Black Panther overcomes traditional plot beats with nuanced characters and intriguing story details
I finally saw Black Panther and of course, no movie exists in a vacuum. I’ve seen all the Marvel movies and have generally enjoyed them (except Age of Ultron) and at this late date, there’s a lot of hype surrounding this newest MCU installment. I did my best to temper expectations and just enjoy the movie for what it is, but fortunately, it turns out that what this movie brings to the table is the perfect balance of what we’ve come to expect from the series and something new.
We’re going into spoilers from here, so you’ve been warned.
So I’m sitting there watching the movie and it’s fairly routine aside from the obvious: Marvel is finally giving us a movie starring a minority and the most women we’ve seen to date. I’m pleased, but I’m waiting for the movie to win me over with it’s story points, but truth be told, this cast and characters did have me at hello.
Then the challenge scene happens and I’m thinking, “Somebody’s going over that waterfall. If it’s the bad guy, it’ll be to tell us something about to T’Challa’s character, and if it’s Black Panther himself, we’re getting into the “knock the hero down so we can build them back up” thing a little early in the movie. When no one goes over the waterfall in this scene, it’s very easy to quickly put stuff together in your head: now I realize that we have to wait for another challenge scene, Black Panther has to lose a fight to Killmonger and that’s just the way this movie is going to be because that’s what hero’s journey movies are like.
I was concerned.
But in between those two fights, all kinds of interesting things happen. Everything in South Korea is fascinating either from a character and story point or visual perspective. And everyone seems to be making fair points about oppression, tradition vs progress, isolation vs engagement and what it means to be a leader. A superhero movie with nuance! What a concept!
At this point I’m thinking, “Even if things do continue to proceed in a by-the-numbers kind of way, it’s still satisfying to watch both the spectacle and the specific story details.” Both sides of the arguments presented have merit and the ultimate conclusion that T’Challa reaches helps illustrate the difference between how the best of intentions can create heroes and villains. Not since The Winter Soldier brought us, “This isn’t freedom – this is fear,” has Marvel delivered points so eloquently.
Black Panther has some ballsy stuff in it. I won’t make a full list, but “…just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from the ships. Because they knew death was better than bondage,” gave me chills. That was outstanding. Definitely the highlight of the movie for me. Worth the price of admission – all the cliches. If you’re reading a spoiler review, I’m guessing that you already saw the movie, but if not, I recommend Black Panther to everyone. I think it transcends the genre and even if there’s a bunch of Marvel gobbledygook that’s a little difficult to understand, I still believe you’ll have a good time.