Though we caught our first glimpse of Chadwick Boseman's Black Panther in 2016's Captain America: Civil War, director Ryan Coogler (Creed) will be bringing King T'Challa back to the big screen next February. Fans' first impression of the character was intensely positive, and T'Challa proved to be a turning point in the film's third act. For next year's film, we've seen one trailer so far that reintroduced us to the character, showed off plenty of action and teased even more. Another set of footage was screened at Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con this year (exclusive to attendees), but other than those two and a handful of concept art -- there's a lot we don't know.
This list collects most of the things we for sure know about next year's film, from its main villains to its ramifications for the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We'll also go through a collection of rumors that we hope are true, while trying to maintain our speculation and, well, excitement. Why? Well, if these prove true, it means there's a whole lot more coming when the movie hits theaters next year, including potential cameos and plot points of universal importance. Let's jump in.
15 WE KNOW: KILLMONGER IS THE BADDIE
The Black Panther film will be sporting a regular comic book villain, Wakandan's very own Erik Killmonger, one of King T'Challa's rivals. Played by Creed and Fruitvale Station's Michael B. Jordan, the Killmonger in the film seems like a fairly accurate take on the character: a disgraced and exiled Wakandan on a quest to take back the throne and take down the royal family, "rightfully" reclaiming his spot in society.
The shots of Killmonger we've seen have been brief, like in film's teaser trailer, where we see him execute what looks like a heist and don a tribal-esque Wakandan mask. He's also seen being ushered in as a criminal at one point, and rumor has it he'll be finding common ground with Andy Serkis' Klaue. One thing is for sure, and that's that Jordan is sure to give a heck of a performance.
14 RUMOR: BUCKY BARNES SHOWS UP
When we last saw Sebastian Stan's Bucky Barnes, he was being put into cryostasis at the end of Captain America: Civil War, in hiding following the film's events and the loss of his iconic metal arm. The thought? That he's being protected in Wakanda so he can't be detained, only to be woken up with things quiet down.
Well, according to a 2016 interview, we could be seeing Bucky make a surprise appearance in next year's Black Panther. In said interview Kevin Feige said "It... remains to be seen. He’s certainly in stasis there. Where and when he comes out? I’m not sure," and while more recent rumblings have denied the claim, Feige could be referring to Infinity War for Bucky to show up in Wakanda. After all, that footage seems like pretty solid evidence for it.
13 WE KNOW: THE SOUNDTRACK WILL BE KILLER
The first teaser trailer for Black Panther was soundtracked by "Legend Has It," a song from the popular rap duo Run The Jewels, made up of industry staple Killer Mike and longtime producer El-P. The song carries the action and intensity of the trailer perfect, and it looks like the film's editors aren't done yet.
During Marvel's Hall H panel at San Diego Comic Con this year, a new trailer for the film was shown, this time sporting "DNA" by Kendrick Lamar, a song that has a lot in common with the trials of T'Challa. A Los Angeles Times piece examineD the use of hip-hop, specifically Kendrick Lamar, in the lead-up to the film. Explaining the song, the writer says, "The lyrics, after all, are uniquely suited to Black Panther: 'I got, I got, I got, I got / Loyalty, got royalty inside my DNA...'
12 RUMOR: IS THE FINAL INFINITY STONE IN WAKANDA?
While plenty of fans think the final Infinity Gem of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Soul Gem, will show up in November's Thor: Ragnarok, a recent piece examines the theory that the final stone isn't in Asgard -- it's in Wakanda. The reasoning stated is fairly sound, as T'Challa's explanation of death in Captain America: Civil War was a bit optimistic, obviously referring to his ability to communicate with the dead, and to a greater extent previous Black Panthers.
While the standalone film doesn't seem to focus on the greater threat at hand (see: Thanos), there's a chance we'll see the gem pop up, possibly in a way no one would expect. After all, as the article linked states, the Eye of Agamotto held the Time Gem, and relics have housed gems in other films too, like in Guardians of the Galaxy or The Avengers.
