WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Marvel Studios' Black Panther, in theaters now.
While it would may have made some sense for Marvel Studios to have the events of the Marvel Cinematic Universe take place in the chronological release order of its films, it's just not the case. Ever since Captain America: The First Avenger was released in 2011, there has been a timeline emerging that's not so linear, which makes it easier for the studio to have films set in different times should it so wish.
A series of movies that don't always release in chronological order can make things a tad difficult to follow for those who don't pay incredibly close of attention. On the other hand, it allows the MCU to explore different time periods. This, in turn, keeps things fresh, and ultimately could be a factor in the longevity of the franchise. However, the leads of all the solo franchises come together every once in a while for an Avengers, which brings everybody together and makes things a little easier to follow.
We saw at the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man and Spider-Man: Homecoming that big themes and plot points are often pulled from the MCU's past, both on-screen and off. Black Panther follows suit in this respect, picking up with Sterling K. Brown's character in Oakland, California, all the way back in 1992.
Brown plays N'Jobu, the brother of the king T'Chaka, otherwise known as T'Challa's father. He was sent to Oakland as an agent of the War Dogs, a skilled group of Wakandan spies. Unbeknownst to him for some quite some time, a younger version of Forest Whitaker's Zuri is also undercover and has been keeping tabs on him. The exploration of this year allows us to see T'Chaka in his younger days as the Black Panther, adding a bit of weight to his eventual death and firmly embedding a huge plot point that surfaces in the present.
When the story shifts to the present day, it picks up immediately after the events of Captain America: Civil War, which acted as Black Panther's introduction into the sprawling Marvel Cinematic Universe. This means that it's only days after T'Challa lost his father and Wakanda lost its king, so you could say things are still pretty raw and emotional for all involved. The nation is still grieving, but its willing to accept T'Challa with open arms.
The traumatic occurrences of Civil War sets up the events of Black Panther entirely, as T'Challa takes over the role of the king of Wakanda and has to face off against any contenders to the throne. This is where Michael B. Jordan's villainous Erik Killmonger comes in, with direct ties to the time the film spent in 1992.
While Black Panther jumps between the present timeline and the past quite a bit, uncovering new twists and turns as it goes on, the consequences of the movie will affect the events of Avengers: Infinity War. It's no secret Captain Marvel, another upcoming Marvel movie, will spend a lot of time in the '90s as well. While there's no overt indication these two stories will intertwine, it's an interesting similarity. Is it merely a coincidence? Perhaps, but as Marvel loves to remind fans, in the end, "it's all connected."
Directed by Ryan Coogler from a script he wrote with Joe Robert Cole, Black Panther stars Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger, Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, Daniel Kaluuya as W’Kabi, Letitia Wright as Shuri, Danai Gurira as Okoye, Angela Bassett as Ramonda, Martin Freeman as Everett K. Ross, Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue, Winston Duke as M’Baku and Forest Whitaker as Zuri. The film opens Friday nationwide.