OPINION: Black Panther Deserves More Oscars Than Infinity War
Now before you disagree with me because of the title: hear me out. I am a huge fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and love Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, but there is no denying that Black Panther is a great movie and has received more universal praise by critics than Infinity War. Black Panther showed viewers the world of Wakanda on the big screen and gave a great cast that included people of color, leading to many people praising this film for its representation as well as its quality. Infinity War, on the other hand, was the result of 18 movies before it and included dozens of characters that fans have come to know and love. Many audiences have praised this movie as well, with critics liking it, but not loving it as much as Black Panther. Both films were hugely successful at the box office, with Black Panther grossing over $700 million in the US with a total of $1.3 billion worldwide. Meanwhile, Infinity War grossed about $678 million in the US for a total of over $2 billion worldwide. For many Marvel fans these are both great films, but the question remains: Why is Black Panther being considered for more Academy Awards than Infinity War, who is only being considered for one, and why does Black Panther deserve these nominations?
Black Panther’s Cultural Significance
One obvious thing that Black Panther has going for it is its representation, with a primarily black cast including the title character. The movie mostly takes place in Wakanda, which is set in Africa and is inspired heavily by African tribes and traditions. This is extremely important, because none of the 17 MCU movies before this had a person of color in the lead role. Of course Nick Fury, War Machine, Valkyrie, Wong, Falcon, and several other non-white characters have appeared, but have not been the title character like Captain America or Iron Man. Infinity War includes almost every MCU character but doesn’t have the same focus on one character as a solo movie such as Black Panther and doesn’t reference any culture in the same way that Black Panther does. The representation in Black Panther is extremely important and is another thing that makes Black Panther stand out in the MCU. Following the movie, many users online referenced scenes and created memes of the movie. The same can certainly be said for Infinity War (see the millions of “I don’t feel so good” jokes), but Black Panther became arguably more popular. In March, Black Panther not only became the most tweeted about movie of 2018 (passing The Last Jedi and Infinity War at #2 and #3 respectively), but it also became the most tweeted movie of all time with over 35 million tweets (this number is likely much higher now). Further, the 2018 Oscars ceremony included Black Panther in a montage, demonstrating how far its cultural reach is.
Black Panther Stands Alone Much Better Than Infinity War
Personally, Infinity War was one of my favorite MCU movies, but for non-MCU fans it was just good, not great. As soon as I left the theater on opening night, the two people I had gone with said “it was okay”, which left my mind boggled how something like Infinity War could be considered just okay. Of course, they had enjoyed some of the past MCU movies, but were not nearly as invested in the franchise as I was and therefore didn’t care as much about the characters and the story as a whole. I could go on about how great Thanos is as a villain, the references between films, and how satisfying certain moments are, but there is no denying that without a basic knowledge of the last 18 movies, Infinity War is slightly confusing. Storylines from multiple movies including Thor: Ragnarok, Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and other movies all matter. Many viewers may not have seen any of those and therefore Infinity War doesn’t work as well for them. Black Panther, on the other hand, can be watched with almost no knowledge of previous MCU films. Prior to this movie, T’Challa first appeared in Captain America: Civil War. Although his role in Civil War is important, viewers really only need to know that his father has just died, leaving the throne of Wakanda to T’Challa. Other characters reappearing in Black Panther include Ulysses Klaue, who appeared in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Everett Ross, who appeared in Captain America: Civil War. However, there isn’t much backstory that is necessary other than Klaue is a villain and Ross is a well intentioned and mostly good guy. With just a few lines of background information, viewers can understand Black Panther. Many of the characters appearing in Black Panther, such as Shuri, Okoye, Nakia, and M’Baku, are likeable and don’t have complex backstories that require knowledge of other movies. Even without any knowledge of past MCU films, viewers should still be able to jump into Black Panther without confusion. Infinity War, as great as it is, requires plenty of back story for dozens of characters and doesn’t conclude its own story as well as Black Panther does (although this is intentional given that Avengers 4 is coming in 2019). Because Infinity War has a story that begins in other movies and will likely conclude in the next Avengers movie, it didn’t work as well for critics and those without some knowledge of the MCU.
