Posted by Max Farrow @mfarrow
Fanatical film-watcher, Hill-walker, Writer and Procrastinator Extraordinaire.
Max Farrow

Though it came out nearly four months ago, Captain America: Civil War is still one of the biggest blockbusters of this year. Certainly, it is the current king of 2016’s comic book movies, financially speaking, for now anyway!

Now out on DVD, Civil War joins Marvel Studios’s impressive roster of success stories such as the first Iron Man and Avengers...if their upcoming slate is anything to go by, their grip on the box-office gross looks set to continue.

But, as T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) himself recently discussed with ComicBookResources, this doesn’t mean that Marvel will be complacent going forward. Moreover, speaking at San Diego Comic Con, he disclosed that the upcoming Black Panther movie might feature the kind of troubled hero - and solemn story -that we haven’t seen in a Marvel movie yet.

"Where'd they find this guy?”

The Panther strikes [Marvel Studios]
The Panther strikes [Marvel Studios]

Following the massive #Oscarssowhite movement earlier this year, Black Panther's upcoming release date of February 16, 2018 feels very percipient. If one thing's for sure, Chadwick Boseman is enthusiastic about what this means for black representation in popular cinema:

“It’s going to be a big deal because there’s not just Black people or people of African descent that want to see it, I think everybody wants to see it. That’s the beautiful thing...”

He’s certainly right here. Looking through the comments on Moviepilot, Facebook and across the internet, haters of Black Panther are definitely in the minority, and many fans are clamoring to see him again. It isn’t just because he’s one of the first black and African heroes in a major movie; in Boseman’s brilliant performance, T'Challa was not only a tortured man, but also a regal, intelligent and evidently formidable opponent for the other zanier heroes. In fact, he’s so popular that he has become the subject of many memes, which don’t ridicule him, but rather celebrate just how beloved he is.

A Black Panther meme, courtesy of the internet.
A Black Panther meme, courtesy of the internet.

So what is it about him that’s got everyone excited for his solo movie?

Let’s start with the obvious stuff: Boseman’s easy on the eye (always a plus) and his costume is damn sleek. He’s served well by the script, and is given some great lines and fight scenes in Civil War, and as said earlier, Chadwick Boseman delivers it all with aplomb.

In both the comics and the movie, he’s a cool character - but is there something else behind his positive reception?

Black Panther concept art. Image: Marvel Studios
Black Panther concept art. Image: Marvel Studios

Prior to the movie's release, very little was disclosed about his role, and let’s be honest, Black Panther is not as well-known as other heroes like Spider-Man and Captain America. But the man behind the mask thinks that all of this mystery was an asset to the audience, as well as to the character’s success:

“They didn’t have the prior history of the character. A few people have said to me, “I thought you were a villain at first.” And they enjoyed that... That’s telling to me. I feel like it’s a good thing that we were able to create that context where he’s going after things for his own reasons, not necessarily good or bad...”

There is some truth to this. It might be hard to think of it now, but before 2008 Iron Man was no where near as well known or as popular!

But it’s something else as well. Black Panther is a man who stands apart from everyone else in Civil War, in various ways. After the death of his father T’Chacka (John Kani), he goes on a revenge-fueled spree against Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), attempting to kill him and injure anyone who tries to prevent him doing so.

[Marvel Studios]
[Marvel Studios]

Plus it’s worth mentioning that out of the other heroes, he alone recognizes the dangers of the path he’s taken and refuses to succumb to the violence at the movie’s climax.

In a movie where heroes are held accountable, the nature of power is debated and friendships and lives are changed forever, that’s pretty deep!

See Also:

Is This the Sort of Mood Which Will Define 'Black Panther'?

"So, you like cats?" [Marvel Studios]
"So, you like cats?" [Marvel Studios]

The common view of Marvel’s movies is that they share many recurring themes and traits, essentially being an interconnected, spread of colorful and crowd-pleasing movies. This might not be in the case in Black Panther, if Boseman has anything to say about it.

“I’m glad that the tone of [“Black Panther”] may be a little grittier. I just wanted to establish that from the beginning... that’s what we were doing. That that’s what I intend to do.”

Looking back at Civil War, this is quite understandable. After all, Black Panther has never been a quipster in the comics and his movie counterpart stayed true to this. In many ways he’s a breath of fresh air in the Marvel Universe. He is an established and powerful figure who interestingly eschews the quips and witticisms that have defined his fellow heroes.

