is, who is right? Both Nakia and Okoye are loyal to Wakanda, there’s no question about that, but who should we side with?
You may have chosen Nakia’s position, but you can at least see Okoye’s point of view. Of course, you may have taken the opposite stance.
Depending on your own particular belief system, both viewpoints can be correct – even if this goes against what you believe to be true. See, I told you that this movie is out to challenge you. And that’s not the only challenge that is presented.
There’s also lots of interesting stuff in Black Panther about Killmonger trying to incite nationalism amongst a country he’s never really been a part of. The character is very passionate about Wakanda, yet Wakanda and the Wakandan way of life don’t necessarily line-up with Killmonger and the way in which he conducts himself.
When Killmonger does arrive in Wakanda, to challenge T’Challa for the throne, there is clear unrest amongst the governing body. While the powers-that-be understand Killmonger’s point of view, they don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye with who he is as a person. So does nationalism really care that much for those who care about it?
This situation once again plays into the outside world, where we are currently experiencing a wave of nationalism all across the world, from those who feel like they are being left behind. It’s interesting to see this played out in Black Panther.
Ultimately, Killmonger wants to turn Wakanda into an inward thinking nation, which he believes deserves to stand head and shoulders above every other country. Killmonger’s viewpoint is juxtaposed with T’Challa’s stance, which is to create a Wakanda that works for everyone – whether it’s the people who live in Wakanda or those who could benefit from Wakanda’s prosperity.
Once again we’re asked to consider who is right? Is it T’Challa or is it Killmonger?
The film wants you to side with T’Challa, who is of course the hero of the piece and not a fanatical killer like Killmonger. However, Killmonger is written as somewhat of a sympathetic villain – one of Marvel’s best – so once again, the movie is asking you to consider your political stance and take into account his motivations.
Of course, all this talk of political parallels and motivations doesn’t answer the question posed in the title of this post: Is Black Panther the best Marvel movie?
Well, if none of the above convinces you Black Panther is at least a contender for best Marvel movie, then not much else will. Unless you can be swayed by all the James Bond-style gadgetry that crops up?
Ultimately, this is a tricky one, because as much as the writing and cast (who are superb) make Black Panther such a compelling film, is it really any better than say Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) or Iron Man (2008)? Just think about how much you loved those movies when they first appeared.
Both of these movies offered something different when they hit cinemas, both were hailed as ‘Marvel’s best movie’ at the time and both were game changers – so surely they’re better, right?
Maybe. Maybe not.
I suppose, in the same way that Black Panther asks you to consider and reconsider your viewpoint, the Marvel series as a whole continues to do the same thing too. What is deemed the ‘best Marvel movie’ now, might not be the ‘best Marvel movie’ overall, but that’s because the series as a whole is forever in flux.
Marvel Studios’ movies appeal to different audiences at different points in time, depending on what they have an appetite for. Marvel’s output is different to the output of any other studio and the result is a collection of films that reach a broad demographic – which means opinions will differ from person to person, quite considerably.
For my money, Black Panther is one of the best movies produced by Marvel Studios, and that’s because of the cast, the gadgets, the questions it poses and because at the time of writing this post, it is currently the most relevant film in the Marvel portfolio. Maybe in a couple of years’ time, my opinion will change, but for now it’s up there at the top of the list.
Is it Marvel’s best? Hmm… for me, it would take a heck of lot to knock Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) off the top spot, but I have to admit, it has come very close. Very close indeed.
What is perhaps Black Panther‘s greatest gift is it’s ability to present a multi-faceted story with a core group of people I genuinely care about. Now, when was the last time that happened – outside of a Marvel movie?
- Marvel Knights Black Panther is on YouTube
- And the most Googled entertainment subject for 2018 is…
- How much money did Black Panther make?