The highly anticipated solo film for the Marvel Comics superhero Black Panther came out on Feb. 15, with Chadwick Boseman playing the title character. Since its release, Black Panther has grossed over $200 million. Marvel Studios produced a solid product with enough attention to detail to impress even the most nitpicky nerds and the most cynical cinephiles. Although this precision can be found in the majority of movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, none can hold a candle to Black Panther.
Black Panther is a breath of fresh air in many ways, one being how it strays from the traditional MCU movie formula. For one, the film zeroes in specifically on one superhero and their trials and tribulations rather than focusing on many heroes trying to defeat some nearly unbeatable enemy lest the whole world/galaxy/universe be destroyed. In Black Panther, T’Challa (Boseman) must deal with conflicts concerning his newly found responsibilities as king of Wakanda, a technologically advanced African nation with a plenitude of vibranium: the strongest metal known to man. Boseman does a stellar job portraying a man who is torn between his nation’s personal policy of seclusion and his desire to be a great man and leader. As a whole, the conflicts and overall stakes in the movie feel much more personal than a run-of-the-mill MCU movie, making for a much more enjoyable and unique viewing experience.
Not only does Black Panther exceed expectations regarding plot, there’s also the matter of visual design. All aspects of the movie, from the architecture down to the costumes, are influenced by details from African culture. Combined with all of the futuristic technology featured, the movie has a unique aesthetic to it that is a delight to look at. Examples include the vibrant, eye-popping colors of each Wakandan tribes’ clothing, Shuri’s (Letitia Wright) Jet Set Radio-esque lab, and the Panther Cave chiseled onto a cliff face. The movie again surpasses typical MCU standards by introducing a world that has the appearance and feel of a living, breathing culture, rather than a handful of simple overhead shots of buildings and landscape. The very idea of Wakanda alone is awe-inspiring, and seeing those ideals and culture come to life is something I can say I have never seen before.
While Black Panther regards cinematography, culture, social implications and real world connections with poise, it is not without its faults. The film’s exploration of tradition and cultural differences introduced an interesting angle to the MCU, but it struggled to keep its inventive style consistent. Despite the film’s efforts to develop a personal feel to the conflict, it drops the ball towards the end by shoehorning in a classic MCU type high-stakes mission: the world will become corrupted if three ships escape Wakanda. Compared to the unique experience T’Challa’s personal conflicts create, watching someone shoot down a handful of ships to save the world felt forced.
Despite this slightly underwhelming ending, Black Panther succeeds in standing out from the rest of the MCU.