Black Panther Decoded: Exploring the Mysteries of the New Marvel Trailer

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Black Panther unmasked

The Panther peers into his own eyes. That’s just one of the striking shots from the new trailer for Marvel Studios’ Black Panther (out Feb. 9.) Chadwick Boseman’s new king, T’Challa, is trying to unite the factions within the technological wonderland known as Wakanda, but that struggle has wider implications for the rest of the planet. Let’s venture across this utopia’s borders …

Beyond Borders

We’re following Black Panther’s Royal Talon Fighter as it punches through a holograph that covers an entire city, making Wakanda look like just an agrarian African nation. Director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed) has many wonders hidden away, however...

Old and New

Beneath this holographic barrier lies an advanced and secretive nation that has never been conquered, that has known only peace and prosperity. Ancient buildings stand alongside futuristic skyscrapers. If the rest of the world knew what Wakanda really had, war and devastation would certainly follow.

Panther's Heart

Here we see a view of what looks like a castle in the clouds, glimpsed only briefly in the mist at the end of Captain America: Civil War, when T’Challa let down his guard to give sanctuary to some of Marvel’s other mighty heroes. It is most likely the exterior of the nation's Vibranium mine.

City Life

Here we see a street scene from Wakanda's capital city, which reveals that even though this country is remarkably advanced, it is hardly a sterile, futuristic Apple Store of a nation. Wakanda is a place of colors, of flavors, of music and great beauty and artistry. Above the market, a hovering rail line races through a series of circular bands.

Hands Free Driving



Piloting the Royal Talon Fighter — without use of an actual steering wheel — is Okoye (The Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira), dressed in the scarlet finery and ceremonial armor of the Dora Milaje, an all-female secret service she heads. Okoye is a no-nonsense warrior, but she cannot resist a huge smile when she declares: “We are home.”

So Far Away

We don’t know where T’Challa has been, but he’s traveling with the two fiercest warriors of Wakanda. Okoye, who is almost like his Secretary of Defense combined with the head of Secret Service, and Nakia (Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o) who is a “war dog,” a covert agent who handles Wakandan operations in other countries. (Think of her as James Bond and Bond girl all in one.)

Love and War

"You get to decide what kind of king you are going to be," says Nakia. The relationship between Black Panther and his most trusted covert agent is a deep and complicated one. They are former lovers (and maybe still are, on some level), but her work and his obligations have pulled them apart.

Wakandan Finery

Speaking of beauty and mystery, let's pause to admire the costume design of Ruth E. Carter (Malcolm X, Serenity), who should be on everybody's Oscar-watch list for next year.

The Queen Mother

Angela Bassett costars as Ramonda, once the queen, now the mother of the king. “She’s has her hands in everything — even his love life," Boseman told EW. Here we see her greeting her son, who is rising to the mantle of king. "My son," she says, "it is your time."

Offer He Can't Refuse

The creators of Black Panther say they took inspiration from The Godfather, with a brilliant young man rising to the mantle of leadership after his father is taken down. Then he must contend with rival factions to maintain his family's place — while, in this case, also protecting his nation (and the world beyond.)

M'Baku the Challenger

It is also a time of unrest. Here we stand in the hall of the mountain king, M'Baku (played by Winston Duke), who rules Wakanda's tribe in the highlands. It's hard to discern exactly what's surrounding his throne, but like much of Afrofuturism it is a blend of the old and new, traditional joined with the technological. Credit throughout goes to cinematographer Rachel Morrison 

Ape vs. Panther

Coogler then takes us to an event in which the king of Wakanda ascends to his position as ruler and protector — a ceremonial battle at Warrior Falls. M'Baku's tribe uses the symbol of a white ape (in the comics, this villain went by the name Man-Ape). We see his folk-art mask representing this animal, a contrast to T'Challa's panther symbolism.

Power and Fury

Later in the trailer, we see M'Baku hoisting aloft a member of the border tribe, which is responsible for keeping away outsiders and maintaining Wakanda's secrets. In the foreground, Nakia stands alarmed. M'Baku is technically a subject of King T'Challa ... but he thinks maybe Wakanda would be better under his own rule.

Warrior Falls

There will be numerous clashes at this sacred Wakandan natural wonder. Here we see an overview of the whirlpools and falls that make this place so beautiful and enigmatic.

Panther Variations

Along with the many dangers he faces, Panther has many allies — chief among them, his family. Here, we see his kid sister, Shuri (played by Letitia Wright), who is the Tony Stark of Wakanda, developing new ways to harness the power of Vibranium. Here, we see her showing her brother some sleek new armor.

Kid Sister

Of course T'Challa and Shuri have their own secret sibling handshake. Of course they do.

Invisible Car

In the DC universe, Wonder Woman has an invisible jet, but here we see Shuri driving what looks like a crystalline car.

