Just when you think Marvel’s formula is getting stale, they shatter your expectations. Their last movie was a family drama-buddy-action-comedy, Thor: Ragnarok. There were a few truly serious moments when you stopped to think, but you didn’t have long as you’d be laughing your ass off 30 seconds later. It’s a big contrast to Black Panther. Not to spoil too much, at it’s core Black Panther is also filled with family drama, but also powerful political statements. From the drop this movie has something to say to you about the inequality that drives our modern world.
Note: from here on out, there are spoilers.
The first time we meet Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, we don’t even realize it. He’s being told the story of Wakanda’s origin by his father, N’Jobu. N’Jobu is undercover in Oakland, but is disturbed by what he sees happening to people of African descent across the country and world. N’Jobu assists Ulysses Klaue (last seen in Age of Ultron) in stealing some vibranium, in order to arm oppressed African. It’s a stark contrast to Wakanda’s isolationist ways, and brings him into conflict with T’Chaka, his brother. T’Chaka is forced to kill N’Jobu. Erik is left behind, and the seeds for his rage are sown. It’s not hard to feel something for Killmonger when you see the tragedy. Especially later in the film where you get the full picture of just what happened.
I thought Black Panther did a great job of balancing the mystical aspects of the Black Panther mythos with the high-tech. This far into the MCU, you don’t need to explain the mystical, it can just exist. We’ve met gods (small G, son) and sorcerers. It’s okay for T’Challa to go on a spiritual journey and see his ancestors. It was a fantastic way to keep John Kani’s T’Chaka relevant for one more movie.
One of Marvel’s biggest advantages has been their casting. Black Panther might be the best example of this. We already knew Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa, as well as Martin Freeman as Everett Ross and Andy Serkis as Klaue. Add to that the delightful Letitia Wright as Shuri, Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Winston Duke, it’s amazing. Michael B. Jordan OWNS the Killmonger role, to the point where it’s difficult to look away when he’s on screen.
If you missed Black Panther in theaters (it’s still in many of the larger ones, at least as of now), you owe it to yourself to check it out. Especially if you haven’t seen Avengers: Infinity War yet. The digital copy unlocks May 8th.