11 WE KNOW: ULYSSES KLAUE GETS HIS "ARM" BACK
Fans of the comics will know Klaw as one of Black Panther's main villains, who comes with his own set of... complications, namely his sonic arm. In the films, Klaw is Ulysses Klaue, played by Andy Serkis, and he first appeared in 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron, where he had his arm cut off by Ultron while hunting for vibranium. Well, Klaue is back in Black Panther, and it looks like he's finally gonna get that shiny new arm.
According to a footage description of the SDCC Hall H trailer, Klaue goes toe-to-toe with T'Challa and transforms his "regular" arm into the sonic cannon from the comics. Of course, the description says T'Challa shields himself, but it's good to know Klaue's true form is finally on its way.
10 RUMOR: M'BAKU WILL BECOME MAN-APE IN THE FILM
Actor Winston Duke is playing M'Baku in Black Panther, leader of a Wakandan mountain tribe opposed to T'Challa's family's rule over the nation. Comic book fans will recognize M'Baku as longtime villain Man-Ape, but don't expect the character to come out in full force when next February rolls around. After all, the film's executive producer said Man-Ape is no more, and the character has evolved into something more concrete, leaving racial implications at the door.
But, that doesn't mean M'Baku won't become Man-Ape in a different sense, and press photos of Duke as the character look to be inspired by the character of the comics, with him sporting fur and multicolored leather armor, just not the giant gorilla skin. As M'Baku's partnership with Killmonger rolls out in the film, one could expect a greater role for the character in the future.
9 WE KNOW: KILLMONGER WILL SPORT HIS GOLD JAGUAR SUIT
Speaking of Killmonger, attendees of Marvel Studios' Hall H panel at this year's San Diego Comic Con got a couple of treats in the form of the character's gold jaguar-inspired costume. In the comics, Killmonger is typically depicted as shirtless, but dons a gold and red jaguar armor with a long pointed mask in a dual with T'Challa.
While initially thought to be a new suit for T'Challa, the gold suit sounds more like a take on the King's armor, as opposed to a wildly different thing. In the footage, Killmonger confronts T'Challa and his own transforming suit, hued in gold, covers his body. Those who've seen it said it made the crowd go wild, and we expect no different when we all see it for the first time next year.
8 RUMOR: OTHER AVENGERS WILL SHOW UP
While this rumor is a bit thin, especially considering we haven't seen or heard anything like it recently, that doesn't mean it's not totally possible. A series of casting calls and a tweeted set image seemed to tease the appearance of two mainstay Avengers in T'Challa's solo outing: Captain America and Black Widow. While the image shown could just be referring to the set of Infinity War, eagle-eyed fans think it could be something much more.
Again, it wouldn't be totally out of the ordinary. Avengers team-ups and cameos have been staples of the connected universe for a while now, with Falcon showing up in Ant-Man, Iron Man playing a big part in Spider-Man: Homecoming, and The Hulk co-starring in November's Thor: Ragnarok. And honestly, Bucky's stay in Wakanda makes Cap showing up make all the more sense.
7 WE KNOW: THE CAST IS STACKED WITH TALENT
This one doesn't take an acting expert to figure out. The cast of Black Panther is absolutely packed with some of the best talent in the business, and next year's film could make a strong case for acting awards and accolades for superhero films, much like the impact of Wonder Woman on this year's collective minds.
Aside from Chadwick Boseman (42, Get On Up) leading the charge, you've also got Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger, Lupita Nyong'o (Queen of Katwe, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) as Nakia, Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead) as Okoye and Forest Whitaker as Zuri. On top of that, you've also got Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Martin Freeman (Fargo, Sherlock), Angela Bassett and the previously mentioned Andy Serkis rounding things out. All of them. In a Marvel Comics movie. Can you tell we're excited?
6 RUMOR: WE'LL SEE OTHER BLACK PANTHERS IN THE FILM
This rumor is a bit older, but it's definitely in the realm of possibility. In the comics, T'Challa is able to communicate with past Black Panthers through the use of his abilities -- essentially exploring his ancestry firsthand. So, there's always the chance we'll see his father, T'Challa return in some form, not to mention others from his past.
