As the newest edition into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Black Panther” is taking critics by storm, and making its way up to the top of the Marvel movie leaderboard. However, something that I just realized is how similar the story of T’Challa is to the story of another fan favorite Avenger, Thor.
It’s important to mention that these characters do have somewhat similar backstories, although with some obvious differences. First, both are born princes of an advanced civilization with technologies and weapons far beyond what most people have on earth. Both have their own society and customs that differ and are mostly disconnected from the rest of the MCU. Black Panther’s home, Wakanda, is on the other side of the world from the rest of the Marvel movies. So that decreases the likelihood of seeing Iron Man fly by or a random guest appearance from the Falcon. Asgard is (or was) on another planet entirely so Thor was mostly secluded from the rest of the MCU while in his homeland. Both places also have extremely advanced technology that carry a sense of mysticism. The Wakandans’ customs and traditions revolve around Bast the Panther God while the Asgardians have mythical and alien creatures alongside mystic weapons and enchantments. The Asgardians were also gods. These elements set stories about Thor and Black Panther apart from the rest of the MCU which I think is why “Black Panther” has been so well received. However, it’s important to note that of the “Thor” trilogy, “Ragnarok” was the first to really be praised by both fans and critics. The reason for that I believe was that they tried to take everything less seriously, which worked for the character.
Thor and Black Panther also share the fact that they are both young warriors thrust into the role of king while somewhat doubting they are right for the job. But at the same time, they are also ready to fight anyone who tries to seize the throne. A main difference in how they handle this is shown in their personalities. In the first two “Thor” movies, he was seen as arrogant and often angry with a feeling that he was above everyone. In “Black Panther” T’Challa seemed more annoyed than arrogant, but was also extremely angry, seeking vengeance for the death of his father. However, both seem to mellow out later on with Thor eventually becoming a wise-cracking and hilarious hero in “Thor: Ragnarok” and T’Challa becoming more comfortable in his role as Black Panther and king. However, in both of these movies when a major conflict occurs, both rise up and show character development to stop a greater evil.
The most evident similarity between Thor and T’Challa is their status as royalty. Both of them are born princes who through the journey of doubt, feeling as though they’re unprepared to lead their people, especially with the deaths of their fathers looming over them. A major difference between them is the fact that we got to see more of Thor before he had the responsibility for his people as he only recently took the mantle of king. For Black Panther, however, his father was killed off during the early parts of “Captain America: Civil War” when he was introduced, so most of what we see of T’Challa is him as king. Still, both take the throne and must protect their people from those who wish to harm it and from others trying to take the throne. Both of them have to have their hero’s journey with Thor’s unraveling over the course of several movies and T’Challa’s throughout most of “Black Panther.” Both also have family and a younger sibling with whom they have somewhat of a rivalry (although Shuri never tries to kill T’Challa). However, the character that seems like a Loki parallel in this movie is the main villain Eric Killmonger who’s backstory is extremely interesting and it’s better explained by the movie.
Also like “Thor,” “Black Panther” shows us that a little bit of comedy sprinkled into a serious film is a good thing. While Black Panther wasn’t a constant wisecracking hero like Thor or Spider-Man, there’s enough humor with him and the rest of the cast of the film to keep things fun but also serious.
Marvel’s two royal kings share many similar traits story-wise, despite being very different people. The parallels between the characters are important to note and it feels somewhat symbolic that characters from secluded nations and other planets can be so similar. I guess it goes to show the lesson that Uncle Ben from Spider-Man has been trying to teach us for years: with great power comes great responsibility. With a cast like this and such superb storytelling, we can’t wait to see what’s in store next for the MCU.