Despite having 23 films and countless heroes, the MCU arguably has two main characters: Iron Man and Captain America. With their stories coming to a close in Avengers Endgame, the big question now is…who is taking their place?
As we search the franchise for potential candidates, a major problem starts to become apparent. A problem has been developing in the MCU for years now right under our noses and it’s about to become more prevalent than ever before.
The MCU’s Fatal Flaw
Marvel likes to brag about their characters, and rightfully so. They have established an incredible list of characters who all have their own franchises. However, excluding Iron Man and Captain America (and the Guardians since they’re not really Avengers), how many characters are ready to carry the MCU?
Films like Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, and even the Thor franchise seem pretty good as a part of the MCU, but once you take them out from among their attached relationship within the cinematic universe, they become fairly average, if not mediocre.
That’s not the kind of film upon which to build a core franchise.
Yes, most of these franchises still have films yet to come out, but as of now these characters feel underdeveloped and their franchises are just kinda…there. They no longer have the overarching story to fall back on. Before, we had Iron Man and Captain America’s journeys carrying the heart and soul of the MCU. Now the Infinity Saga is over, there isn’t a franchise around right now to fill that void.
Except for maybe one.
The New Face of the MCU
Out of all of the new faces in the MCU, Black Panther should be the first pick to be the new ‘Iron Man’ of the MCU.
Obviously, T’Challa is already beloved by fans, which has more to do with his presence than his race. While representation is massively important and African-American kids can finally look up to a character who looks like them, Black Panther’s appeal is universal and is a character for everyone. His journey and hardships are relatable, interesting, and most of all inspiring.
Beyond character, Black Panther sets up a world so unique and detailed begging to be explored. Every other MCU film feels set in some corner of the MCU, but Wakanda feels like it’s singular in origin and outlook within Marvel’s future.
Despite all of that, the film falls apart in the third act, which felt boring, generic, and unimaginative. It was the same third act we’ve seen countless times before in the MCU, especially in other origin stories. If it wasn’t for that letdown in the final act, I guarantee this film would have a more lasting impact considering how great the first two acts were.
With the characters and the world the film set up, Black Panther 2 has the potential to hit a huge home run. All Marvel has to do now is keep their eye on the ball, choke up on the bat, and swing away.
What Black Panther 2 Needs to Get Right
Now that all the heavy-lifting is out of the way, Black Panther 2 needs to go big. It needs to do for Black Panther what The Winter Soldier did for Captain America. That would bring the character and franchise to the forefront of the MCU.
To do this, the film has to do something special. It has to be something different than the films we’ve already seen. It has to push the characters to their limits, and most importantly it has to expand upon what’s already built.
While I have complete confidence in Marvel and Ryan Coogler to deliver us a truly character driven story like the first one, I’m not so confident about their expansion of the world. Wakanda has the potential to be the next Hogwarts or Middle Earth. Well, maybe not as big as those, but big nonetheless.
Wakanda is an unexplored gold mine — an advanced civilization untouched from society that recently opened itself up to the outside world. What a super intriguing concept, especially given what we’ve seen in the previous film.
Let’s go into how the politics works, how the society functions, how it reacts to certain situations, or what it’s like on the streets.
With a little more characterization and exploration, Wakanda could become much more than just a backdrop and become a character in and of itself. The possibilities are endless here, not capitalizing on this now would be one of Marvel’s greatest missteps.
The void left following the departures of Iron Man and Captain America needs to be filled before its too late. It’s the lack of a core franchise to focus on that could spell their slow descent to irrelevance. This is the time for them to go bold and show us what really sets each of their franchises apart.