Black Panther is the latest triumph in what is becoming an extremely diverse Marvel Cinematic Universe. The story follows T’Challa, a character that was previously introduced in Captain America: Civil War. He is a great warrior and Prince of Wakanda, which is a technologically advanced country in the heart of Africa and holds the bulk of the strongest element known to man — vibranium.
However, Wakanda’s technology allows them to hide in plain sight while the rest of the world believes them to be a poor, third-world country. That is a major plot point in the movie, and makes for one of the strongest and most ingrained ethical statements in Marvel history. But there’s so much more to Black Panther than that, including a couple of ways that it ties to Avengers: Infinity War. Consider yourself officially warned: Major spoilers are ahead!
The visuals and cast alone are worth the price of admission
There are a whole lot of things to like about Black Panther. Chadwick Boseman leads an excellent cast that includes Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Williams, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, and Andy Serkis, among others. Boseman’s T’Challa, the new king of Wakanda, takes us along for his exciting and sometimes emotional journey.
His sister, Shuri, is young but is also one of the bright points of the movie. She plays the Q to T’Challa’s James Bond by providing Black Panther with a slick new suit and other neat, high-tech gadgets. If vibranium cars and fake arms that shoot lasers are your thing, you’ll love Black Panther.
But those aren’t the only cool visuals. The use of vibrant colors — such as purple, pink, and gold — throughout the film is a thing of beauty, and it appears everywhere; the sky, the dirt, even in the new Black Panther suit.
Next: Where it ranks among Marvel’s best
If it’s not Marvel’s best movie, it’s definitely close
Whether Black Panther is the best movie currently in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a subjective opinion. It’s excellent, no doubt. But Thor: Ragnarok, both Guardians of the Galaxy movies, and Captain America: Winter Soldier are all great as well. If we were making our own list, Black Panther might be battling Ragnarok for the top spot, with Winter Soldier and the two Guardians movies following close behind.
What makes Black Panther so good is many things, but notably that the story is incredibly believable for a film taking place inside the MCU. T’Challa is dealing with not just the recent and surprising death of his father, but also the burden that comes with being king. The plot executes that well, with both the physical hardship involved and the emotional pain of coming to grips with the sins of his country’s past.
Next: A bad guy with understandable motivations
Michael B. Jordan is outstanding
For all the things that the MCU does well, developing villains is certainly not one. The number of outstanding actors that have been wasted on weak bad guys is stunning, and it includes Jeff Bridges, Ben Kingsley, and Mads Mikkelson. You could argue that the only Marvel villain to date that comes with clear reasons for his intentions is Loki, although The Avengers did mess up slightly in turning the god of mischief into a power-hungry psychopath.
Michael B. Jordan may be Marvel’s second-best big bad, only behind Thor’s (adopted) brother. He has a real axe to grind with T’Challa and Wakanda, and his backstory is one that people can truly empathize with. He’s not just some HYDRA agent looking to rule the world or a boardroom villain trying to make an few extra billion dollars selling weapons to other bad guys. Although Jordan’s Killmonger has a few unlikable moments, overall the audience will feel his pain and understand his motivations.
Next: A topical subject matter
Build bridges, not barriers
There are times when it’s actually appropriate to complain about political messages in movies, but it’s mainly when an agenda feels shoehorned in with no real purpose beyond making a statement. That’s not the case with Black Panther, as the message is loud and clear but also serves a major function in the plot. Wakanda and many of its leaders exhibit a less-brazen but very-self-important type of nationalism that is extremely … let’s say, topical in 2018.
T’Challa’s ex-girlfriend Nakia, performed competently by Nyong’o, believes that Wakanda should be using their vast technology and resources to help those in need around the world. But the new king and several other Wakandans believe that preserving their people’s way of life is more important than, say, taking in refugees who could potentially cause the country political problems.
In the end, the events of Black Panther give T’Challa a major change of heart. The king makes a moving speech about how the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. It doesn’t take a political scientist to know the reference here. Black Panther may be Marvel’s most political movie yet, but it’s done in a way that improves the story and doesn’t distract the viewer.
