SPOILER WARNING: Major spoilers ahead for the “Captain America: Civil War” movie
Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe met Black Panther’s debut in “Captain America: Civil War” with rave reviews, which heightens expectations come February 2018 from director Ryan Coogler. Speculation is rife over whether the hero — or super anti-hero, as star Chadwick Boseman eloquently put it — will follow the route portrayed in the comics as written by Christopher Priest, or maybe Reggie Hudlin. Even the sociopolitical drama mirroring present-day society that’s being penned by Ta-Nehisi Coates is on the prospective radar, but one thing’s for sure: “Black Panther” will have to address the fallout of “Civil War.” The widely-acclaimed superhero mash-up saw T’Challa move from son of a murdered king to someone seeking revenge on the assumed hitman in the form of the Winter Soldier. With Coogler casting frequent collaborator Michael B. Jordan (“Creed”, “Fruitvale Station”) as Erik Killmonger, Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira (AKA “The Walking Dead’s” Michonne) have also been added as major elements to a film that will raise the studio’s diversity bar to a whole new level.
It’ll be interesting to see how Wakanda is operating in the wake of T’Chaka’s death, a plot point which drove a lot of the third “Captain America” movie and brought out the mental strategist, brilliant tactician and overall passionate badass in T’Challa, who made no secret of his dual identity. With the death of king T’Chaka and Panther’s pursuit of vengeance helping widen the schism between Team Cap and Team Iron Man, it was the movie’s final act that really set the spotlight on Wakanda, thrusting the Black Panther character further into prominence, even amid the wave of new Marvel heroes and villains sharpening their blades for the big screen. Panther eventually found out that the orchestrator was Helmut Zemo, stemming from “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and offers refuge to a seemingly-rehabilitating Bucky Barnes as part of a secret alliance with Steve Rogers. More importantly, this new relationship is one that remains out of sight from the powers-that-be; aka, Thunderbolt Ross and Tony Stark. With this pact made and the tide turning, CBR takes a look at some key points we’d like to see creatively harnessed by Coogler and company in the standalone Black Panther film.
10. The Vibranium Complex
First appearing in “Daredevil” #13 in 1966, vibranium is one of Marvel’s most unique and interesting substances, arguably even exceeding the more widely-known adamantium. So exceptional is this metal that it is often eyed by the likes of the evil Roxxon corporation, Dr. Doom and the Skrulls for its ability to absorb sound and kinetic energy, as well as enhancing mystical powers. We’ve already seen how effective vibranium can be on-screen in constructing Captain America’s shield, as well as Ultron’s Vision in “Age of Ultron.” After T’Challa then unleashed Black Panther in “Civil War,” he upped the ante by scarring Cap’s shield in the process. With all that in mind, the first step Marvel needs to take is not making its origin a boring MacGuffin. The Marvel Cinematic Universe doesn’t seem to be leaning toward the Anti-Metal background, but rather the Wakandan origin, as is evident from “Captain America: The First Avenger.” Still, the studio’s overall profile for vibranium has more or less been shrouded in mystery, so we’re hoping Coogler takes the time to thoroughly flesh out the resource that put Wakanda on the map, especially in the scope of mercenaries like Klaw. Such a unique and sought-after substance deserves its just time in the limelight, not just to showcase the engine behind Wakanda’s infrastructure, but to accentuate the majesty of the country and the ingenuity of its people. With the element’s history linked to the crash-landing of a prehistoric meteorite, maybe a tiny retcon could tie into the galactic side of things, and even a certain Captain Marvel. When it comes to vibranium, the possibilities are endless.
9. The Panther God & Spirit Realm
Apart from the technological advancement of Wakanda, one of the Panther’s major, yet underplayed attributes lies in his connection to the mystical spirit realm. It’s something that’s been cleverly mixed in since his debut 50 years ago in “Fantastic Four” #52, thanks to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. We’re hoping that with “Doctor Strange” coming in November, the film doesn’t shy away from Black Panther’s supernatural roots. We’ve already seen Tony Stark and Thor discuss how science and magic represent strings of the same fabric, so that link is sure to become even more provocative. We all know how that revolving door of death goes in comics as well, so to actually see a glimpse into the afterlife on film would be thought-provoking at very least. Witnessing T’Challa’s ancestors judge him on adopting the mantle, seeing Wakanda through their ancient eyes, all topped off by other astral goodies, would surely whet the appetite of fans who can’t wait to see Benedict Cumberbatch in his cape. In the comics, this connection to the Panther God grants T’Challa superhuman abilities, such as acute senses, enhanced strength, speed, agility, stamina, durability, healing and reflexes — but it also gives him access to the knowledge of all past Black Panthers. And as we all know, knowledge is power.
