The keys to writing a great screenplay might be in Wakanda.
You know we love diagramming the best scenes in screenplays here at No Film School. One of the coolest movies to come out in 2018 was Black Panther.
Today we'll take a look at the Black Panther script PDF and read through what made this one of the best comic book movies of all time.
Read the Black Panther Script PDF.
Who Wrote Black Panther?
First and foremost, let's give credit where credit is due.
In an interview with Variety, Joe Robert Cole talked about their thoughts behind writing the script. “Obviously, we’re all aware of what’s going on in our country... But I think if you ask many black people, they’ll say that things haven’t changed nearly as much as folks may think. There may be a broader awareness of some of the conditions, but I don’t really think that there’s been some dramatic shift. For all of us working on the project, we just kept our heads down and tried to pour our hearts into the work.”
You can see the detail and emotion in every facet of the movie. That work paid off, and it inspired box office success.
Black Panther Opening Scene
The Black Panther opening scene sets the precedent for the whole movie. It's a unique way to get a lot of history out while setting up a unique visual style of the film.
In an interview with Empire, producer Nate Moore said that the Black Panther opening scene was added after test screenings.
"It didn't, actually. It was something that we found in testing the film. Audiences really liked the film but found there to be a barrier to understanding exactly what's happening because they didn't quite understand how Wakanda worked. So things, especially that I, as a comic book fan, took for granted and as a Marvel Studios fan sort of intrinsically understood how Wakanda worked, of why it was hidden, etc. So, they'd catch up to it by the third act, but the beginning always felt slow to them, because, 'Oh, I'm trying to do this math of how Wakanda fits in the world.' So, we wanted to figure out how to tell that story in a way that was entertaining and visual."
So what's the lesson to be had here?
Even though we're inundated with comic book movies, it's important to keep you and the audience on the same page. Sometimes that means feeding them exposition in a new and exciting way, so they aren't constantly asking questions about the world and movie before it begins.
This montage is a great way to get everyone up to speed before we enter Wakanda.
Black Panther Characters
What sets Black Panther apart from other comic book movies is that it does the little things perfectly.
When we meet the world of Wakanda, it's populated with memorable characters. People like M'Baku could be boring or one note, but instead, the screenplay takes time to layer them and their wants and desires.
M'Baku doesn't just want to be king, he wants to change the direction of the country. We're not rooting for him, but his addition of claims against the king work two ways. It shows us that T'Challa is not an infallible leader who has to deal with dissension in his ranks, and it sets up Killmonger's quest later.
Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVeUMLYxXXE
Shuri is another character who steals the movie. In some Bond movies, the role of Q is pretty one note. Quips and tech and that's all. Shuri fills that role here, but she also is the sister of a king. She wants respect, love, and attention. Also, she's the steadying hand and the brains behind the operation. There's a fluidity to her influence in T'Challa's life.
Plus, her jokes make every scene have a lightness that perfectly balances the tone of the movie.
Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulcbLwL-u8Y
Black Panther Museum Scene
It's not just about the side characters and a great sense of audience expectations, Black Panther's main achievement is creating a comic book villain that's dark and complex. Almost like The Joker in The Dark Knight, Killmonger makes his entrance memorable in the museum scene.
Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2KJxdvckEk
While many villains walk on screen and we need the script to tell us they're evil, Killmonger walks on and shows us he's complex.
He's asking questions and demanding answers. And when he doesn't get the answers he wants, he lashes out.
What makes the Black Panther museum scene special is that it functions as a thematic treatise for the whole film.
Wakanda suffered when its riches were made available to the world. It's interior political factions caused a breakdown between citizens and rulers. Now it's time to stand up to those oppressive forces and reclaim what's rightfully theirs.
For Killmonger, that right extends to lands and tech that can cause war across the globe.
For T'Challa, that land and tech can be the emissary of peace. It can put together a broken world instead of being used to break it apart.
Summing Up The Black Panther Script
The script for Black Panther shows us that if you make the small things count, the larger story beats will fall into place.
People will be having so much fun in every story beat that they won't question the magic.
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