Best Picture Countdown: Black Panther

Marvel Studios is notorious for churning out movies that are fun to watch but lack substance and depth, which makes Black Panther a pleasant surprise. The film sets a new bar for the genre, with a compelling villain and a semi-nuanced debate of a politically relevant issue.

In a time rife with xenophobia and immigration issues, Black Panther tackles serious questions about whether a country’s responsibilities extend beyond its borders and whether those in power have a responsibility to help those who are not. The film handles these issues with surprising tact, painting them as a debate rather than the black-and-white depiction of disagreements usually found in superhero films. 

Despite this, the film still remains somewhat hamstrung by its genre, resorting to flashy action scenes at its climax rather than focusing on the moral debates merited by its weighty themes. However, the emotional beats of this movie hit close to home, and the level of action comes with the territory.

What’s more, Black Panther is a phenomenal success in its superhero genre. Its moral discussions add to the story, making it extremely compelling. The action is standard for a Marvel movie, and while the visual effects are slightly subpar, the film’s pathos more than makes up for it. In a nutshell, Black Panther is the best possible version of the formulaic Marvel superhero movie. It does everything by the book and still succeeds in telling a nuanced story. 

While Chadwick Boseman plays the title role well, it’s Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger who really steals the show. He solves Marvel’s long-standing villain problem by presenting a relatable character with a sympathetic vendetta and code of conduct, and is easily the studio’s best villain to date. Marvel also solves its bland music problem with an Oscar-nominated score and soundtrack that bring the world of Wakanda to life. 

Black Panther has also received universal acclaim for its commitment to diversity and representation, both in the cast and behind the scenes. While the movie is a monumental achievement in terms of racial representation, it also is one of few Marvel productions with multiple strong female leads. Throughout the movie, women have a far greater level of agency than previously seen in Marvel films.

While it is not flawless, Black Panther accomplishes its goals and is a masterpiece in the Marvel universe. There are many fans of superhero movies at Oberlin, and for them, this movie is a must-see. However, even if this isn’t your typical genre, I would still encourage you to watch Black Panther — a plain good movie and one of my favorites of the year. While I would not expect it to win Best Picture, the nomination is well-deserved.