Black Panther is objectively a good movie
Now I don’t mean to say that Infinity War is not a good movie, because it is still a pretty great movie, but Black Panther is well executed all around and critics have noticed this. The overall plot is interesting and easy to follow (unlike Infinity War, the story is pretty self-contained in this film), the acting is pretty good, the cinematography is good, and the score and soundtrack are both great. Out of all the awards Disney is putting this into consideration for, I feel it genuinely has a good chance of getting nominated for best film editing, production design, makeup and hairstyling, costume design, visual effects, original score, original song, and best picture, an award which no superhero movie has ever been nominated for. Even critically acclaimed movies like The Dark Knight, Logan, and Wonder Woman weren’t given best picture nominations. Of course, all of these possible nominations are optimistic, but the film genuinely has a shot at some of them. Even something like best supporting actor isn’t totally out of the picture, as Michael B. Jordan gave a strong performance as Killmonger. Although Thanos is undeniably one of the best villains in the MCU, Killmonger was relatable and dealt with real life issues. He also had a character arc that was completely resolved within one movie, while Thanos’ character arc started in earlier movies and is certainly not finished. Additionally, with Best Picture allowing 9 films to be nominated, Black Panther has a shot. Although I seriously doubt it would win it, I would personally love to see it nominated.
It doesn’t make sense to pit the two movies against one another
Voting on which movies are nominated is a long and complex process, which admittedly I don’t fully understand. That being said, it’s important for both of these movies that they aren’t stealing votes from each other in certain categories. Visual effects is a safe category for Infinity War, which is very dependent on CGI. Thanos looks amazing and many other heroes, such as Doctor Strange and Scarlet Witch, have great visual effects when using their powers. Prior to the 2019 Oscars, eight MCU movies have been nominated in this category so it makes sense to put both movies here (although none have won). Guardians of the Galaxy was nominated for best makeup and hairstyling and Iron Man received a nomination for best sound editing, but no MCU film has received a nomination outside of these categories. It makes sense therefore, to put only Black Panther into more categories, so that there is no dividing of votes between Black Panther and Infinity War. Although it seems critics enjoyed Black Panther much more, there may be some voters who pick Infinity War instead of Black Panther for certain categories, which would ultimately hurt Black Panther’s chances of being nominated.
Critics loved Black Panther much more than Infinity War
Although both received more positive reviews than negative by critics, it is worth noting that Black Panther received an 88 on Metacritic and a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, indicating universal praise. Infinity War, on the other hand, received a 68 on Metacritic and an 84% on Rotten Tomatoes, indicating generally positive reviews, but not to the same extent. Looking at just the scores that critics gave the two movies, it’s clear that they preferred Black Panther. That’s not to say they didn’t like Infinity War, but many felt much more passionate about Black Panther. 88 is not only the highest metacritic score for an MCU movie ever, it is also an impressive score for any movie. For comparison, the next highest scores are Iron Man with 79, Guardians of the Galaxy with 76, and Captain America: Civil War with 75. The consensus for reviewers is that this movie is much better than just about every other MCU movie. Other movies being considered for Oscars have scores close to Black Panther or even lower in some cases, with A Star is Born and Widows also having an 88 and First Man having an 84. Movies with much lower metacritic scores have been nominated for and won awards including best picture, so Black Panther’s high metacritic score is an indication that although it is a superhero movie, it stands above other superhero movies in critics’ eyes.
Overall, I very much enjoyed Black Panther and Infinity War, which I believe stand as the two best superhero movies of 2018 so far and arguably two of the best of all time. Both are great in their own ways, but it’s clear that several factors, notably critics’ reviews, indicate that Black Panther is the clear winner and has a legitimate chance at earning multiple Oscar nominations come awards season.