8. Shuri Superior?
If you’re familiar with the comics, you’ll know that Shuri’s arc with her older brother rides many waves, from admiration to jealousy to condescension. Throughout it all, however, she has become one of the strongest and most authoritative figures in Wakanda and the world in general. That universal respect was compounded when she actually donned the Black Panther mantle in quite a controversial manner, tussling with the likes of Namor and Dr. Doom. Coogler enters the film fray at a time when Kevin Feige and the other Marvel bigwigs are interested in empowering women in the next phase of movies, starting with Brie Larson as Carol Danvers. So there’s a huge opportunity for Shuri here. Seeing her antagonize her brother for cooperating and taking part in the mainstream world of the Avengers would make sense, given that stepping out into the limelight tainted Wakanda’s purity and cost them a member of the royal family. Her rashness would also be a great reflective point for Panther to see the youthful rage he once exhibited. Given that she’s one of the nation’s best warriors, seeing her tangle with her brother as he shows restraint is definitely the kind of emotive drama we’d lap up. Let’s hope she’s cast soon!
7. The Adored Ones
How disappointed were you when you didn’t get to see the Dora Milaje in action in “Civil War”? If you’re a fan of how awesome Black Widow is, then you better get acquainted with them soon! In the comics, to keep peace and protect his family, Black Panther picked the so-called “adored ones” from rival tribes to serve as his personal guard and ceremonial wives-in-training. Nyong’o will play Nakia, a former member of the squad, and we can’t wait to see her battle Okoye, portrayed by Gurira. That match-up alone leaves us giddy. From hearing them cunningly speak Hausa (an African dialect not widely spoken in Wakanda, and thus affording the king and his wives a measure of privacy) to observing their superhuman strength, speed, and agility, it’ll be a treat watching them cut loose. As long as Coogler doesn’t treat them in a peripheral manner and showcases them as the true warriors they are, it should be quite a slobberknocker.
6. No More Bucky
We’re hoping that the studio exercises due diligence and doesn’t pack the film with too big a cast. We don’t want a repeat of the last Cap film, which at times felt like “Avengers 2.5.” We’re not saying it wasn’t enjoyable, but when it comes to Black Panther, there’s a lot of rich lore and heritage to pull from, especially given that we don’t see too many mainstream African superheroes and kings kicking ass at the box office. Having Barnes re-emerge to fight alongside Panther could be seen as a cop-out and also do a major disservice to the mid-credits scene of “Civil War”. Besides, T’challa already has the Dora Milaje, so to keep Bucky fresh and make sure he doesn’t become stale, it would be best to keep him on ice. Literally. Also, given that black heroes such as Falcon and War Machine have always been supporting roles, let’s just leave the business to T’Challa. He’s got this.
5. Nick Fury-ous
One thing surprisingly missing from “Cap 3” was the presence of Nick Fury when the Russos split the team apart. He popped up to help against Ultron, but oddly remained low-key in “Civil War.” It’d be great to have him resurface and address the repercussions of The Sokovia Accords. With Panther’s down-the-middle stance shifting into a grey area, Fury offering previously-unknown insight to Rogers’ team would be epic. Maybe Fury (with or without Rogers) is already lining up “Secret Avengers?” The verbal sparring between T’Challa and Fury could build the foundations of the new king’s arc with great characterization and really elevate him into the limelight as a leader who is ready to deal with anyone who comes knocking at his door. Hearing this assertive duo share ideals and philosophies on a world run by very suspicious powers-that-be would make for great cinema, even if just for a minute. It could also lay down the groundwork to undermine or completely undo the empire that Ross and Stark are attempting to build.
