It’s easy to see where the temptation to compare Crazy Rich Asians and Black Panther comes from. They’re both major blockbusters featuring casts that are entirely or predominantly made up of people of color, with similarly diverse creative teams. But the idea that Crazy Rich Asians is "the Asian Black Panther" is an overly simplistic approach and reduces the importance of each film. These two movies put a spotlight on two different communities and conflating them perpetuates the idea that minority stories are interchangeable for one another as long as you change the race of the subject.
Beyond the difference in genre — one is a superhero movie, the other a romantic comedy — there are plenty of other reasons why the two films aren’t comparable. Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that the histories being addressed are entirely different. Wakanda, the country in which most of Black Panther is set, may be fictional, but it’s a singular vision of an African country untouched by colonization. It also serves as a lens through which to inspect American history, and specifically, African-American history, addressing themes rarely seen in mainstream films, let alone fantasy or science fiction: racism, colonization, and sexism.
As suggested by its title, Crazy Rich Asians isn’t a story that’s necessarily focused on Western influence on Asian countries and ongoing issues within the Asian-American community. It’s a look at the ultra-rich — to narrow things down even further, the ultra-rich Chinese population of Singapore, who only make up a fraction of the country’s people — as filtered through the journey of an Asian-American lead from humble beginnings played by Constance Wu.
So that end, trying to call the two films the same thing is an oversimplification that doesn’t necessarily help either one. They ought to be celebrated on their own terms rather than treated as equivalent in a way that both diminishes the degree to which Black Panther has become a cultural phenomenon (it should be treated as more than just internet shorthand), and makes it seem like there’s some allotted amount of culture any one community or marginalized group is allowed to have.
It also disregards the fact that, though both groups face discrimination, they are dealing with different forms of it. Police brutality, for instance, isn’t a threat for Asian-Americans communities in the same way that it is for African-Americans. Then there’s the continuing problem of the model minority myth (which in itself creates conflict between the two minority groups).
If you thought all of Black Panther's fighting abilities came from his vibranium protected suit, you'd be wrong. The feline-suited warrior possesses superpowers similar to the other Avengers he brawls alongside in Avengers: Infinity War.
Black Panther's most notable abilities? Superhuman strength, speed, stamina, reflexes, endurance, and durability. He also has enhanced healing capabilities and superhuman senses, similar to a wildlife panther. Those heightened senses include the ability to see objects from a far distance and in almost-total darkness, exceptional hearing and the ability to detect sounds the average human can't, and the ability to memorize scents to track down "hidden objects or people," according to ScreenRant.
Another cool perk? Black Panther can smell fear and detect when someone is lying. Yup, he's definitely not someone you want to mess with — suit or no suit. So, how does Black Panther aka King T'Challa get his superhuman powers? From a local, heart-shaped herb mutated by vibranium and bestowed upon him once he is crowned king of Wakanda. He also is granted the title of "King of the Dead" and can visit Necropolis, the Wakandan City of the Dead, according to the comics.
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Although nothing has been set in stone (looking at you, Thanos), we're not convinced we've seen the last of T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and his superpowers. Especially since the 40-year-old actor has signed on for five Marvel movies and has only appeared in three thus far, including Infinity War, which means he will appear in the next installment of the Avengers and likely return for his own Black Panther sequel.wever, it's not just a simple swearing in; no, T'Challa has to face battle with any challenger from any of Wakanda's tribes that willfully challenges him.
The gorilla-themed group led by M'Baku makes a push for it, but ultimately loses and T'Challa assumes the crown. He is then tasked with tracking down Ulysses Klaue, in order to bring him to justice for crimes against Wakanda.
But, let's not forget the flashback set-up with Sterling K. Brown as King T'Chaka's brother, who is ultimately killed by T'Chaka when confronted with the accusation that he's been helping Klaue smuggle vibranium, which is Wakanda's most valuable resource.
There's a lot of Game of Thrones-like political posturing, although without the sex and ultra hardcore violence. It's a royal struggle, as T'Challa tries to balance being a good man and a king, that is made more difficult when his long lost cousin, Erik Killmonger, shows up to challenge him for the throne. He defeats T'Challa and assumes the kingship, but it doesn't last long as BLACK PANTHER returns to thwart Killmonger's plans to arm sects of his race to take over their "masters".
It's a fairly deep take and one that plays on the political spectrum of a monarchy, with some clever/cool nods to the spiritual realm, the sacred areas of Wakanda (and the technology) and some globe-trotting adventure to spice things up.
Boseman owns his role as T'Challa/BLACK PANTHER and Michael B. Jordan is nothing short of menacing as Erik Killmonger, even if he flat-out disappears for nearly 40 minutes of the film before reapparing. The supporting cast is also great, with Letitia Wright's Shuri and Danai Gurira's Okoye stealing every scene they're in (in fact, Gurira gives the most emotional performance of the whole film).
Martin Freeman feels out of place here and not just because he's white, but because Everett Ross is king of a strange character, almost look a shoe-in Agent Coulson, who would've been better here. Coogler is a talented filmmaker, but it definitely felt like he didn't quite stick the landing on the visual punch or action of the film.
There are some cool, thrilling moments, but there's also a lot of clumsy, uninspired sequences as well, including an end battle that plays out like a Playstation animatic and some questionable armored rhinos that may well be from 1995's JUMANJI. It's a pretty big shortfall, as the action and aesthetic, including Panther's fighting style, were so much more fleshed out in his introduction film, CIVIL WAR.
Ultimately, the significance of BLACK PANTHER is two-fold. It's a cultural and box office win, but I can't help but feel many reviewers got too caught up in that aspect and forgot to evaluate the movie on it's simple merits of entertainment and execution. It's a good film and one of the better Marvel films without question, but it's far from the best and needs a major stunt/fight choreography overhaul for the inevitable sequel.
It's right in line with the rest of the origin films, but benefits from a strong script, unique setting and cultural significance. The world and intrigue of Wakanda is most certainly firmly established and ripe for more exploration. The biggest win, for me, was the advancement of characters and locales in the ever-growing MCU, which serves to connect and bring these characters together as their worlds begin to merge.
That's kind of the endgame point of BLACK PANTHER anyway and it most certainly delivers in that regard, even if the aesthetics can't match the hype.