Watch a video about how Ryan Coogler tackled the MCU’s biggest problems.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. With 18 movies released in the last decade and at least 14 more slated for the next few years, the MCU has turned the mass production of franchise films into an art form. Marvel’s rapid releases and reliable box office performances can largely be attributed to their relatively standardized narrative and stylistic approaches. But the success of Black Panther marks a distinct and exciting shift for the MCU, promising a more complex and challenging cinematic future.
In this video essay, Just Write addresses some of the Marvel franchise’s biggest problems. More importantly, it explores the ways in which Black Panther director Ryan Coogler subverts and reimagines the Marvel formula to directly address many of these issues. Sick of lackluster bad guys? Killmonger proves to be one of the most dynamic and complex villains we’ve ever seen. Tired of simplistic thematic material? Everything from the legacy of slavery to the resistance of colonial oppression is fair game. Annoyed by Marvel’s dearth of compelling female characters? Meet Nakia, Okoye, and Shuri.
The depth of Black Panther‘s storyworld particularly stands out from the rest of the MCU. Wakanda is a thoroughly fleshed out and immersive world. Throughout the course of the movie, we come to intimately know the nation’s history, traditions, and political policies. We are completely plunged into the vibrant Wakandan culture, as Coogler’s painstaking attention to detail and Hannah Beachler’s brilliant production design yield costuming, architecture, and technology that are both historically referential and boldly futuristic.
The narrative complexity of Coogler and Joe Robert Cole’s script also allows for both the hero and villain to be nuanced. T’Challa and Killmonger face inner turmoil with which we can empathize equally: T’Challa’s inner conflict between patrial duty and moral imperative is just as moving as Killmonger’s frustrations with Wakanda’s oppression-enabling neutrality. By the end of the movie, we fully understand the motivations of both sides; in Black Panther, justice isn’t as neatly defined as it usually is in the MCU.
Watch the video below to learn more about how Black Panther subverts and improves upon Marvel’s most commonly used formulas: