Officially passing Titanic in box office sales, Black Panther has become one of the biggest films of our generation, pushing boundaries and making new ground in superhero cinema. With a star-studded cast, a highly regarded soundtrack, and a relevant philosophical undertone all seamlessly stitched together, this film truly raises the standard along with our expectations for the Marvel movies yet to be released.
In many ways, we see the same old stuff in Black Panther that we do in just about every superhero movie: a theme of good fighting evil, a plethora of combat sequences, and a final realization of what’s important. However, the major aspect of the film that sets it apart is its unique message and incorporation of a currently unsettled debate in the real world, using its characters as figureheads. T’Challa is meant to represent Martin Luther King Jr., and Killmonger, ironically, a member of the Black Panther Party. While it’s clear from the beginning that T’Challa is meant to be the good guy, we still experience the movie without our minds made up because of how reasonable Killmonger’s argument is, giving us a better understanding of the isolationist philosophy in terms of race as well as nations.
This is a film that, in addition to entertaining you, seeks to eliminate barriers between peoples, to cure race relations, and to send a message of our obligation to look at the world as a place filled with other human beings and not simply other countries. While many, including myself, would think that a movie with a cast of almost entirely the same race wouldn’t be capable of accomplishing such a feat, it ends up succeeding simply because it only focuses on one race. Rather than taking race relations and addressing them as a whole, Black Panther chooses to closely examine one race and show us that there is no better ethnicity and each have both their peacemakers and warmongers (pun intended). It doesn’t force us to choose sides in a race debate, but instead lets us come together on a totally separate side for the common good of humanity.
As different and relevant as Black Panther is though, it is certainly not a perfect movie. It still has a painfully cliché story arc, constant violence that upsets its philosophical themes, and a “what are those” joke that genuinely hurts the ears. In the movie world, it’s nothing special, but considering its genre and the fact that it’s the first superhero movie that black children will be able to relate to on a deeper level, it’s a success. It ends up accomplishing exactly what it set out to by giving us something that we can enjoy without much effort while still adding a bit more depth than your typical movie.
Whether the quality of the movie is representative of its success or not is one thing, but there’s no doubt that Marvel made a movie that people have fallen in love with. With sharper directing, superior cinematography, and a more contemporary soundtrack than most of their movies, they’ve won over the masses and attempted to get across a strong, complex message that is incredibly relevant to the world we live in today. Like most superhero movies, it doesn’t hold up very well when looked at critically and compared to acknowledged classics, but for a number of reasons, it’s very important that this film exists, and unless you’re highly critical, there’s no doubt that this will be an enjoyable and memorable watch.