Black Panther is both a commercial and critical success, currently sitting at the top of the US weekly movie charts, and set to become the most financially successful Marvel Cinematic Universe movie. I’d argue that Black Panther sits alongside Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica and the Culture novels as a great example of middlebrow science fiction – accessible and fun but smart enough that it offers more than just spectacle. Here are the reasons why.
Genre-wise Jessica Jones is a mashup between the superhero and noir genres. When time came to choose between the conventions and traditions of the two, the first season ended up leaning more towards its superhero influences. Despite the hero’s bad choices and the show’s moral complexity, season one had Kilgrave as a clearcut villain – the season’s final arc followed the traditional superhero structure of climbing towards an action set piece.
Season two goes the other way, with morality never being so clearly defined as the final episodes of season one. Some viewers may find this disappointing – while there are compelling villains in season two, none of them are as overtly and undeniably villainous as Kilgrave. Instead the second season has more of a focus on moral complexity.
Given that Black Panther has become a cultural phenomenon, there’s been a lot of hype and backlash around the discussion of the film. Stripping all that away, how good is it?
Firstly it’s a good example of an action adventure – the characters are likeable and spark off each other; there’s a compelling story that flows through the film and doesn’t overstay its welcome; the locales (in both Wakanda and South Korea) are colourful and engaging; and there’s some really spectacular and fun action set pieces. That is the primary scale that Black Panther should be judged against, against films like Doctor No, Armaegeddon and the like. By that standard it measures up well – I’d be surprised if there’s many better action films released this year.