But a recent article brings up an interesting point: the possibility of Shuri, T'Challa's sister, taking up her own Black Panther mantle. In the comics, Shuri takes on the role of the Panther following a disgraceful defeat on T'Challa's part. The two then essentially argue and fight over who is the right one to wear the mantle. While not needed for an explicit plot point in this first film, we could see this feud pop up in the future.
5 WE KNOW: WAKANDA IS ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL
The first trailer for Black Panther did a lot of things right. The music was superb, the action was ace and the drama was positioned well and incredibly intense. It was short and sweet. But despite its length, the trailer did a spectacular job at showing us our first look at the layers of Wakanda, a nation shrouded in secrecy and hidden from the outside world. And guess what? It's absolutely beautiful.
Our brief glimpses of Wakanda showed us large technological wonders. Things like statues guarding the nation and buildings and ships peppered throughout. We also got a look at more of Wakanda's tribal culture, and while it's obviously influenced by technology and modern (or post-modern?) technology, it's incredibly colorful and deep, remaining feudal while being incredibly advanced. We can't wait to see even more.
4 RUMOR: THE EXTENT OF THE FALLOUT FROM CIVIL WAR
While we absolutely know that Black Panther will touch on a few plot points from Captain America: Civil War, we're not quite sure how deep that will go. The main point discussed is the death of T'Challa's father, King T'Chaka, during the terrorist attack that Bucky Barnes was framed for. A recently published article explored what that will mean for T'Challa moving forward, how he deals with grief and moves forward to lead a nation.
But does it stop there? The Sokovia accords are in place, and we've seen them mentioned in Spider-Man: Homecoming. While Wakanda's standing is different, will T'Challa be a part of the diplomatic conversation? And even more so, does the reference or possible appearance of Bucky complicate things. We can't imagine the people of Wakanda are OK with an international fugitive seeking refuge in their country. Time will tell.
3 WE KNOW: IT'S A FAMILY FOCUSED "GEO-POLITICAL ADVENTURE"
Marvel Studios films in the last few years have been playing around with a handful of different genres -- and succeeding almost every time. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was an incredible spy thriller, while Guardians of the Galaxy was a stellar space opera. Even Ant-Man got in on the fun with a hilarious yet emotional heist movie, and Spider-Man: Homecoming's John Hughes-inspired teen romp was especially fun.
With that in mind, Black Panther is described by head honcho Kevin Feige as "a big geo-political action adventure that focuses on the family and royal struggle of T'Challa in Wakanda, and what it means to be king." Coupling that with a few of the points mentioned above, like the fallout from his father's death and the disdain from his sister regarding the mantle of Black Panther, we'd expect next year's film to knock this one out of the park.
2 RUMOR: HOW IT CONNECTS DIRECTLY TO INFINITY WAR
It's been almost entirely confirmed by Kevin Feige that Black Panther will "set up" next year's Avengers: Infinity War, introducing the world to the importance of Wakanda and the lore of T'Challa, but fans are wondering if the specific use of words means something more radical is afoot. And what could be more radical than the Soul Gem being claimed by Thanos in the nation of Wakanda.
We know from the D23 Infinity War footage that Black Panther is in action, and with Bucky Barnes no less, but it remains to be seen when and how the scene factors into the greater narrative. Maybe a post-credits scene will brighten things up for us? Either way, it'll only be a short wait from February's Black Panther to May's Infinity War.
1 WE KNOW: IT'S INSPIRED BY TA-NEHISI COATES' RUN
One of the biggest announcement to come out of Marvel Comics' post-Secret Wars plans was a new Black Panther solo series written by acclaimed journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates, with art from Brian Stelfreeze. Coates, who is no stranger to exploring race, prejudice and the like through his novels and work with The Atlantic, seemed like the perfect choice to introduce readers to the geo-political landscape of Wakanda.
Director Ryan Coogler explicitly stated at last year's San Diego Comic Con that the film is "absolutely" influenced by Coates' take on the character. "What’s so great about Panther is he’s a superhero who, if you grab him and ask him if he’s a superhero, he’ll tell you, ‘No.’ He sees himself as a politician, as a leader in his country," Coogler said.
What are you hoping to see in February's Black Panther movie? Let us know in the comments!