This week saw the surprise release of a new trailer for director Ryan Coogler’s highly anticipated Black Panther, the next entry in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe that will serve as the first solo movie for the Wakandan King following his introduction in Captain America: Civil War. The trailer was chock-full of revealing tidbits, moments and set pieces, serving as the latest indicator that the film will be a true departure from what we’ve come to expect from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. More importantly, it proved that the movie will not shy away from presenting the nation of Wakanda as one that is deeply rooted in its own history, with its very own cultures, practices and customs.
Outside of all of the action and fisticuffs between the Panther, Killmonger and Klaue, a brief sequence showed us King T’Challa, dressed in his ceremonial white garb, walking among the African landscape at night, an ethereal aurora borealis lighting his way as black panthers, perched on a tree’s branches, look upon him. It would appear that this could be our very first look at the mystical plane known as the Djalia.
The Djalia is actually a recent addition to the Black Panther mythos, debuting in the second issue of the most recent volume of the superhero’s comic book series by renowned writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and artist Chris Sprouse. Essentially, it’s the plane of Wakandan memory, a reality that exists outside of time and space, a sort of limbo world that houses all of the history of the nation of Wakanda. An afterlife of sorts, the Djalia is introduced to us as T’Challa’s sister Shuri wakes up in the plane, her body stuck in a state of living death thanks to the devious efforts of Thanos. While T’Challa works tirelessly to find a way to bring her sister back to life, she travels across the Djalia, dressed in white and bathed in light.
There, Shuri is greeted by a Griot, the keeper of knowledge and guide who takes the reassuring form of Shuri’s mother. As she hovers between life and death, Shuri spends a great deal of time in the the Griot’s company, where she is shown the ancient days of her people. Her mother tells her stories of adventures, lessons and battles past, imbuing Shuri with the wisdom that comes with the shared history of entire generations condensed into one single experience. As they traverse this beautiful, disconnected landscape, Shuri sees her ancestors — her people — undergo trials and hardships. She is even able to develop new abilities as she learns of the ancient myths and culture of the birth of her nation.
While we know that Shuri is in the Black Panther film, it appears as though T’Challa is the one who will be making the trip to the Djalia. Whether that is because he is near-death or because, as King, he has the ability to access the past of his country remains to be seen, of course. But there remains the strong possibility that if T’Challa finds himself there, it’s because he will be in dire need of help, answers and wisdom. Perhaps the Griot will take on the form of his deceased father T’Chaka, who tragically died as a casualty of Zemo’s attack in Civil War. This could be a fascinating and heart-wrenching way of reuniting father and son, as one attempts to fill in the throne left vacant by the other. Surely, in T’Challa’s time of need, his father could be there to help him one last time. This is, after all, a story of Kings.
Opening Feb. 16, 2018, 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.
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