“Black Panther,” Is Better Than “Avengers: Infinity War”

Courtesy of Marvel Studios
Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures and Marvel Studios

Possible Avengers: Infinity War Spoilers Ahead

I saw Avengers: Infinity War recently. I don’t know how I felt about it, because I may not have felt anything.

One thing that I left feeling absolutely sure of was that a movie should be a movie. It should have a start, a middle and a finish. It should have characters worth caring about, and it should give these characters story arcs and there should be an element of completion by the end, and maybe a tease for what’s to come. And this is why Black Panther is a better movie than Avengers: Infinity War.

Infinity War brings the seventy-something characters established in the ten years of Marvel Cinematic Universe movies together in one gargantuan, sprawling, almost-three-hour-long epic. But at the same time, it doesn’t have characters. People show up and do things, some have quippy dialogue, and then the narrative quickly moves to something else, because there’s just so much to cover. So much happens, and at the same time, nothing happens. In the beginning, the filmmakers stress that the life-and-death stakes are larger than ever, and yet it has an ending that reminds you that no characters in this franchise really stay dead.

Also, it’s half of a movie. It very much feels like a part one and that’s something that no advertising materials suggest. The controversial ending doesn’t leave you feeling the bleak hopelessness of the bad guy actually having won. It leaves you with a “this is just beginning.” Which is fine, but it should have been advertised as such. There is a sequel arriving in roughly a year’s time, the title of which has not been revealed and is said to be a spoiler itself. It’s crazy what constitutes a spoiler when talking about this franchise. More on that later.

Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures and Marvel Studios
Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures and Marvel Studios

Black Panther is a superior film, both in what it was trying to accomplish, and what it actually did. It’s visually gorgeous – pure escapist beauty, but it’s also socially relevant. It also doesn’t make the female characters any less powerful or influential than the men. It has a few engaging villains and acknowledges when the villain makes a good point. When do these movies do that? It also nails the world-building, the character arcs, the emotional stakes and the action scenes. Some have said that Black Panther doesn’t have enough action, but there are two large-scale action set pieces. I think they’re enough.

Most importantly, I think that Black Panther is superior because it feels like a movie. A very similar situation to DC’s Wonder Woman last year, this is a superhero origin story that doesn’t feel tied down to a franchise. It tells its own story. Certain plot elements are tied in to remind you this is part of a larger story, but it never feels like more than one thing. It creates its own world, its own mythologies, its own politics and its own rules. And it’s a complete narrative. 

Avengers: Infinity War is an episode in a series. Thor: Ragnarok proved that a movie like this can feel like an episode, but also stand on its own. Avengers is ambitious, it tries to do so much, and, occasionally it makes some really good creative choices. It brings characters together that have never interacted previously. The stuff between Thor and the Guardians of the Galaxy was great! Thor has become a much more engaging character since Marvel learned that Chris Hemsworth can tell a joke.

Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures and Marvel Studios
Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures and Marvel Studios

It’s tough to decide what constitutes a spoiler in the age of the Marvel movie. If you say anything about the arc or journey of any character, your internet comment will be deleted, and you’ll soon have lots of strongly worded emails in your inbox. In Avengers: Infinity War there are more spoilers than a story. There’s shocking moment after shocking moment, but only afterward do you realize how little has actually happened. It remains to be seen if any character has met a permanent death in Infinity War and who could actually see one in the fourth, possibly final, Avengers.  

Infinity War is a pop culture event, and it’s crafted as such. It’s epic, mammoth and it throws a lot of stuff at all corners of the screen. It’s supposed to get people to go to the movies – quickly – so they don’t have the whole thing spoiled for them on Facebook or Twitter. Black Panther is a movie designed to stand the test of time. It will be watched and enjoyed for generations to come. Both are effective in what they set out to do. I think one is superior to the other.

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