Long Live The King1 of 12The first teaser trailer for Black Panther was released over the weekend, and while it speaks volumes for itself, it's also one of the most dense and intriguing Marvel trailers in many years, in terms of its connection to comic books and the layers of Marvel history just below the surface.
And since we were going to watch the trailer 50 times today anyway, we decided to dig deep into the all-too-brief glimpse at Black Panther and outline some of the connections - and implications - you may have missed.
Bilbo & Gollum2 of 12The Black Panther trailer opens with the film’s only two major white main characters talking about Wakanda from an outside perspective, with Ulysses Klaue telling Everett Ross a mythical vision of the African nation the bodes danger for any outside influence.
Not only does this set the stage for the veil over Wakanda to be lifted for audiences as the trailer continues, it establishes that the audience are, like Klaue and Ross, outsiders – a notion that also speaks to the film’s inherent African influence and roots outside of typical Western European influence of science fiction and fantasy.
In terms of mood-building, the jump from watching Klaue confront Ross in a cold, sterile room (in a scene that oddly twists Everett Ross actor Martin Freeman and Ulysses Klaue actor Andy Serkis’ dynamic from The Hobbit) to the lush, colorful, joyful nation of Wakanda deftly establishes that, in the world of the film as for audiences, the reality of Wakanda does not always match its reputation.
Klaw3 of 12Ulysses Klaue, A.K.A. Klaw, is likely Black Panther’s most well-known supervillain from comic books. A scientist who studied soundwaves, Klaw became obsessed with Wakanda’s Vibranium - an element that, in comic books, has less to do with kinetic energy and more to do with soundwaves and vibrations. Klaw eventually turned to evil to obtain Vibranium.
In comic books, Klaw is also responsible for the death of T’Chaka, T’Challa’s father and the Black Panther before him. In movies, Klaw’s origin is slightly different – he’s a South African weapons dealer who lost his arm in his first movie appearance during Avengers: Age of Ultron, and T’Chaka was killed by Baron Zemo in Captain America: Civil War. Like in comic books, the movie Klaw will team-up with Erik Killmonger to invade Wakanda.
Also as in comic books, in Black Panther Klaw will reportedly get an energy weapon to replace the arm he lost in Age of Ultron - though according to reports it is a piece of advanced Wakandan mining equipment and not a sound cannon of his own design.
Erik Killmonger4 of 12Erik Killmonger, played by comic book movie veteran Michael B. Jordan in his third role with director Ryan Coogler, is one of Black Panther’s primary antagonists alongside Ulysses Klaue – and according to Coogler, he’s a Wakandan exile and Klaue’s partner in crime.
Killmonger first appears in the trailer breaking Klaue out of jail a version of his trademark beast mask from comic books – but he’s also seen taking on M’Baku, fighting with the Dorae Milaje, and coming face-to-face with T’Challa himself.
Killmonger – born with the name N’Jadaka in comic books – is one of Black Panther’s oldest comic book villains and looks to be pulled fairly faithfully from the page. As in the trailer, Killmonger is an ally of Klaue/Klaw and an exile of Wakanda.
In some comic books, Killmonger is dedicated to returning Wakanda to a more tribal state, but it’s not clear if that’s his motivation here.
Man-Ape5 of 12The hulking warrior seen squaring off in a duel against Killmonger and hoisting another Wakandan over a crowd of warriors is none other than M’Baku – known in comic books as the Man-Ape.
In the film, director Ryan Coogler has confirmed that M’Baku is the leader of the Mountain Tribe, though his role as a friend or foe to T’Challa remains unrevealed.
The comic book M’Baku is a villain who embodies the White Gorilla, the symbol of a sect of Wakandan rebels. Like Black Panther, he’s also imbued with super powers derived from the blood of a white gorilla.
It seems that M’Baku – like some of the other tribal leaders of Wakanda – may no longer be loyal to T’Challa in the film.
The Dorae Milaje6 of 12The Dorae Milaje are T’Challa’s personal security force, serving as both allies and bodyguards. Made up entirely of women from the many tribes of Wakanda, the Dorae Milaje are highly-trained warriors and an integral part of the Black Panther mythos.
So naturally, they’re all over this trailer. They’re seen accompanying T’Challa on various missions, engaging with Erik Killmonger and M’Baku’s Mountain Tribe, and even interacting with other Wakandans in a more personal setting.
