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"Panther" claws way into superhero-movie greats

Jessica Fuller • Mar 5, 2018 at 10:56 AM

*spoilers for “Black Panther” below*

If I’m being honest, I’m getting a little tired of superhero movies. 

After 10 years and 17 movies, it was hard for me to get excited for the story of another hero establishing more characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. At this point, it feels like these movies have more characters than Game of Thrones, and that’s a lot of characters. 

But I felt differently when I came out of “Black Panther” a few weeks ago.

Full disclosure: I haven’t read any of the comics and have just seen the movies, but the last couple of years have taken a toll on my appreciation for superhero movies. While I fell right into the Avengers hype when the first movie came out and have watched every movie in theaters ever since. But after dozens of hours in the theater, I started losing my hype for Marvel movies for a few reasons: 

1. Non-memorable, run-of-the mill villains. 

2. Predictability.

3. Bland soundtracks (with the exception of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” of course).

One of Black Panther’s strongest assets is its main villain, Killmonger, in an excellent performance by Michael B. Jordan. If you go into the film flying blind like I did, you go in thinking that Gollum – er, I mean, Ulysses Klaue, is going to be your main baddie for the next two hours. The tides turn when Killmonger does what he does best and kills Klaue when he’s done using him in his goal for the Wakandan throne. 

Killmonger is a complex villain and so much more than the typical bad guys we’ve been seeing in Marvel films, you know, the ones that want to rule the universe just because it seems like fun. Killmonger’s motives stem from a tragic past crafted by the actions of T’Challa’s father 25 years ago tied in with issues that are rooted in the real world.

You’re rooting for T’Challa to win the final battle between the two, but in the back of your mind you know Killmonger has a point, even though he’s going about it in a destructive way. Without the conflict with Killmonger, T’Challa wouldn’t make the monumental decision he makes at the end, which sets up for the third Avengers movie coming out next month.

As far as predictability goes, this movie doesn’t completely get away from the basic formula of a superhero movie, but I think the movie taking place in a fresh setting along with new characters and an intriguing villain really brought more to the screen than the last few Marvel movies have had to offer. I felt the plot moved at a steady pace and still had some reveals I didn’t expect.

Finally, I feel like music has been overlooked in most of the past Marvel movies, and is one of the few things that DC films have consistently done better over Marvel films. Even after seeing the Avengers multiple times, I couldn’t tell you what the Avengers’ main theme is. I think it involves a triumphant horn part, but it’s just so generic that it doesn’t stick in my mind. 

Until “Guardians of the Galaxy” came out, I was content to say that no Marvel movie had a great soundtrack or score, but the musical motifs are clear throughout the movie. The music doesn’t just sit in the background with “Black Panther,” it sits at the forefront, and there’s a clear distinction between the music representing T’Challa and Wakanda and the music associated with Killmonger and California. 

To summarize, “Black Panther” is all the parts that Marvel has been missing for a few years – the memorable villain, the complex real-world issues, the exciting soundtrack and, of course, the MCU’s first black superhero with his own movie.

I went into the theater with high expectations and left completely satisfied with a revived excitement for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – it’s a game-changer you don’t want to miss.

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