Black Panther’s Biggest Strength Is The Setting Of Wakanda
In the last few years, Marvel has really hit it’s stride. Some may call it a formula and that can be seen as a negative but when the formula works perfectly, you get movies like Black Panther.
Last year, Marvel delivered Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok. All three were solid entries in the grand MCU plan but I criticized their connection to the larger narrative. That narrative, of course, is Thanos and his pursuit of the Infinity Stones.
We got three straight movies that positioned characters for the upcoming conflict but did little to ignite the Infinity War. Aside from a post credit sequence in Ragnarok, Thanos and the stones were largely absent. It’s an incredible show of restraint if you really break it down but as a fan, it was frustrating.
Mainly because there are always questions like, if Thor was hunting down Infinity Stones, why didn’t we learn more about them?
At the end of the original Guardians, Drax pledges to destroy Thanos, the power stone was on Xandar and the Collector’s base was in ruins leaving the Aether’s location a mystery. We got no further information on any of those plot threads in the sequel.
Spider-Man: Homecoming gets a free pass because there was no connection to the next Avengers film. The entirety of Homecoming was about Peter Parker’s journey to becoming an Avenger. Thanks to Tony Stark’s guidance, the movie accomplished that mission simultaneously giving us updates on Stark’s world.
But there was still a Thanos sized hole left when the credits (and post-credits) rolled…
Black Panther is the last MCU film to be released before Infinity War changes the game forever.
I thought FOR SURE, there would be at least a solid hint as to how Thanos would attack. It never happened.
Thanks to a combination of release proximity and the featured Wakanda battle in the Infinity War teaser, many thought (FOR SURE) the Soul Stone would be revealed. It wasn’t.
I didn’t feel the same (although slight) disappoint I felt after watching Marvel’s 2017 trio of blockbusters.
Ryan Coogler crafted the PERFECT lead in to Infinity War BECAUSE it has no connection to Thanos. The reason is Wakanda and the central theme of protecting your country vs helping the world at large.
Black Panther is an awesome comic book movie full of action and sits right alongside Doctor Strange as the franchises I’m looking forward to most in Phase Four.
The film tells the story of an isolated setting that’s ready to be revealed and deconstructs all angles of the debate it ignites. We aren’t asking where the other Avengers are. We are only interested in T’Challa’s struggle to lead his kingdom after the death of his father in Civil War.
We already know Wakanda is a major part of Infinity War and now we know why. Their advanced technology can no longer dwell in a secret country. We hear over and over again that Wakanda only helps when it’s absolutely necessary. Now, Wakanda has been revealed and their vibranium technology will be crucial to help Earth defend against the Mad Titan.
Besides the titular character, what I really loved about Black Panther was the villain Killmonger. A lot has been written about Marvel’s ‘one-off’ forgettable villains. Characters who float through the MCU quickly without leaving a lasting impact. (Example: Dark Elves. Exception: Red Skull)
I thought Killmonger’s backstory was genius not because it makes us sympathize with the character but because his journey compliments the main theme so well. It’s time for Wakanda to be revealed. It’s a choice that T’Challa struggles with the entire movie. It’s an easy choice for Killmonger who comes from a world that’s desperate for help. The contrast was amazing and the way Coogler sets up their conflict was pure storytelling at it’s finest.
In the last few years we’ve met Star Lord’s father, Thor’s sister and the fantastically implemented Vulture. Yet, for me, Killmonger rises above them as a memorable villain because of his connection to Black Panther AND Wakanda.
In the end, Wakanda is in itself a brilliant character. It’s an integral place in the world now and a focal point of the MCU moving forward. It also sets up Black Panther as one of the biggest and best blockbuster franchises in Marvel’s stable. Especially with aging heroes like Stark and Cap potentially seeing the end of their respective franchises. With Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel, Guardians, Spider-Man and now X-Men on the way? I think Phase 4 will be in good shape when the dust settles and Thanos is defeated.
But first! The war must begin! Bring on the Infinity War!