By HARRY FISHER
In 2016, Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” gave us many things. On top of bringing back several previously established characters and having them take each other on in an all-out brawl, it also introduced two heroes who had previously not been featured in any of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. The first of these characters was the much-beloved Spider-Man, who received his own solo film only a year later in the form of “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” The second character was Black Panther, a lesser-known character from the comics who was instantly turned into a fan favorite thanks to the success of “Civil War.” Now, just like Spider-Man, Black Panther is getting his own time in the spotlight with 2018’s first big super hero hit, “Black Panther.”
The film follows T’Challa, otherwise known as the Black Panther, as he is crowned king of the fictional African country of Wakanda after the death of his father, the previous Black Panther, during the events of “Civil War.” T’Challa must prove himself a worthy king by safeguarding the secrets of his country, which is actually a utopian nation of highly advanced technology disguised as a third-world country. To keep this a secret, T’Challa and his allies must capture a notorious criminal whose gang has stolen a large quantity of vibranium, an extremely valuable metal only found in Wakanda. In addition, T’Challa’s rule is challenged by a long-time rival whom he must defeat in combat if he wishes to remain on the throne.
It is very hard to classify this movie’s genre, as it seems to blend together elements of several different genres in order to create its own style. While it contains some elements of science fiction with the advanced vibranium technology of Wakanda which Black Panther uses in his suit, parts of it feel like a spy movie, with shootout scenes and car chases in the spirit of movies like “Mission Impossible.” However, the entire second half of the movie feels more like a fantasy movie than anything else. Because it combines these different elements into one experience, this movie has a unique style to it that none of the other Marvel movies have had up to this point, and I believe this style perfectly reflects the character of Black Panther.
In true Marvel movie fashion, this film has all of the action and humor that fans have come to expect. However, one thing that really stuck out to me as I was watching the film was its unique themes. Marvel movies have always had themes of heroism, bravery and justice, and this film is no different in that regard. However, this film takes on new challenges and deeper issues than most Marvel movies, which are meant be more entertaining than thought-provoking. For example, one of my favorite things about the movie was T’Challa’s struggle to be the same great king that his father was. T’Challa believes that to be a great king, he must be just as strong and protective of his country as his father was. However, in an interesting twist that I won’t spoil here, T’Challa learns that his father wasn’t the perfect king he always idolized him to be, and struggles to understand whether he can really be the same man his father was. This theme of what it takes to be a good ruler is a complex and thought-provoking issue, and I applaud the film-makers for effectively delivering such a deep message, and in a superhero movie, no less.
Another very noteworthy thing about the movie is its theme of helping those in need. While this is a common trope in superhero movies, “Black Panther” handles it a little differently. Because the main character is the ruler of a nation, the movie has a message about how people in power should use it to help people who are suffering in the world and try to unify the world’s people. It is interesting to see the character of T’Challa evolve as he learns to fight for the people of all nations, rather than just his own, throughout the course of the film. It also gives the film a slight political tone, and once again, I applaud the film-makers for their efforts in tackling such a complex issue in a superhero film.
Chadwick Boseman does an amazing job playing the character of Black Panther. Throughout the movie, he makes the character come across as compassionate and full of pride and bravery, but also slightly edgy, almost like Marvel’s equivalent to Batman. The special effects are also quite good, as we’ve come to expect of Marvel movies. The design of Black Panther’s suit is particularly impressive, and it makes for a total treat to the eyes whenever the black-clad hero appears on screen. With a unique style, a captivating story with thought-provoking themes and an excellent cast who all play their characters well, “Black Panther” is an amazing first entry for the MCU in 2018, and I can’t wait to see the Wakandan king return to amaze us all again in “Avengers: Infinity War.”