Battle Cat

In this sequence, we see T'Challa prepping for a drop-attack against some Vibranium poachers who have managed to get across the border and are stealing across the plains of Wakanda in the dead of night. 

Take a Hit

How tough is the Panther? He can take a shotgun blast to the face and snap back with a counter-punch an instant later. Not only does his Vibranium-woven suit offer protection, but the king consumes the Heart Shaped Herb, a plant that grows in Vibranium-rich soil and helps provide super-strength and healing to those from the royal line.

Erik Killmonger

It's a hell of a name. In the comics, this nom de guerre was chosen by a Wakandan dissident named N'Jadaka, who plotted to overthrow the royal family. In the film, Michael B. Jordan plays the villainous character, who still has designs on the throne of his homeland.

Body Markings

We don't know the full context for the ritualistic markings that cover Killmonger's chest and torso. "That is a story reveal that we’d like to preserve," Black Panther executive producer Nate Moore told EW.  The raised pattern resembles the scar tattoos of Ethiopia's Mursi and Surma tribes.

Hall of Kings

We hear Killmonger give an order in the new trailer: "I waited my entire life for this. The world's gonna start over. ... I'mma burn it all." What we see burning is a temple — Wakanda's Hall of Kings, where the nation's history and traditions are enshrined.

Art Aficionado

Killmonger has a dark interest in Wakanda's treasures, including the ancient ones they are willing to loan out to museums as part of the secretive nation's outreach to other cultures. 

Two Villains Align

Killmonger has apparently shared this love of Wakanda folk art with a friend — the mercenary and Vibranium-hunter Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis). We don't know what they're admiring, but they have no problem simply taking it. When Klaue is captured by the authorities, it is Killmonger who blows open the safe-house and helps him escape.

Killmonger and W'Kabi

We know Killmonger is no friend of T'Challa, but here he stands at the king's home alongside one of Panther's closest friends — W'Kabi (Get Out's Daniel Kaluuya), who is one of the security leaders from the border tribe.

Golden Jaguar

The villain has a revelation for T'Challa and the warriors of the Dora Milaje. He has also mastered some of the mysteries of Vibranium, as evidenced by the Golden Jaguar armor that emerges from nowhere to coat his body as he unleashes a surprise attack.

Nakia and Shuri

In the background, Shuri chases after Killmonger with two wrist-cannons, battle gauntlets she created in her laboratory. She also devised the glowing "ring blades" that Nakia is wielding to fend off the enemy attack.

Valuable Debris

In the midst of this clash, T'Challa emerges from the wreckage of a ship. Scattered around are coffin-shaped storage containers, but what's inside? Given the location outside the Vibranium mine, it's most likely the rarest mineral on Earth.

Panther's Armor

In another scene, we see Panther's armor emerging in similar fashion, seeming to "grow" around his limbs from out of nowhere. Here, we see T'Challa chasing down Klaue through the streets of a city in South Korea, after the international terrorist was cornered at a speakeasy-like casino.

Panther vs. Killmonger

Later in the trailer, we see Killmonger in his golden panther armor, battling T'Challa beneath a mag-lev type of train. 

Mysterious Cavern

It's not clear exactly where this battle is taking place, but it has an otherworldly purple-ish glow. My guess: we're seeing deep into the interior of Wakanda's Vibranium mine.

Sonic Emitter

In the comics, Klaue (then known as Klaw), had a sonic cannon that he used as a prosthetic arm. That tradition continues here since the last time we saw Serkis' character, he was having his limb removed by a sociopathic robot in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Note the cannon emerging from between his fake fingers.

Ready to Strike

Like a predator leaping across floating logs in pursuit of his prey, Black Panther follows Klaue and his entourage through the streets by surf-riding surrounding traffic.

One Shot

With a single blast from his arm cannon, Klaue demolishes the SUV that Black Panther was atop, hurling him through the air. The villain's weapon is familiar. It's actually a Vibranium-enhanced mining tool, which he has stolen and put to nefarious use.

Klaue Meets Claw

Our hero propels himself onto Klaue's vehicle, however, and expresses some concern that his tire pressure is a little low.

Dream Sequence?

This moment in the trailer is so ethereal, so beautiful it naturally makes the viewer wonder if we're seeing some kind of dream. The royal purple horizon shows the same colors we see radiating across Panther's armor.

The Watchful Eyes

In a tree sits a trio of black panthers, who already are well aware of T'Challa before he sets eyes on them.

Wakandan Miracles

But this is Wakanda, remember. It is another world within our own. What director Ryan Coogler is showing us here may not be a fantasy, but rather the true landscape of this wondrous nation. As the trailer begins, CIA operative Everett K. Ross (played by Martin Freeman) alludes to Thor (seeing a god fly), Iron Man (unimaginable weaponry) and the alien invasion of the first Avengers. But still, after all this time, Marvel still has things to show us that we've never seen before.

The Panther Awaits

Here's to Feb. 9. And the crowning of a new superhero king.