Next: Does a certain Avenger make a cameo?
Does Captain America lend a hand?
Given that Black Panther picks up just a week after the events of Civil War, many fans are probably wondering whether Steve Rogers would make a cameo. Spoiler alert, he doesn’t. But if we’re only looking at the logistics of the plot and what makes sense for the situation, Rogers making an appearance at some point would’ve felt right. After all, he’s hiding in Wakanda and T’Challa is practically begging for whatever help he can get by the third act.
However, it’s understandable why Black Panther leaves Rogers out. This is the first MCU movie following a black superhero, and it’s a film that focuses heavily on African themes with people of color making up the bulk of the cast. Having the biggest cinematic symbol of American exceptionalism come in at the end and help save the day would’ve been problematic, to say the least. For this reason, it’s forgivable that they left Cap out of the action.
Next: One big way Black Panther ties to Infinity War.
Sharing their technology with the world
The final moments of Black Panther made it clear that as a part of building a metaphorical bridge, T’Challa would share Wakandan technology with the rest of the civilized world. That almost certainly means their advanced weaponry, as well, and this is our first major link to Infinity War. When Thanos first arrives on earth, he’s not alone. He comes with his own hoard of baddies, and the entire planet has to do battle.
Now it’s finally clear how anyone outside of the Avengers and T’Challa’s Wakanda would stand a chance against Thanos’ Black Order. Given the amount of time that passes in this fictional universe between the end of Black Panther and the beginning of Infinity War, it’s safe to assume that Wakandan tech is already being used around the world.
Next: Another major connection to Infinity War
Bucky Barnes is awake
Our second link to Infinity War comes via Black Panther’s post-credit scene. Bucky Barnes, minus his vibranium arm, emerges from a hut in a secluded portion of Wakanda and is greeted by Shuri. You may remember that last time we saw Barnes, he was being frozen while Wakandan scientists worked on a way to free him from HYDRA’s mind control. Apparently, they figured it out relatively quickly.
Barnes is the final loose end heading into Infinity War. We know, based on the early trailers for the movie, that Barnes helps fight on the side of the good guys. With every other character’s position within the MCU accounted for prior to Black Panther, we now see that Bucky is awake and getting his bearings. He should be ready to do battle by the time Thanos arrives in April.
Next: About that final Infinity Stone…
The Soul Stone is still out there
The sixth Infinity Stone has yet to come into play in the MCU, and Black Panther is no different. This is less of a way that the movie ties to Infinity War than a way that it doesn’t directly tie to Infinity War, or any other Marvel movie. The Soul Stone is the one that is unaccounted for, and now it’s clear that if it’s to make an appearance in Thanos’ gauntlet, it’ll be because the Mad Titan uncovers it himself.
In case you may have forgotten the locations of the previous five stones, let’s run it down quickly. The Space Stone is located in the Tesseract, which is in Loki’s possession and is likely to be the first that Thanos takes. The Reality Stone is inside the Aether, which was given to The Collector. The Nova Corps have the Power Stone, which was seen in Guardians of the Galaxy. Doctor Strange has the Time Stone around his neck, while Vision has the Mind Stone in his forehead.
Next: Why Black Panther isn’t just another superhero movie
If we were to put together our own subjective rating system, Black Panther would get a 9.5 out of 10. The cast is tremendous, and it can’t be overlooked that it’s primarily people of color. Remember, representation matters, and this is a movie based on a character from an African nation. Jordan is fabulous as Killmonger, drawing you in with an emotional backstory that at no point drowns you in any sort of woe-is-me speech that stops the movie in its tracks.
Black Panther has its faults, of course. Killmonger has a handful of moments that seem out of character, when he acts particularly evil and power-crazed for the purpose of being evil and power-crazed. For a character that is otherwise clear in his intentions, however misguided they may be, it felt a bit off. But that’s a small complaint on what is a tremendous addition to the MCU.
Black Panther fits perfectly as a superhero movie, but also stands alone for its distinct political message and unique world-view.
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