If you think you’re too good for superhero movies, then you don’t deserve Black Panther.

marvel black panther

There are people in the world who think superhero movies are beneath them.

These are the same kind of people who recline their chairs onto someone’s knees for the entire duration of a one hour, mid-morning flight and who see it as their duty to point out typos in emotional Facebook posts.

They also probably enjoy kicking puppies and wrinkling their noses up at rainbows that magically appear after a sun shower, but I’m yet to find definitive proof to back up either of those claims.

But cutting yourself off from an entire portion of cinema, especially a portion that is currently shaping our pop culture lexicon as the dominate media form available on the big screen, does not make you clever and it does not make your taste more discerning than that of others.

All it means is that you can’t appreciate stories being told in different ways, that you can’t accept that important issues can be cleverly explored in a way that embraces both light and shade.

And that makes me sadder than watching the final cut of Halle Berry’s Catwoman. 

So, if you listen to what I’m about to tell you about Black Panther and you still think this movie is beneath your viewing habits, then maybe there is no help for you in this world after all.

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Oh, and you should also know that Oprah herself walked out of this movie and instantly declared it “phenomenal.”

But, eh, what would she know, right?

Listen: The Binge host Laura Brodnik explains why The Shape of Water is one movie you just can’t miss.

Black Panther takes place after the events of Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War, but creates such a rich and layered universe that you don’t have to have watched that film in order to be instantly pulled into the plot of this one.

The movie follows T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), a newly crowned African king of a secret Utopian city called Wakanda, who fights evil-doers dressed as a masked wildcat.

His biggest foe comes in the form of the villainous Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), an ex-military hit-man who has a mysterious past connection to Wakanda and is hell bent on overthrowing (and killing) T’Challa in order to launch a full-scale international race war.

Though Black Panther is as visually epic and high voltage as you’d expect a hero driven blockbuster to be, the issues explored within the film are very much grounded in reality, making the stakes unusually high.

In this film there are no faceless alien warriors to lazily knock off one-by-one, and no giant power beam bursting  into the sky to signal the final act, which are both tropes that can be lazily tacked on to the end of superhero flicks (ahem… Avengers…).

Lupita Nyong'o and Chadwick Boseman in Black Panther. Source: Marvel.

Black Panther is also a much needed and long-awaited diverse entry into the Marvel cinematic universe.

In reality, it is the very first mega­budget Hollywood movie to feature a predominantly black cast while also being overseen by an African-American director.

As Jamil Smith writes so elegantly in his piece for Time, "It’s a movie about what it means to be black in both America and Africa— and, more broadly, in the world. Rather than dodge complicated themes about race and identity, the film grapples head-on with the issues affecting modern-day black life."

The other stand-out element in the Black Panther universe is the array of complex, lovable and smart female characters that populate the world around T’Challa.

No one is relegated to just a love interest, no female character is an afterthought placed in the background in token scantily clad costumes. And not one of the actresses is left to be a one-dimensional, physically "strong woman" stereotype with no depth or backstory.

General Okoye (played by The Walking Dead's Danai Gurira) is a standout character who faces a complicated moral dilemma around loyalty, as well as being a kick-ass leader on the battlefield.

Angela Bassett is breathtaking as T'Challa/Black Panther's mother, Queen Mother Ramonda, and Lupita Nyong’o gives one of the best performances of her career as spy Nakia while the break-out star of the film has to be Letitia Wright as T'Challa's sister Shuri.

The interesting element here is that Shuri has taken over the role of inventor/master mind/genius/purveyor of superhero technology that is usually reserved for a much older, male character.

With the inventions, gadgets and weapons she concocts in her lab, Shuri manages to outshine and overtake James Bond's Q, Batman's Lucius Fox and even Iron Man, Tony Stark, himself.

Black Panther is currently the highest-rated Marvel movie of all-time (according to Rotten Tomatoes) and that's nothing to do with the might of it's adverting campaign or viewer's ongoing thirst for blockbuster action flicks.

The break-out star of Black Panther is Letitia Wright as Shuri. Source: Black Panther.

It's more to do with the fact that it's a good story well told, filled with characters people have been crying out to see on the big screen.

So, to all the people who won't deign to see it because they "don't care for silly superhero movies" this one has already broken a whole lot of box office records and to be frank, with that attitude, you don't deserve to see it.

But to the people who say it's time to move away from the superhero genre that is saturating the movie industry right now, know that it's not the time, just yet.

Because we can't move away from superheroes until everyone has had the chance to see their hero, a hero who looks like them, on screen.

For more film and TV reviews, you can follow Mamamia Entertainment Editor Laura Brodnik on Facebook.  

Black Panther is currently playing in cinemas across Australia. It is rated M.

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