In the 15 years that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been spitting out movies, none has been as deep and as polished as Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther and Wakanda Forever. Unlike other films in the franchise, the creators have gone beyond creating popcorn superhero flicks and delivered a strong, emotional story that resonates with fans and critics. And yes, we’ll dare to say it: The Black Panther movies are the strongest films in the MCU.
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With a decade and a half worth of great films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is still going strong, but it’s not just about the big hits anymore. The MCU has become a source of inspiration for countless filmmakers and studios around the world. With stories that transcend the film medium and reach audiences on a global scale, Marvel Studios continues to find new ways to entertain its fans and expand its cinematic universe.
At their core, superhero flicks have always been about escapism. Whether it was the simple joys of watching Batman fight crime or Spider-Man swinging through New York City, audiences loved the idea of these larger-than-life characters taking down crime in their city. But where so many of those stories became stale over time and lost their appeal, Marvel found a way to keep them fresh by creating an interconnected world built on a foundation of diverse heroes with unique powers.
In a world with hundreds of superhero origins stories, the MCU has begun to use a new take on the genre. In short, the MCU now tells the tales of the conditions surrounding a certain character, instead of focusing on how they got their powers. Each film weaves together a story based on the hero’s powers, but the real focus lies on the events that led to the character becoming a superhero.
That’s why I believe that Black Panther — and now its sequel — Wakanda Forever are among Marvel’s strongest films yet. With a unique cast of characters that each bring something different to the table, and with a narrative that feels both secluded and deeply connected to the ongoing MCU, the Black Panther franchise is already one of the most exciting stories told within the vastness of the MCU.
A Forge of Heroes
It’s no secret that the MCU has been advancing at a breakneck pace with every passing film. More than just a film studio, the Marvel machinery acts more as a factory, producing more and more superhero origin stories a year than can be counted. From the very beginning, Marvel Studios knew exactly what kind of formula would keep people coming back for more.
However, after a while, these films all began feeling like variations of the same story. It got even worse after Guardians of the Galaxy — at that point, the MCU suffered a complete tonal shift from the rest of the previous films. Now, every character spent most of the film’s runtime competing with each other to see who could say the most outrageous quip or witty joke, and that got old real fast.
Then came Captain America: Civil War, and everything changed. After years of building up a world of superheroes, Marvel finally had the roster needed to pull off such a plotline. Instead of having some petty squabble between individual heroes, this time they decided to pit all of them against each other, delivering the ultimate showdown between Iron Man and Captain America. That alone made the movie a surefire hit, but then there was the risky move of introducing two new characters to the MCU in the same film: Spider-Man, and Black Panther.
Both of these characters would go on to make a huge impact in the MCU, and we all know how much of a big deal the new Spider-Man trilogy was. However, nothing could compare to the cultural impact that the first Black Panther film would have. The fact that Marvel dared to create a film focused solely on the African nation of Wakanda served as an inspiration to Marvel fans across the globe, and in turn, it helped to further diversify the comic book industry.
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Black Panther and Wakanda Forever are more than just Marvel movies.
What makes Black Panther stand out from all the other Marvel movies is its ability to tell a story that transcends the realms of cinema. Through the introduction of a fictional country called Wakanda, it becomes clear that Marvel isn’t only telling the stories of individual superheroes; rather, they’re telling the stories of entire cultures.
The MCU has grown to encompass several different races, religions, and languages, all living in harmony under one banner. In many aspects, the world of Wakanda is what every MCU franchise set in a fictional culture should aspire to be. While most of the films feature superheroes, Black Panther is a film that focuses on the people behind those masks — and more importantly, where they come from.
T’Challa, aka Black Panther, is a man who strives to do right by his country and his people. He shows his respect for the customs of the land he calls home, while also having the courage to fight for those who need him, making him a hero that all audiences can relate to. The other major protagonist is Shuri, T’Challa’s sister and head of the Wakandan scientific community. She plays the role of the intellectual, always solving problems through her deep knowledge of science and technology.
From a certain perspective, T’Challa follows a similar character arc to that of Thor. However, unlike Thor, Black Panther was able to retain a sense of identity and purpose. Thor’s journey, especially in more recent entries, has become so inconsequential that it almost feels pointless. Black Panther, on the other hand, has consistently provided us with thought-provoking themes that continue to resonate long after the credits roll.
Even from a cinematic standpoint, the Black Panther film series shines brightly as some of the most imaginative and visually stunning movies in the entire MCU. Marvel Studios has certainly done its homework when it comes to creating a realistic world for its films, but it wasn’t until Black Panther that we saw an authentic glimpse into a truly fantastical fictional society that looked straight out of a comic book. Just take a look at Wakanda, the fictional African country that serves as the setting for Black Panther, and compare it to something like Asgard.
Wakanda looks like a place where technology and tradition go hand in hand. It’s not just the obvious things like advanced tech or amazing outfits, though. There is also a distinct cultural identity that permeates the entire film. The people of Wakanda feel like they belong there and are proud of their heritage. At the same time, the challenges of globalization and modernity are still present. This gives the film a sense of realism that is missing from most superhero films, and it helps us to better understand what it means to be a part of a globalized world, even for superheroes.
Last but not least, the Black Panther duology has also turned into one of the biggest hits in the MCU. For a film centred around a single character, it’s hard to believe that it managed to rake in as much money as The Avengers did. Not only is Black Panther a great film, but it’s also a film that will be remembered for decades to come, perhaps even after everyone forgets about the rest of the MCU — if that ever happens.
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Do you agree, are Black Panther and Wakanda Forever the best Marvel movies?