The Crew7 of 12Aside from the many obvious aspects that set Black Panther apart from any other recent Marvel movie, there’s another aspect behind the scenes that’s atypical – Ryan Coogler’s crew, most of whom have worked with him on his other projects.
Whereas many Marvel films are made on a set structure with the director guiding the film’s vision and Marvel filling in the blanks, Coogler brought in his own Director of Photography, his Fruitvale Station Collaborator Rachel Morrison, along with Costume Designer Ruth Carter, who previously worked on films such as Do The Right Thing, Malcolm X, Amistad, Black Dynamite and Selma, and of course Production Designer Hannah Beachler who worked on both of Coogler’s previous films, Creed and Fruitvale Station, but also 2017’s Best Picture Oscar-winner Moonlight.
And it’s that freedom for Coogler, and the unique vision brought forth by his team, that makes Black Panther look so strikingly different from other Marvel films, even in the trailer.
A Nation Under Our Feet8 of 12The different tribes of Wakanda are seen throughout the trailer – from M’Baku, the leader of the Mountain Tribe, to the leader of the River Tribe in his distinct blue-green suit, to the rest of the leaders seen in the trailer’s glimpse at a tribal council.
But all isn’t exactly well among the tribes – some of them, including M’Baku’s Mountain Tribe – look to be allying against T’Challa, possibly under Killmonger’s leadership.
It’s unclear from the trailer what’s driving the unrest in Wakanda, but given T’Challa’s apparent openness with the United Nations seen in the trailer and the recent death of his father T’Chaka in Captain America: Civil War, Killmonger and his rebellion may simply be seizing an opportunity.
Heart-Shaped Herb9 of 12Forrest Whitaker’s Zuri is seen multiple times in the Black Panther trailer – including in a scene in which Zuri, one of Wakanda’s spiritual leaders, prepares the brew of the Heart-Shaped Herb – a familiar element of Black Panther comic books.
The Heart-Shaped Herb is an ingredient found only in Wakanda that, when prepared correctly, offers incredible power to members of the Wakandan royal family. This potion is what grants T’Challa his enhanced senses, heightened speed and reflexes, and mystical strength.
And, as Zuri prepares the Heart-Shaped Herb, the voice of T’Challa’s deceased father – actor John Kani’s T’Chaka – echoes through the trailer offering advice for his son.
Kinda reminds us of Jor-El, now that we mention it…
Wakanda Tech10 of 12In the MCU as in comic books, Wakanda is a technologically advanced nation with incredible inventions at its disposal – inventions that are seen throughout the trailer.
One of the most flashy inventions on display is a Wakandan jet, identified by director Ryan Coogler as a “Royal Talon Fighter” – but it bears a striking resemblance to the Quinjet, the traditional Avengers transport which is depicted as S.H.I.E.L.D.-tech in previous films, but which in comic books is based on Wakandan design.
T’Challa and other Wakandans are seen throughout the trailer to be wearing Kimoyo beads – a piece of Wakandan tech that acts as an adaptable piece of personal technology. Different beads serve different functions, including as cellphones, GPS systems, security interfaces, and more. And, they’re relatively new to the Black Panther mythos, having been introduced by writer Ta-Nehisi Coates for his ongoing run on the Black Panther comic book with designs from Brian Stelfreeze, who drew the series’ first arc.
Finally, one of the last shots of the trailer shows Black Panther himself in pursuit of someone in a car – something we’ve seen before in Captain America: Civil War. But then, T’Challa employs another Wakandan weapon that stems from Coates and Stelfreeze’s Black Panther - a burst of energy released from his Vibranium suit that cripples the car.
Jungle Action11 of 12Klaue’s speech to Everett Ross compares Wakanda to El Dorado, the mythical city of gold, saying explorers who searched for it in South America should have been looking in Africa.
Indeed, Wakanda is portrayed both on film and in comic books as a nation of prosperity with advanced tech and the world’s largest supply of Vibranium, but it’s Klaue’s next comment – punctuated by the nation’s protector, the Black Panther, taking down a crew of would-be interlopers – that sets the tone for the movie: Klaue is the only outsider who has ever broken into Wakanda and made it out alive.
One of Black Panther’s central comic book themes is the resistance of Wakanda to outside influence, even as the nation itself is in turmoil. And the idea of Wakanda as a “city of gold” to be plundered along with the threat of someone who knows how to do it set stakes for the film that, in T’Challa’s world, couldn’t be higher.
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