Is Black Panther the first movie in Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe with something in particular on its mind?
More precisely, is it the first MCU movie with a definite burden — a sense of being set amid a larger discussion that can’t and won’t be ignored?
Until now, the closest thing to an idea running through the MCU franchise has been, I guess, distrust and fear of the military-industrial complex, of the erosion of freedom in the name of security.
The original Iron Man turned on Tony Stark’s discovery that, as a weapons manufacturer, he was the bad guy. Ever since then, global threats in one Marvel movie after another have implicated either Tony himself, one of his rivals or partners, or their top customer, the U.S. government (including SHIELD, which turned out to be radically corrupted by the evil Hydra).
Yet this has been less real concern than a trope; less a political point of view than a way of dodging political controversy. (Reinventing the Chinese supervillain Mandarin in Iron Man 3 as a British actor fronting for an American industrialist was a way to keep selling tickets in China.)
Tony and Nick Fury might get the world into one scrape after another, but they’re always there to get us out. (Are they perhaps a little like Homer Simpson’s incoherent ode to alcohol: “the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems”?)
Now consider how Black Panther establishes our hero, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), soon to be crowned king of the fictional African kingdom of Wakanda: dropping from the sky onto a convoy of Nigerian insurgents transporting terrified girls and women kidnapped from nearby villages.
Consider how different this introductory sequence is from an analogous scene in the original Iron Man with the armored Avenger-to-be dropping down out of the sky into the midst of a Afghanistan village under attack by the terrorist cell that held him earlier in the film.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.