Panther got no time for your wit [Marvel Studios]
Panther got no time for your wit [Marvel Studios]

If his depiction in Civil War is anything to go by, we have a compelling character who has a penchant for seriousness (worthy of the Batman himself!), and looks set to continue in his solo movie.

Some might find these notions somewhat contradictory to the light-hearted outlook of Marvel’s movies, but Boseman definitely sees the amusing side of it.

“It’s funny, because on one hand, the Marvel movies that I’ve liked the most are the ones that are funny. I love “Ant-Man.” But for me, most of the time the darker superhero movies are the ones that I gravitate towards, that I love the most.”

If we are to go by his back catalog of starring roles, then it is safe to say that Boseman is a fan of deep and meaty subjects...he has tackled racism in 42 and the role of troubled musician James Brown in Get on Up. If grounded things are his preference, who are we to deride him for it?

However, I can already hear the groans from some people...and it isn’t without reason...

“Grittier?” “Darker?!!”

Batman- beginner of buzzword trends. [Warner Bros.]
Batman- beginner of buzzword trends. [Warner Bros.]

Ever since Batman Begins, we’ve certainly heard these buzzwords repeated a lot of times over the past ten years. They’ve become very popular phrases for so many movies on so many press tours that they have become a bit, well, tired. Plus one of the main things that Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad were criticized for (apart from structural problems) were its dour approaches to the subject matter and characters.

Bearing this in mind, is seriousness the right way to go in Black Panther?

The answer to this is both yes, and no. Batman Begins only perpetuated the “dark and gritty” trend because it suited the character and the story. If the rumors about Black Panther are found to be true, we could be seeing T’Challa struggling with his newfound role as king, with Andy Serkis’s Ulysses Klawe out for revenge, after being branded and outlawed sometime prior to Avengers: Age of Ultron. He will also have to contend with the villainous Erik Killmonger, played by Michael B Jordan.

If Black Panther is widely viewed as one of Marvel’s Batman equivalents, then surely this kind of more serious tone would be suitable for him? It’s also worth bearing in mind that Marvel has produced the Daredevil and Jessica Jones series, which were anything but family friendly. Plus Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Civil War managed to have a lot of fun whilst taking a serious approach to their respective stories, and they are considered to be among the best of Marvel’s movies.

So What’s the Deal?

A contemplative T'Challa [Marvel Studios]
A contemplative T'Challa [Marvel Studios]

Are we to expect some Batman v Superman levels of moodiness, violence and deconstruction? Probably not. As Boseman reveals, his Black Panther won’t be hyper aggressive or navel gaze too much:

“...he’s not going to be a selfish ruler... He’s not going to be a person that does things purely for his own gain...he does have a heroic aspect at the heart of a can pull for him, because he’s merciful...[but it also] leaves room...for him to do things that are not necessarily perfect.”

So in essence, we can infer that director Ryan Cogler will paint the Black Panther as a deep, multi-faceted character. Some people may scoff at this assertion, but let’s not forget that Iron Man is now seen as one of the snarkiest superheroes, but in Civil War we saw very few jokes from him, since his hubris had taken a hit after his role in Age of Ultron.

Bad move, Tony... [Marvel Studios]
Bad move, Tony... [Marvel Studios]

But the film itself? Well, it’s almost certain to be something new. As the ruler of the fictional African country of Wakanda, we’ll get to explore unseen territories of the Marvel Universe. Each Marvel movie has mainly focused on American heroes, and though the films have sparingly traveled across the world through the course of their stories, each film has revolved around their respective hero and their problems. As such, we’ve only gained glimpses of the places which lie beyond. Primarily based in Africa, Black Panther is sure to address this and venture into uncharted waters.

And yes, these could be a bit on the serious side. After all, things could get to be a little political, what with T’Chaka’s pronouncement in Civil War that Wakanda was no longer going to be an isolationist country. What problems could this cause for T’Challa? Boseman is keen to explore these, and feels confident over how it’s all shaping up:

“I feel like we’ll end up in a place that I’ve always wanted to be when I look at superhero movies. It’s exciting to do that...I feel the energy. ”

Dark, gritty, or neither, Black Panther is surely set to be a beast of it’s own.


Do you want to see a "dark and gritty" Black Panther?