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The 7 Ways ‘Black Panther’ Stands out in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

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On October 28, 2014, Marvel held a fan event at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. At this special event, Marvel’s President of Production Kevin Feige announced the full lineup for Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This was an exciting time for black nerds around America because the “Black Panther” film was announced with a release date of November 3, 2017. This date was changed because of the Sony-Marvel deal where they acquired the rights to Spider-Man, but how fitting is it that Black Panther came out in Black History Month four years later. Let me tell you, it was worth the wait.

This film is a masterpiece. It’s not that this is the first black superhero movie, it’s just the best. Marvel knows how to deliver. Back in 2016, Marvel and Netflix brought us the marvel of “Luke Cage.” Now, Marvel has done it again with “Black Panther.” Director Ryan Coogler does a fantastic job at bringing Wakanda to life and keeping true to the original comic book source-material, while appealing to a new audience. Here’s how “Black Panther” stands out from the rest of the MCU.

Comics

Comic book fans are going to adore this movie. “Black Panther” is the 18th film in Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it is definitely a Marvel film all the way through. Some die-hard fans were initially hesitant about seeing this movie because of the fear that it wouldn’t fit with the rest of the films, but that is all the way wrong. It has all of the usual tropes of the modern superhero films. There is a superhero (of course). This character undergoes an internal change and the villain ends up being connected to the main character, whether that’s through their past, family relations, etc. The lead is accompanied by a group that provides the comic relief and different types of characters (including a love interest). The third act has the conventional big action set piece, along with countless Superhero Landings. “Black Panther” takes place weeks, maybe even days after the events of “Captain America: Civil War”. There are callbacks to things such as Zemo having been arrested and T’Challa having to assume the role as king. This gives us a clear time-frame when this movie takes place, setting it neatly into the MCU timeline, unlike some films (*cough* “Spider-Man Homecoming” *cough*)

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Villains

Unlike other MCU films, this movie has a compelling villain. I was actually sympathetic and understood exactly what the villain Erik Killmonger was going for. I had to keep reminding myself that this is the bad guy. Michael B. Jordan delivers a convincing villain. His performance is a stark contrast to his character of Johnny Storm in 2015’s “Fantastic Four.” There are actually two villains in this movie, the second being Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis). I loved Klaue in this movie as I do all of Andy Serkis’ roles. Normally Serkis plays motion-capture characters, so it was a relief to see him in a different light. He really had fun with the role and it shows. He’s quirky and really eccentric. I was worried that director Ryan Coogler was going to change his character from “Avengers 2” to fit more into this universe, but he kept it the same which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Characters

Just like how Marvel usually has a villain problem, the studio isn’t always  the strongest with supporting characters either. Again, Black Panther changes that. Black Panther introduces the Dora Milaje; an elite group of women that serves as the special forces group of Wakanda directly under King T’Challa/ Black Panther. The commander is Okoye, who is played by Danai Gurira. Gurira does a fantastic job at playing Okoye. She’s funny and a strong female role model for women everywhere, especially young girls of color. T’Challa’s sister, Shuri, is played by Letitia Wright. She serves as the comedy relief which was actually really funny. I was worried that the comedy would consist of corny one-liners.”Black Panther” producer Nate Moore described the character to Screen Rant reporter Rob Keyes during a 2017 set visit in Atlanta as “the smartest person in the world, smarter than Tony Stark but she’s a 16-year-old girl which we thought was really interesting.” It is insane that she is 16. Her age isn’t stated at any point in the film but a lot of teens are mentioning this in their stories. I have loved these teen key players that Marvel has been introducing into the MCU. Hopefully, Shuri and Peter Parker can form a sort of friendship in “Avengers: Infinity War.” Then there’s Nakia, played by Lupita Nyong’o. She serves as the love interest in this film and is actually a good one. Most of the love interests serve as the stereotypical damsel in distress, yet Nakia actually kicks some serious ass. That is really the message that we need to convey to the young girls of color, you can be a badass too.

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Regular People

“Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler makes an effort to intrigue normal people with this film. You don’t need to know everything or anything about the Black Panther comic book series to understand or even enjoy this movie. There is no doubt about this movie being dedicated to black people, from the social commentary to Oakland, CA being a plot point. The African-American community needs this movie in this day and age, in the the wake of modern-day racism and the Trump era social climate of the US as a whole.

For some, there is a specific connotation that goes along with Africa. These may be words such as dirty and poor, but Wakanda changes all of that. First of, Wakanda is seen as a technological spectacle. The design of Wakanda really represents the philosophy of Afrofuturism. This concept is often regarded as a cultural genre or style, a re-imagining of African tradition that projects techno-futuristic possibilities, and if that doesn’t scream Wakanda, I don’t know what will. This film takes inspiration from actual African cultures and integrates it into a fictional country that is rich beyond measure.

References: Mild Spoilers

Shuri – In the movie, like the comics, Shuri is the sister of T’Challa and is the princesses of Wakanda. Unlike the comics however, this interpretation of Shuri is at peak level intellect.She is the chief engineering officer in Wakanda and is responsible for most, if not all, of Wakanda’s technology. In the comics for a bit, Shuri has held the mantle of Black Panther. This is hinted at during the movie. Shuri’s attire has the bottom of a Panther’s mouth as a part of her neck guard. Another nod towards her time as Wakanda’s protector is when different tribes elect members to challenge to become the Black Panther. After no one puts someone in to fight, Shuri raises her hand. In the film this is  used solely as comedic effect. Still, this would be an interesting story point if Shuri were to become the next Black Panther.

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Klaue’s Hand – When we were first introduced to Ulysses Klaue in “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” comic book readers were excited to see him because he is a popular Black Panther villain. In the film, he sports a metal arm that has a sonic arm cannon powered by vibranium. If you listen closely, you can hear that the sound the arm makes is the exact same sound that the Iron Man’s repulsor blasts.

“Another white boy” – In the film, Agent Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) is injured in a confrontation with Killmonger. Because he risked his life to save Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), they take him back to Wakanda to save him. Once they arrive, Shuri remarks, “Great, another broken white boy for us to fix.” This is funny and a nice Easter egg nod to the end of “Captain America: Civil War,” where Bucky is left in the care of Wakandans to fix.

There aren’t many references to the MCU as a whole but there doesn’t need to be. “Black Panther” works on its own. Coogler has created his own universe. This is not dissimilar to the actual country of Wakanda being isolated from the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe.

“Black Panther” is definitely a must see, and is on my greatest movies of all time list. This is Marvel’s most ambitious film yet. I advise every person to see this film. Not just teenagers, not just black people, everyone. Go see “Black Panther” when it hits theaters, beginning Friday.


Taj, 14, is a freshman at Maynard Jackson High School and socially awkward AF.

Photos: Marvel/Disney

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