Black Panther, Dora Milaje

Will Infinity War undo Black Panther's fix of the MCU's destruction porn problem?

Contributed by
Mar 22, 2018

WARNING: SPOILERS for various movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

When the Marvel Cinematic Universe launched in 2008 with Iron Man, one of the most iconic images was of Tony Stark standing in the desert, arms raised in triumph as his Jericho missile hit its target, resulting in a massive explosion. That moment not only demonstrated the capabilities of Stark Industries' weapons tech, it also set the tone for the destruction seen in future films to come.

During multiple viewings of Black Panther, it dawned on me that there was a lack of significant damage to structures during the fight scenes. As I took part in numerous in-depth conversations I noticed no one seemed to have observed this particular feature. Unlike the other MCU movies, Black Panther puts the chaos out in the open, so destruction is largely averted.

In The Avengers (2012), a sizable portion of Manhattan was destroyed when war broke out between the invading Chitauri and the Avengers. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) saw to the decimation of the S.H.E.I.L.D. base known as the Triskellion when three hovering helicarriers were brought down on top of them. Following Winter Soldier was 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron, and in this particular film an entire city, the fictional Sokovia, is decimated, resulting in the loss of thousands of lives.

Age of Ultron was the first time in the MCU that human collateral damage was made a focal point, and in Captain America: Civil War (2016) we saw the domino effect of consequences as Zemo sought revenge against the Avengers for the death of his family. As the Avengers carry out a not so covert mission in Lagos, Wanda accidentally throws a bomb into a building, killing some of the occupants, including several Wakandans; enter King T'Chaka and his son T'Challa. After T'Chaka is killed in an explosion caused by Zemo, T'Challa becomes King of Wakanda and dons the mantle of her protector as the Black Panther.

Before Black Panther, the last Marvel film to be released was Thor: Ragnarok (2017), and that film saw a level of destruction that was unlike anything seen in previous MCU films. An entire planet was completely obliterated and her people almost eradicated. Unlike Doctor Strange, there was no Time Stone to set back the clock and undo the damage. It wouldn't be a stretch to consider that Black Panther's director, Ryan Coogler, was very cognizant of this particular element of the superhero genre and sought to avoid doing the same in his first super-hero action film.

Black Panther has three major action sequences: two in Busan, South Korea, and one in Wakanda.

Black Panther car chase, Korea

Credit: Marvel Studios

Busan

During the first fight inside the casino, T'Challa, Nakia and Okoye do their best to avoid a confrontation at first, but things being as they were, a fight was inevitable. Due to the fight styles all three utilize, the action was contained to them and their opponents, so unlike many fight scenes we've seen in other action films, no bystanders were hurt by wayward bullets, broken furniture or even Klaue's goons (that we are aware of).

The second action sequence to take place in Busan begins as a car chase that ends in a city square with Agent Ross taking Klaue into custody after T'Challa refrains from killing him. The only damage to property occurred when damage Okoye used the rod of her spear as a break and T'Challa broke a few digital billboards to avoid being crushed by one of the Jeeps.

What set the Busan chase scene apart from almost every other car chase in film history was the lack of civilian injuries and deaths. Within the car chase the only people to suffer injuries were Klaue's men, and let's face it, as criminals who worked with a man like Klaue, injury is expected, which can't be said for people just walking down the street minding their own business.

Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther

Credit: Marvel Studios

Wakanda

The biggest and longest action sequence took place on the open fields outside of the Great Mound, where the Vibranium reserves are buried. What sets this particular fight apart from others in the MCU is the dogfight that takes place between Ross and the Wakandan piloted jets. The only people who died in this sequence were the 3-4 Wakandan pilots, the Dora Milaje killed by Killmonger and Killmonger himself — because he refused help from T'Challa.

In previous films, whenever there are air battles debris from exploding planes or jets always land in populated areas. We see jets crash into buildings, bullets miss targets and shoot through windows of skyscrapers, more than likely striking and killing the people inside.

Unlike these past instances, Ross and the Wakandans fight over the rivers, lakes, and fields of Wakanda. Any debris and falling fuselage fell into the lower populated areas instead of the city where civilians would've been seriously hurt. Another interesting thing about the Wakanda fight was the small number of people who died during the fighting. From viewing the Infinity War trailer, it is clear that most of the Dora Milaje and W'Kabi's men were healed and fully recovered from whatever injuries they may have sustained (W'Kabi's pride I'm not so sure about).

Which brings up one of my biggest fears about Avengers: Infinity War: What will become of Wakanda once the dust settles? From the trailers, it's not clear exactly what the timeline of the film is, but it's obvious that cities like New York will once again be faced with widespread damage, and perhaps on a scale we've yet to see. Unlike the rest of the world, Wakanda is a country that has until now been untouched by the confrontations that people like Loki instigated, but with Infinity War that's all about to change.

I fear that Wakanda, her people, and their peace will never be the same after this.

Taking everything stated above into consideration, it begs a few questions be asked:

- Is it really the superheroes we enjoy or the devastation that occurs before Cap, Iron Man and the others save the day?

- Isn't it ironic that high levels of death and destruction seem necessary for viewers to know they're watching a film that's supposed to be about heroes saving humanity?

- Do we really need to see buildings crumble and hundreds of people die to enjoy a film?

Apart from the main characters, the MCU films are mostly known for their big action sequences that have taken place in a multitude of locations, from otherworldly space battles in Thor and Guardians of The Galaxy to an airport in Captain America: Civil War. Once the films are over, viewers are always excited to talk about the fight choreography and the quippy remarks the characters exchange. But how often do we think about what those big fight scenes mean for the characters we know nothing about? How often do we think about the innocent bystanders who are injured, traumatized and killed as a result of the fights Thor, Tony, and Cap engage in?

The Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, Black Widow, Captain America

Credit: Marvel Studios

Though there weren't the usual big, bombastic explosions and fights we've grown used to in Black Panther, I think it's fair to say that Coogler managed to create a film that delivered not only great storytelling but also satisfying action. The fight choreography was great and use of the various locations allowed for visuals we've never seen before.

I think in a weird way it's admirable that we can count the number of total deaths in Black Panther, which unfortunately can't be said for the other films in the MCU. I see Black Panther as a film that can usher in a new and less destructive trend not only within the MCU but also the superhero action genre as a whole. It is my hope that other directors can look at the reactions people have to Black Panther and realize that for people to have fun at the movies, death and destruction don't need to reign supreme.