Black Panther Best Film in Marvel Cinematic Universe?
In the weeks leading up to the release of Marvel's Black Panther film, we began to hear whispers from critics about the movie potentially being one of the best movies in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Online movie review aggregations reached unprecedented levels of positive feedback on the film.
With that in mind, the central question around Black Panther pivoted from "will this movie be any good" to "can this movie possibly live up to the hype". Two weeks and over $100 million later, we now have our answers; a resounding "yes" to both. In fact, you can easily make the argument that Black Panther deservedly stands among the best entries in the MCU to date.
Marvel's Formula has Familiar Chemistry
In nearly all of the superhero film franchises, the plots seem relatively formulaic. The main character has a love interest, a cadre of helpers, and a clearly defined evil enemy. With the aid of the hero's team they eventually defeat or at least subdue the villain.
From the title of the film itself, to the actor chosen to play the lead role, we know exactly who and what to expect in each of these films. Robert Downey Jr. was seemingly born to play the role of Tony Stark. It's very hard to imagine anyone portraying Steve Rogers better than Chris Evans. Chris Hemsworth looks like he stepped out of the pages of a comic book to bring Thor to life.
But much like his work in other, non-comic book films, director Ryan Coogler took the conventional plotline, threw it out the window, and replaced it with a layered and nuanced approach to the protagonist and their surrounding characters in Black Panther.
Why Black Panther is King
Chadwick Boseman is a phenomenal actor and was marvelous (no pun intended) in his portrayal of T'Challa, the Black Panther himself. Yet, you could easily make the argument that Boseman didn't even put on one of the three best performances in the film itself.
Stellar Supporting Roles
Michael B. Jordan not only stole the spotlight from Boseman, but might have been the most charismatic villain in the entire MCU. He deftly toes the line between supervillain and anti-hero blurring the defined space between. Danai Gurira's work as Okoye, the general of Wakanda's special forces unit known as the Dora Milaje, might have been the best performance in the film.
In fact, if you saw Gurira walking down the street in real life, you'd be extremely hesitant to incur her wrath, given the tenacity and ferocity with which she portrayed her character. Letitia Wright, playing Shuri, T'Challa's younger sister, was just the right mix of endearing and entertaining comic relief. All without coming off as too cheesy or too corny. Winston Duke as M'Baku was a brilliant anti-hero who proved to be one of the most underrated characters in the movie.
Dazzling Cinematography and Effects
Then, there were the visuals. This, in and of itself, differentiated the film from anything we've seen in the already spectacular CGI and cinematography of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There isn't one millisecond during the two-hour plus film in which you don't believe Wakanda is a real place. This fantastically culture and tradition rich East African country intertwines technological advances that are decades ahead of anything we know.
A Hero's Story You Can Get Behind
Add in a story that made the audience experience the entire emotional range over the course of the film, and you get why Black Panther could be the best the MCU has offered, to date. In truth, asking if Black Panther is the MCU's best film, especially to a fan of this genre, is like asking someone about their favorite food. To clarify, it depends on an individual's preferences and ability to relate.
However, given how it hit just about every note you look for in a grand superhero blockbuster, Black Panther was basically the cinematic equivalent of pizza. To explain, there's very little to dislike about any pizza, but when it's done well, it may be one of the most indelible experiences of your life.
In the end, Black Panther unquestionably deserves comparison to Marvel classics like the original Iron Man film, The Avengers, and Captain America: The Winter Solider. It redefines how we look at a "comic book movie." Iron Man was the godfather and the pace-setter of the entire MCU.
The Avengers was a superhero movie that redefined our expectations of what was possible linking story lines and creating grandeur. Captain America: The Winter Soldier taught us that superheroes are still human and flawed, and that the line between "good" and "bad" can have plenty of gray areas.
And Black Panther taught us that a superhero movie can tell a super story, with super characters, and super visuals, that is able to transcend the superhero themselves. If there were ever a moment when society needs the wisdom, wonder and integrity of Wakanda, it's now.
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