by Kevin Muller
It’s hard to believe that the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU, is celebrating ten years. Throughout these films, we’ve seen many memorable moments, including when Iron Man first emerged, in the prototype of what his suit would become, to the God of thunder, Thor, wielding his hammer in a battle with Hulk, that made the green guy become helpless and, of course, when the original Avengers first came together. It has been one hell of a ride. One other constant has been the very serious threat of someone named Thanos and how he must be prevented from obtaining the Infinity Stones that are spread across this cinematic world.
Even though the collection of heroes is quite large, the MCU wanted to throw one more in there with inclusion of Black Panther. Fans got their first taste of him in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. This time, renowned film maker Ryan Coogler, has created a beautifully realized world for the King of Wakanda to show off in. In the film, T’Challa, who is now the king after his father was murdered in Civil War, has the responsibility of being head of the advanced nation. In a beautifully done intro, we are told that the Kingdom, which is located in an impoverished part of Africa, hides its technological advances from the rest of the world. They are neutral and only care about what happens to their nation. In hindsight, that sounds like a great idea but creates negative effects. Those negative effects come in the form of Erik Stevens, or as he calls himself, Killmonger. Stevens plans to overthrow T’Challa, which will give him the ability to carry out his plan to use Wakanda as his own personal army.
The plot in Infinity War is a lot more grand and epic. As stated, this is the film that is ten years in the making, so the stakes are a lot bigger than T’Challa fighting for his kingdom. The film wastes no time with showing how powerful of a threat Thanos is to our beloved heroes. His three henchmen are no joke either. The story is spread across the universe and each and every hero is important to the need to stop Thanos in his tracks.
Both of these films are brilliantly directed by The Russo Brothers, who are on their third go around, and Coogler, who is the newbie here. While the Russo Brothers brilliantly direct all these characters, and their universes with ease, it is Coogler who created a whole new world for Black Panther. Wakanda is run on Vibranium, which according to the introduction, came from outer space and gave the nation a great technological advantage over the entire world. Everything is powered by that alien element: the weapons, armor, and the city itself. The level of detail that Coogler and his team injected into this idea is just spectacular. On top of that, Coogler honors the African culture quite well. The costumes, attitude, and style of the city feel authentic to the culture. Both the technological advances and the respect to the culture make the city live and breathe.
Over the years, Marvel’s villains have been quite forgettable. Outside of Loki, most people can’t really name a memorable baddie in the universe. This constant criticism is something that is completely absent from BOTH of these adventures. Coogler knew he needed an actor who would bring out the conflicted nature of Killmonger, so he turned to his frequent collaborator, Michael B. Jordan. As with his roles in Coogler’s other films, Fruitvale Station and Creed, Jordan comes at it with full force. It isn’t the fact that he put on tons of muscle for the role, but the sells the morality of the character so well. He is a man who fought through the hardships of life, rightfully pissed that his nation of birth refused to help him due to their want to be anonymous. In order to avoid his villain being one dimensional, Coogler has Killmonger explain that there are many of their black brothers who are trapped in hell who could greatly benefit from the nation’s extremely advanced resources. Jordan also isn’t a joke when it comes to the physicality of the role either. His fierceness is of an animal when he attacks.
The Russos could’ve just relied on spectacle for their movie, but they really hit it out of the park with casting of Josh Brolin as Thanos. There were talks about how much he was going to bring to the character before filming, and how much he actually did bring to it when filming commenced. There are films that do ride on the hype and usually don’t live up to what they promised. Brolin and the Russos give Thanos the respect that he deserves. It isn’t all his tall and menacing stature that sell the character, but Brolin himself. As with Jordan, Brolin gives Thanos such depth and emotion. Though he is a tyrant, the writers give him reasoning from his madness. A choice that he has to make in the film, which kills him internally, is well played when it could’ve just felt tacked on. He also provides the Avengers with the urge of a real threat. Throughout these films, all these heroes have faced adversary, but nothing that worried you too much. Thanos feels like a threat for these super humans. Even his henchmen are well developed and aren’t just some slouches. They give a worthy fight each time they are thrown into battle.
As seen in last year’s Justice League, bringing together a bunch of heroes is no easy task. While DC only had to do it with six of them, Marvel has every single important character in this universe, both lead and supporting. The Russos do a marvelous job at handling this situation and give everyone their time to shine. Yes, some don’t get as much time as others, but they do get their moment in the spotlight. The Russos also aren’t afraid to take out some of the more beloved characters in this universe. Of course, nothing will be told here, but some of it is shocking, both in execution and how fast they are exited. It keeps the film briskly paced and creates such suspense in a way that no one is safe in this film.
Big budget films get a reputation of not being as prestige as the Oscar movies of the fall. It is a sentiment that is totally idiotic and false. It is just as hard to make a big spectacle picture with heart, emotion, respect, and excitement. Each summer, films come out that can’t accomplish half of what these two films did. If this is the path Marvel is going to take for future films, then there is nothing to worry about. We can all just buckle in and get ready for one hell of a ride.