With this movie, the MCU has reached Peak MCU. Let’s hope they don’t trip and fall after this one.
Black Panther (2018)
Overview: Following his ascension to the throne of Wakanda, T’Challa is challenged by another heir to the throne who thinks Wakanda should rule the world instead of hiding from it.
This film has a crazy complex plot and juggles a lot of elements. Plus, it has to create the culture and feel of Wakanda in a believable way. I was impressed at how well it manages all of this. There’s a LOT to unpack, but everything fits together really well. We get lots of character development (and not just character development of the main character) to the point that it ends up feeling like we’ve spent more time in Wakanda than just one film.
The plot moves with a breakneck speed and doesn’t ever sacrifice its message or characters for spectacle (even though it has plenty of spectacle).
Plus we get strong female characters! Who are essential to the story! And have complex personalities and backstories!
This is movie is so freaking pretty. The costume and set design of Wakanda is iconic and gorgeous without ever stooping to orientalism. It’s a respectful homage to the various cultural elements of many African nations, coming together to create a hopeful vision for Africa’s future.
Plus the cinematography has enough sweeping vistas and landscapes to make The Lord of the Rings jealous. It’s a world you wish you could visit in real life.
On top of that, the score is stunning and really adds to the texture of Wakanda. Quite often, MCU film scores hit all the right notes, but don’t really jump out and attack you. This one makes itself known, blending technology with traditional rhythms.
The Villain: 10/10
Killmonger sounds, initially, to be a pretty flat villain, but once you get to meet him and learn about who he is as a person, you find yourself wondering if he might be on to something. Sure, he overreaches, and his fixation on revenge rather than positive change is dangerous, but his impetus is admirable.
I love his final scene where he chooses to die free rather than live in prison. It’s a powerful statement that leaves you asking questions about his intentions rather than just saying, “I’m glad the bad guy was defeated.”
He’s complex, layered, and one of the MCU’s best villains.
In what other movie can you see armored rhinos blasting through a horde of enemy combatants?
I’m giving this one a perfect score not because the movie is filled with explosions (though there are some cool ones) but because the weapon design of the Wakandans is so freaking cool. I hate to say it, but they beat Asgard in the weapons area.
Favorite explosion: I got crazy giddy every time T’Challa released the stored kinetic energy from his suit and blew everyone up around him.
The Hero’s Journey: 10/10
I love how the hero’s journey in this one isn’t necessarily the standard “how can I be a good hero” plot line we see in many superhero origin stories. Instead he’s already a great hero and already a great king, but then he has all that taken away and he has to fight to reclaim everything, and in the process, comes to understand the noble intentions that lie at the heart of Killmonger’s brutal actions. That way, once he is once again the rightful king, he has a greater respect for that position and seeks out positive change in the world, accepting the responsibility inherent in revealing his nation’s technology to the world and all who might want it.
We also get the beautiful layers of his relationship with his father. His respect for T’Chaka deepens as he’s able to see his father as a flawed human being rather than the idealized figurehead he always looked up to.
Score and Rank
- Black Panther (50/50) I mean, I think it’s safe to say that this film rules entirely. Though poor Ragnarok gets pushed out of its top five position after only one week. Sorry…
- Captain America: Civil War (49/50)
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier (46/50)
- The Avengers (45/50)
- Iron Man (43/50)
- Thor: Ragnarok (43/50)
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (43/50)
- Doctor Strange (42/50)
- Iron Man 3 (42/50)
- Guardians of the Galaxy (41/50)
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 (41/50)
- Captain America: The First Avenger (40/50)
- Thor (39/50)
- Avengers: Age of Ultron (39/50)
- Ant-Man (38/50)
- Thor: The Dark World (36/50)
- The Incredible Hulk (34/50)
- Iron Man 2 (33/50)
Next week we’re getting back to Spielberg By Numbers and looking forward to the next MCU film, Infinity War (which I’ll review as soon as I see it!).