I watched Black Panther last weekend with friends. I watched The Greatest Showman this weekend with family. The two experiences were unequal in the extreme.

The Black Panther takes place primarily in Wakanda, a proud and insular fictional nation in the depths of Africa. We don’t see much about life in the nation, but we do see what are assumed to be modern Islamic kidnappers working their African Slave Trade in one of the early scenes. And the American Inner City is another early set piece we see, with the strongly verbalized opinion that Wakanda is much better than both of those blighted societies.

The Greatest Showman takes place primarily in 1840s and 1850s New York City. Students of history will know that Slavery still existed at that time in America, even in the North. The movie ends a couple years before PT Barnum becomes one of the founding members of the Republican Party due to his opposition to Slavery, but you can see the man who made that decision on screen in this movie.

The treatment of Africans and their descendents is a central theme of Black Panther, and the simple fact that Europeans have mistreated them is an evil that must be fought against. The central adversary grows up in the American Inner City his father was killed in which of course turns him into a cold blooded killer. He hates his white oppressors and naturally wants to engineer an Obama-style over-the-border Fast and Furious gun running scheme so he can help the downtrodden blacks of the world rise up and kill their white overlords. The primary Wakandan opposition to that plan is that if Wakandan weapons did that, everybody would think Wakanda did it, and then every nation on Earth would want Wakanda dead.

The central theme of The Greatest Showman is that PT Barnum brings together people of all types, “freaks” as they are called by some of his denigrators, to put together a variety show that hundreds of thousands of people will visit. The Bearded Woman, the Dog Faced Boy, General Tom Thumb, and a variety of other human oddities populate the movie. People who are laughed at or looked down upon by others. A black brother and sister are trapeze artists, and the sister quickly becomes part of a love story with Barnum’s business partner, a high-class white man. Almost every character arc in this movie is about people fighting to rise beyond the station society has placed them in, and who make their living by making people laugh or smile. They bring joy to the world.

The two movies could not be more different. They are both filmed with amazing cinematography, costumes, backdrops, and choreography that makes them beautiful to behold. It is the stories that are strikingly opposed. The Black Panther languishes in the darkness of its revenge-based storyline, complete with backstabbing, betrayal, and the death of kings. The Greatest Showman rises above the injustices of the time by seeking to make everyone laugh, love, and find joy, even the most staunchly proper Queen Victoria.

I left Black Panther during the credits. It’s the first movie I’ve done that with in years. Especially a Marvel movie. I did not enjoy the movie and did not wish to wait for the after-credits scene. And I don’t know if I will ever want to watch it again.

I stayed in my seat until the lights came on at the end of the credits for Greatest Showman, because I didn’t want to leave the world it weaved into existence behind any earlier than I had to. I am not a great fan of musicals, but I loved The Greatest Showman. It is the best movie I’ve seen this year, whether a new one in the theatre, or any of a dozen movies I’ve seen on my own smaller screens. I left happy, amazed, and blown away at the world PT Barnum created. And then I researched the real man and found out that the movie downplayed his life and achievements, probably because they didn’t think we would believe what he really did. Truth is more amazing and stranger than what we see in this movie, but even in the tiny slice of Barnum’s life this movie reveals, we see the man who would later help create The Greatest Show on Earth.

The Greatest Showman is a celebration of life, joy, and wonder, and I eagerly await the opportunity to see it again. I give it two thumbs way up, in whatever circus currency your imagination can bring to life.