You know the story by now. A nerdy, unassuming teenager gets bitten by a radioactive spider and develops super powers. They struggle with their place and identity, finally embracing the responsibility that comes with their powers, and work tirelessly to defend their city from threats both mundane and extraordinary. It’s a tale as old as time, or at least as old as comic books. Or is it?
Once upon a time, a major studio decided to make a superhero film. They based the film around a character who had been around for decades and had started as a villain but had since become an antihero. The character was part of another superhero’s universe and had already appeared in a film starring that hero, but the franchise was rebooted several times in the 10 or so years it took to get the character’s film made.
There are many things that separate Black Panther from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that go far beyond the skin color of its protagonist. For the first time in the MCU, we have a film that is primarily about cultural identity and the responsibility that goes along with it in a real, demonstrable way (sorry Asgard, but you don’t count).