Yeah, I can see how some people see this as Marvel’s first Shakespearean epic.
Since the start of Phase 3, Marvel really has been knocking their movies straight out of the park. Black Panther is no exception as I find it the most interesting movie in terms of subtext.
Black Panther is not an origin story so it doesn’t fall into the same trappings of one. It is a growth story, a story about T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) learning what it means to be king after the death of his father in Captain America: Civil War (and while some characters from that movie reappear in this one, you needn’t have watched it to understand what is happening in this film). We are introduced to the most interesting location in the MCU: Wakanda, an isolationist nation in the heart of Africa that is also secretly the most advanced nation on the planet. It’s a nation that represents the Africa that could have been.
T’Challa may be the main character, but he shares the screen equally with his family: his sister Shuri (Letita Wright) who is pretty much Black Panther’s Q character, the woman who develops the technology of his suit. Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) is a War Dog of Wakanda, an undercover spy sent out into the world to observe and report. She also is the one who introduces what I believe to be the main conflict of the movie: should Wakanda stay isolationist or reveal themselves to the world. And of course, Okoye (Danai Gurira), leader of the Dora Milaje, an all-female special forces group that defends and works for the throne. She’s just a badass. ‘Nuff said.
What surprised me the most about Black Panther is just how amazing the villain is. Marvel has tended to be pretty bad when it comes to it’s villains, with them being uninteresting and barely characters. Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (Michael B. Jordan) breaks that mold. He believes that Wakanda could be doing so much more with their technology and power, so much so that he thinks that they could easily overthrow the oppressors in order protect and save the oppressed. He’s a smart and brutal individual that, at his heart, has good intentions, even if he is obviously evil.
Black Panther is so much more than an action flick or a comic book movie. It’s a movie with subtext and a movie that makes you think about. Some might even call it a commentary on life today. Personally, I think it’s a great movie.