Black Panther is king of the MCU


Black Panther is about redemption, for better or for worse. Chadwick Boseman’s  T’Challa still seeks redemption for his father and former king T’Chaka’s death, which occurred in Captain America: Civil War. T’Chaka died partly because he was willing to leave the safe haven of Wakanda and help the rest of the world, which is one of the central themes of Black Panther. But because T’Chaka died literally as he was announcing that Wakanda was to use its technology outside of its own borders, he never carried out his plan.

Perhaps above all, Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger seeks vengeance for both his black ancestors and the blacks everywhere who are still oppressed, which he reveals in a line during the film. “Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, cause they knew death was better than bondage.” Jordan delivers this line with so much emotion, it is the culmination of all the sympathy a viewer might have felt for the villainous Killmonger into something that’s much bigger than a movie.

For all the compassion one might feel for Killmonger by the end of the film, he establishes himself as a ruthless character who is not afraid to fight and kill for what he wants. He is a physical presence who is a perfect adversary for T’Challa, and he is confident and aggressive about everything he does.

Jordan brought a bit of his personality into the role by greeting the queen of Wakanda with a “Hi auntie,” and some other subtle actions that reminded me of his character from Creed. While the final fight between his character and T’Challa was somewhat underwhelming, Jordan killed it. Killmonger easily makes the shortlist of best MCU villains for me because of his complexity, and the fact that I rooted for him sometimes during this film.

Not only were there awesome male characters in the film, three female heroes in Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira and Letitia Wright stole the show at times. Nyong’o was great in action sequences, and played the role of T’Challa’s ex (and current by the end of the film) girlfriend. Gurira, as always, was fierce throughout. Her spear skills were reminiscent of the way she wields her samurai swords in “The Walking Dead.” She showed so much intensity through facial expressions in action sequences and tense moments, and despair when T’Challa was fighting Killmonger. She proves loyal to the throne multiple times in this movie, and values Wakanda over everything else. Wright having fun in the lab with the technology she created was similar to Q from the James Bond movies, except it was more fun and more impressive. Wright may end up being the breakout star for her effortless humor and the way her character humanized her brother T’Challa by making fun of him and making an old meme reference that I won’t reveal.

For a MCU film, the cinematography was incredible, even if it was mostly via special effects. The plot was compelling, and it definitely felt character-driven. Wakanda was presented for the first time in the MCU as a breathtaking landscape. From the mountains where the Jabari tribe reside to the city of Wakanda and the vibranium mines, Wakanda feels like both a real place and the technological stronghold it is depicted to be. Black Panther wasn’t just a great superhero movie; it would have been a great movie even if T’Challa was just a regular guy with a gun. The acting all around was just that good. Kendrick Lamar’s soundtrack is perfect for this movie, not distracting from what was happening in the film itself, while not serving as an afterthought. While it might not be my personal favorite MCU film so far (I still think Captain America: Civil War was better), there’s no denying that Black Panther was the best MCU film because it wasn’t just about the world in the movie, it addressed issues that are still relevant today.