The Highlander

Black Panther enters the spotlight as Marvel royalty

Black Panther continues Marvel’s dominance over the superhero genre

Sean Senft, Reporter

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Marvel’s Black Panther is the latest installment in Marvel’s ever-growing series of superhero films. Even though Marvel’s main characters like Iron Man, Captain America and Thor can overshadow the lesser known characters such as Ant-Man or Doctor Strange, Marvel has a way of allowing these secondary characters to shine in their own movies.  Black Panther is no different. Black Panther, whose real name is T’Challa, was created in 1966 by Marvel Comics writers Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and he made his film debut in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War as a supporting character.  Now as the main character in his own movie, Black Panther proves to be a hero that is as powerful and as compelling of a character as Marvel’s core heroes.

The film is directed by Ryan Coogler, whose most recent film was the very highly regarded Creed in 2015, and it stars Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, the Black Panther, and Michael B. Jordan as Erik Stevens, the antagonist who is also known as Killmonger.  The film also features a strong supporting cast including Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis and Forest Whitaker. Set shortly after the events of Captain America: Civil War in which T’Challa’s father was killed, T’Challa returns to his home nation of Wakanda, a secret African nation that is highly technologically advanced due to its immeasurable amount of the precious metal vibranium.  Since his father was the king before his death, T’Challa is next in line for the throne.  At first the role of king does not seem to be much of a challenge, but he soon realizes the responsibilities and difficult situations that come with being the king of a nation, and more problems soon arise when his kingship is challenged.  The film stands apart from most other superhero movies in multiple ways, and although this movie is not flawless, there is a lot to like about Black Panther.

The main aspect of Black Panther that makes it different from a typical superhero movie is that although there are entertaining action scenes and exciting characters, there is a real message behind the movie.  A central aspect of T’Challa’s growth both as a character and as a king is his realization of the mistakes of previous generations and how he can fix those problems.  T’Challa’s kingship is not about becoming king of this nation that seems to be almost a paradise that he can easily rule unchallenged, but rather about how damaging the previous generation was and focusing on what T’Challa can do to fix that as the ruler.  This adds an interesting dynamic to the film that few other superhero movies have.

Another aspect of this film that sets it apart from many of Marvel’s other movies is that Black Panther has a truly compelling villain.  Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger is undoubtedly one of Marvel’s best movie villains, and this is because his character has genuine motivations for what he does and is a complex character who is developed more than most villains.  Most Marvel villains are either evil just so the movie can have a villain and the character is not very compelling, or the villain is just an evil version of the hero.  The first Iron Man features a villain who is just an evil person in another Iron Man suit, Ant-Man features a villain who has the exact same abilities as Ant-Man does, and there are plenty more examples of non-compelling villains in Marvel movies.  Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger  is a great villain, and one of the best parts of Black Panther.

Despite these strengths, the film does have its weaknesses.  Marvel, especially in its more recent films like both Guardians of the Galaxy films, Ant-Man, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Thor: Ragnarok, has tried to make its films more humorous, and it works better in some films than others.  There are a fair amount of jokes in Black Panther, many of which seemed to be forced, unfunny and ultimately detracted from the movie as a whole.  There are certainly some genuinely funny moments, but more often than not, the humor does not work very well in this movie.  There are some more minor issues such as a few instances of unconvincing special effects, but nothing major enough to throw off the flow of the movie as a whole.

Black Panther had big shoes to fill, seeing as he is a new character to a  10-year-old film franchise and is also the last Marvel movie before the highly-anticipated Avengers: Infinity War this May, but Black Panther exceeded expectations.  In conclusion, Black Panther  is a strong movie that is not Marvel’s best, but nonetheless it is a very entertaining film with great characters.  It is a must-see for any fan of Marvel or superheroes in general, yet it can still be thoroughly enjoyed by a casual viewer, and after seeing this movie, fans will be even more excited to see King T’Challa return to the big screen in Avengers: Infinity War this May.

Rating: B+

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