Marvel’s move of bringing more of their lesser known characters into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has worked very well so far. The obscure Guardians of the Galaxy took the galaxy by surprise and won the hearts of many with its quirky brand of humor, while Ant-Man proved that you literally don’t need to be big to succeed. However, Black Panther’s introduction into the MCU had a shaky start. Here, we have a character who has all the potential, especially with the “cool” factor and enigma he’s supposed to have. Yet, he gets almost completely drowned out and overshadowed by the diverse superhero ensemble in Civil War. Thus, Marvel’s decision to make a solo Black Panther movie is quite a surprise. In the entire MCU, Black Widow and The Hulk stand out way more and yet they do not get their own solo films. This is quite a big leap of faith and huge risk on Marvel’s part. The studio hasn’t had a major flop in a while since The Incredible Hulk, so could this be Marvel’s first flop after a string of success?
After much mystery shrouding the production of the upcoming Black Panther film, a teaser trailer was released earlier this month. The trailer hints at the potential to be awesome as much as it hints at the potential to flop. If Black Panther flops, this could change a lot of other things in the MCU, especially with Infinity War currently being in production. There are 3 things which Marvel needs to focus on in order to prevent Black Panther from being another The Incredible Hulk.
More Character Development
Black Panther features Andy Serkis as the main villain, Ulysses Klaw. Having played roles as diverse as Gollum (Lord of the Rings), King Kong (2005’s King Kong), Caesar (Planet of the Apes) and Supreme Leader Snoke (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), this is a guy who knows how to bring life to enigmatic antagonists. Quite simply, anything that Andy Serkis touches turns into precious gold. While he is definitely good, this may pose a problem because in Civil War, Black Panther’s character simply didn’t stand out and drowned among a sea of characters. Andy Serkis is an actor who stands out without even having to stand (as evident in the teaser trailer). Chadwick Boseman really needs to up the ante and give it his all to make the upcoming Black Panther film work, or else we’ll have another villain in the MCU who shines more than the main hero.
It would be a blast if Marvel focused on T’Challa struggling with multiple different challenges at the same time – being the new King of Wakanda, coping with his father’s death, bearing the responsibility of being the Black Panther, and handling emotional conflicts with characters such as Daniel Bruhl’s Zemo (whom he “rescued” in Civil War). Perhaps acceptance issues among the people of Wakanda and guilt over what happened in Civil War would do well in the mix, as well. This would bring out more of the human aspect of the character, because so far, Black Panther feels like a very cold and ruthless character who is only hell-bent on revenge and nothing else.
A Worthy Partner/Sidekick/Love Interest
Black Panther seems to have this lone-ranger/”I work alone” thing going on, and this persona has already been established in Civil War. Having a partner/sidekick to contrast this personality would work wonders to make the film an enjoyable experience. However, this needs to be done well – achieving the perfect balance is an art that Marvel itself is still struggling with. In films such as The Winter Soldier and Civil War, the whole Captain America/Bucky Barnes thing feels like a badly-written forced bromance fan-fiction. In Ant-Man, well, Michael Pena is Michael Pena, and his personality works well with how Paul Rudd plays Ant-Man. It would be interesting to see who would play the perfect sidekick to Black Panther.
However, what’s more interesting to think about is the potential love interest for Black Panther. In the comics, Black Panther gets married to Storm (yes, that Storm from the X-Men). However, due to licensing issues and Fox owning the rights to the character, there won’t be any chance of that happening anytime soon. It’s a wonder who would be the potential candidate for Queen of Wakanda, or if there would be any love interest for T’Challa in the first place. If Marvel does this properly and balances Black Panther with an amazing supporting character, it would flesh out Black Panther’s character and help us appreciate him from a different perspective.
A World That is Different, Yet Relatable
One unique thing about Black Panther is its setting – while the majority of the MCU films and series are set somewhere in New York or for the most part the east coast of the United States, this one takes place in the fictional country of Wakanda. What makes Wakanda interesting that it is both high-tech as it is colorful culturally. It would be a treat if we were exposed to the culture, rituals and lifestyle in Wakanda rather than just focus solely on the story. However, as with many films which have cultures or tribes which do not exist, if the setting isn’t relatable to what exists today, it would probably be harder to digest. The reason Lord of the Rings works so well is because despite how out of this Earth the story is, it alludes to many things in real life (trivia: many of the things which occur in Lord of the Rings are in fact analogies and allusions to Tolkien’s account of the World War). Without relatability, Black Panther might end up becoming like the recent Warcraft film – colorful and full of otherworldly beings which makes the audience feel lost and disconnected.
Having said all that, we never know what Marvel is up to – perhaps the next trailer will reveal more of what’s to come? Marvel seems keen to tell the tale of a superhero from a third-world country. Let’s just hope that the delivery isn’t third class.