The teaser trailer for Marvel’s Black Panther arrived Friday night, taking viewers from the streets of Seoul, South Korea, to the jungles and gleaming towers of Wakanda, hinting at the mysteries of T’Challa’s homeland and offering glimpses of the dangers surrounding the young king.
Clocking in at nearly two minutes, the footage is fast-paced, introducing us to the world of director Ryan Coogler’s film (and re-introducing us to Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther) while marching out a rapid succession of characters and settings — some familiar, but overwhelming new. There’s a lot to unpack, so we’ve singled out the trailer’s key faces and places to get everyone up to speed.
Ulysses Klaue Drops Some Knowledge on Everett Ross
It’s a Hobbit reunion as Andy Serkis’ arms dealer Ulysses Klaue, last seen in Avengers: Age of Ultron selling his stockpile of Vibranium to the homicidal A.I., is interrogated by Martin Freeman’s CIA operative Everett K. Ross in what director Ryan Coogler identifies as a safe house in South Korea. The exchange establishes the contrast between how most of the outside world views Wakanda — “It’s a Third World country,” Ross says dismissively, “textiles, shepherds, cool outfits …” — and how the technologically advanced African nation really is. “All a front,” Klaue responds. Explorers have searched for it, called it El Dorado. They looked for it in South America, but it was in Africa the whole time. I’m the only one who’s seen it and made it out alive.”
Considering the Kingdom of Wakanda is the only known source of Vibranium, the nearly indestructible metal that was Klaue’s stock-in-trade, it’s probably safe to say he’s well-versed in the country’s secrets. (Note that he’s missing his left arm following his encounter with Ultron; we should expect an at least somewhat-familiar attachment to take its place.)
That’s why Chadwick Boseman’s King T’Challa, introduced last year in Captain America: Civil War, and his security chief Okoye (Danai Gurira of The Walking Dead) look a little nervous as they observe the interrogation from behind one-way glass. Not that their presence escapes Klaue’s notice, mind you. However, they’re about to have more immediate concerns than maintaining a cloak of secrecy over Wakanda’s wealth and technology.
Enter Erik Killmonger
Michael B. Jordan (Creed, Fantastic Four) makes an impression in his introduction as Erik Killmonger, who, with the help of his cohorts, blows out the wall of the CIA safe house to free Klaue. A Wakandan exile who seeks to overthrow T’Challa as ruler, Killmonger has a long comic book history with both Black Panther and Ulysses Klaw (or Klaue, as the Marvel Cinematic Universe prefers).
In Marvel Comics lore, Killmonger’s father was forced to help Klaw when he and his mercenaries attacked Wakanda. Following the villain’s defeat, and the death of his father, Killmonger’s family was exiled to New York City, where the young man fostered a hatred for Klaw and T’Challa and plotted to avenge his father’s death. He eventually returned under a different name to Wakanda, where he operated as a subversive and eventually staged a short-lived coup d’état.
How the interests of Killmonger and Klaue align in Black Panther remains to be seen.
Welcome to Wakanda
Just as the conversation between Ulysses Klaue and Everett K. Ross offered two perspectives on Wakanda, the teaser trailer shows us two sides of the nation: the traditional (and even mystical), and the high-tech. The tour begins with Warrior Falls, a location familiar to longtime followers of Black Panther’s comic book adventures.
The natural wonder is the place where Wakanda’s kings are crowned — in the trailer we glimpse T’Challa’s coronation following his father’s assassination in last year’s Captain America: Civil War — but in the comics it’s also the site of notable battles between Black Panther and Erik Killmonger. It’s probably a safe bet that Warrior Falls will appear more than once in the film.
The Elder Statesman
That scene also introduces Forest Whitaker as Zuri, a more recent addition to Black Panther’s mythos who in the film serves as an elder statesman and spiritual leader. An aging but still fierce warrior in the comic books, in the trailer he seems to oversee the coronation ceremony, which involves the mythical Heart-Shaped Herb. Believed to be a gift from the Panther God, the plant was mutated by the Vibranium meteorite that crashed ages ago in Wakanda. In the comics, at least, it’s the Heart-Shaped Herb that imbues the ruler of Wakanda — the Black Panther — with enhanced strength, speed, endurance and healing.
The City of Tomorrow
On the other end of the spectrum is Wakanda’s thoroughly modern — heck, futuristic — cities. As that’s T’Challa’s Royal Talon Fighter in the foreground, we can presume this is the capital of Birnin Zana, which in the comic books is home to the Royal Palace, the Necropolis, Wakandan International Airport and so much more.
The source of Wakanda’s wealth, and what fuels the nation’s advanced technology, is Vibranium, the rare and highly coveted metal perhaps most notably used in the creation of Captain America’s nearly indestructible shield. As Ulysses Klaue’s earlier monologue indicates, the exact location of Wakanda’s Vibranium deposits are a closely (and fiercely) guarded secret.
The Secret Weapon
Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) co-stars as Nakia, a member of the Dora Milaje, the all-female personal guards of the ruler of Wakanda. Recruited from every tribe in the kingdom, the “adored ones” are expertly trained warriors tasked with maintaining the peace and protecting the king.
Dora Milaje, Assemble!
Although the teaser trailer shows Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther in pursuit Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger in South Korea, it also reveals their conflict extends into Wakanda. That’s little surprise, of course. We see Killmonger brought into T’Challa’s throne room and, here, facing off against the assembled — and fully armed — Dora Milaje. How the sequence of events plays out remains to be seen, but our money is on the Dora Milaje.
Don’t Mess With Man-Ape
Erik Killmonger may not be the least of T’Challa’s problems, but he is only one part of them. There’s also M’Baku, better known to Marvel Comics readers as Man-Ape. Played in the film by Winston Duke (Person of Interest), he’s the ruthless leader of the mountain tribe the Jabari, but is he a friend or foe?
Traditionally, as Man-Ape, M’Baku is a supervillain who gained superhuman strength, speed and endurance after he consumed the flesh of a white gorilla and bathed in its blood. However, in the teaser he’s shown battling Killmonger at Warrior Falls. Given that setting, it’s certainly possible they’re vying for the throne of Wakanda. Duke is reportedly set to reprise his role in Avengers: Infinity War, which adds a another layer of mystery to his role in Black Panther.
An Innovator to Rival Tony Stark
No matter where M’Baku’s allegiances ultimately lie, Black Panther will have plenty of allies. In addition to the Dora Milaje, there’s T’Challa’s sister Princess Shuri, played by Letitia Wright (Humans). As the actress recently explained, Shuriis a scientist who designs all of Wakanda’s new technology; Coogler adds that her brilliance rivals that of Tony Stark. “She has an innovative spirit and an innovative mind,” Wright said, “and she wants to take Wakanda to a new place.”
Here Shuri is armed with a pair of appropriately black panther-shaped blasters, ready to take on … someone.
T’Challa’s Mother Ramonda
T’Challa’s family is rounded out by his mother Ramonda, played by Oscar nominee Angela Bassett, seen here journeying through the mountains with Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, Letitia Wright as Shuri and, yes, Martin Freeman as Everett K. Ross, which means he learns about the real Wakanda firsthand.
Opening Feb. 16, 2018, director Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther stars Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, with Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Florence Kasumba, Sterling K. Brown and John Kani.