4. Bringing the Thunder
Now, we’ve already seen Thunderbolt Ross exercise authority on the Avengers, which was a surprising shift given that we left him at the bottom of a bottle in “The Incredible Hulk”. That transition into a power messenger was out of left-field from the Russos, but it worked conveniently as something to spark the heroes’ rift. Having already toppled that domino, we saw that Ross is still not trusted by Stark and is headhunting Rogers’ team after the breakout in The Raft. But one thing that stands out the most is that Ross doesn’t know about the alignment of Panther with Rogers and Barnes. Panther’s treading dangerous water here, and even though we didn’t see Ross butt heads with him yet, we don’t think he would shy away if circumstances called for it. Intimidated or scared just isn’t in Ross’ vocabulary. Maybe he thought he had Wakanda in his back pocket due to T’Challa delivering Zemo to him, but don’t put it past Ross to gather information that links Bucky to Wakanda. He is not one to be underestimated. In Coogler’s film, if Panther takes the fight to international waters without Ross’ approval, let’s just say things could go south quickly. Either way, wouldn’t it be a doozy if their agreement or tenuous partnership ends in this movie with Ross assembling an elite team of his own — the Thunderbolts — all in the name of extracting Bucky? Coincidental? We think not.
3. Hidden Stone
Earlier, we mentioned the meteorite history tied to vibranium’s origins on Earth. If Coogler plants the seed of vibranium being an extraterrestrial metal and somehow ties it to the Infinity Stones, how would that position the nation and its leadership? Maybe the ore was the protective casing for a certain Soul Stone found centuries ago? Maybe this was used by T’Challa’s ancestors, which granted them access to the spirit realm? A lot of what ifs, right? But the fact remains that Wakanda has always been highly evolved and one step ahead of everyone. Keeping secrets that not even Nick Fury appears to know about could fall right in his repertoire. If Feige’s team of creatives has to gear Earth toward understand the impending space doom as well as the Infinity Stones, we know that they’ll need the expertise of Thor and Stark. But “Civil War” showed that Wakanda’s scientific background remains powerfully obscure, but could yet prove to be an essential cog in the Avengers machine moving forward. Wakanda harbouring a Stone would also be quite… Illuminati, wouldn’t it?
2. The Wakanda Supremacy
Move over, Batcave! Same for you, Fortress of Solitude! In the books, Wakanda has shown what makes a nation a world power, and we’re not just talking about nuclear capabilities. Its tech-savvy nature makes T’Challa’s nation something more than an army; something more than a fleet, a philosophy or an ideal. In essence, it is an empire with finely-crafted soldiers, as well as an arsenal of weapons and vehicles that commandeer the skies and seas with oomph. When Dr. Doom and Namor struck, we saw Wakanda’s strength in the comics. Granted, they may not have won every war, but we know what they are capable of militarily. Even in the mid-credits of “Civil War”, we were already placing bets whether that Panther statue was some kind of gun or rocket launcher. If they can fit their king with that suit and those claws, imagine what other things they’ve got concocted. Clearly, Wakandan scientists know about putting soldiers on ice, so when Coogler gets the chance to show their true might, let’s hope he doesn’t hold back. Such might will also place doubt in the minds of invaders, not to mention the likes of Ross and Stark; maybe even Rogers and Fury. Wakanda’s true allegiance will always be to themselves, so remember that when they show the aces up their sleeves. Rivalling Krypton from “Man of Steel” is a great challenge to accept, but we’re sure Coogler’s vision will be right up there with the best.
1. A Rebuilt Raft
At the end of “Civil War”, Rogers rescued his team from The Raft, which surely drew the ire of Ross. We’d bet on Ross going about rebuilding and stocking his prison with more inmates; maybe as a pool if he wants to handpick some Thunderbolts. Who knows, maybe he’ll reactivate and redeem the Sokovian militant in Zemo, and give him with a purple balaclava? We never saw Sokovia’s national flag and its colors, did we? Without digressing too much, maybe T’Challa helps rebuild it to store Zemo and maintain the facade of good relations with Ross. Imagine seeing Zemo stocked there as well as The Leader, which could quickly become what Arkham is to the DC Universe. Seeing a glimpse of such a prison, colliding with the tension unfolding as Panther goes after the likes of Killmonger and Klaw, would help expand, yet keep connected, the world-building of films prior. While we don’t really want too much crammed in, there are a lot of associated threads from Panther’s debut that could see these kinds of cameos and teases tie in and still make sense without getting too convoluted. Like we said, there’s immense potential with this film.
What are some of the things you’d like to see when “Black Panther” storms into cinemas on February 16, 2018?
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