Turns out, it’s both.
Black Panther is a Shakespearian tale, well told1. After watching it, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about Wakanda and the director’s technique in bringing it to life.
I’m going to be talking about Black Panther (and Wonder Woman) as movies. I’m not assessing their overall political relevance and importance. There’s a lot to be said about that — But I don’t think I’m the one to say most of it. Suffice it to say, movies like these are long overdue.
In a way, Black Panther is reminiscent of Guardians of the Galaxy. (Bear with me here) The movie introduces us to a whole new aspect of the MCU – It just happens to be here on Earth.
Like Gunn’s galactic setting, Coogler’s Wakanda is vibrant and teeming with life. When they walk through the city streets, history and culture seem to ooze out of the screen. I only had one gripe when the movie was over (I’ll get to that), which for me means the movie was quite good. 😬
While the story may be ancient (rivals for the throne), that rich setting made it feel new to Western eyes. It breathed fresh air into the story making it unique and interesting.
It’s hard to talk about Black Panther without mentioning Wonder Woman… So let’s mention it.
Leaving the theatre after Wonder Woman, I was thinking mostly about that clunky ending and the fact that if they had not cast such a good Diana it wouldn’t have been as good. Don’t get me wrong, it was a decent superhero movie. But Gal Gadot really carried it. Frankly, between the political element and DC’s recent inability to make a movie even at a middling-level, it made it seem better than it actually was.
On the other hand, Black Panther is a movie that has to stand up against some of the best superhero movies ever made. And it does.
My biggest complaint about Black Panther would be the action scenes. They were mostly shot at night with quick cuts, so it was hard to follow at times. But that could also be a problem with the theatre I was at too.
I’d put it high-middle in my ranking of the MCU pantheon of movies.
Verdict: You should watch it.
It’s hard to tell a story about royalty that a movie-going audience can relate to2.
But Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, the credited writers for Black Panther, did an excellent job of rolling a lot of relevant aspects into the story. Not only Afro-American-centric ones either. Obviously, that was a significant thrust of it, but one of the central themes had to do with the responsibility of those with power/wealth.
Isolationism was an essential element of the story as well. They had an interesting bit at the beginning where T’Challa and W’Kabi talked a little about the merits of accepting refugees. “You take in refugees, and you take in their problems too3.”
Overall it’s quite heady for a superhero movie. I’d say it’s one of the most thematically dense Marvel movies ever4.
It did a much better job with a Shakespearian-style story than the first Thor did, in my opinion. ↩︎
Or even give a single fuck about, really. ↩︎
That’s a dialogue quote from memory, I’m sure it’s not exactly right. I’ve only seen it the once (so far). ↩︎
Okay, it’s probably the most thematically dense Marvel movie – I can’t think of a rival offhand. ↩︎