Black Panther Decoded: Exploring the Mysteries of the New Marvel Trailer
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 …
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Of course T'Challa and Shuri have their own secret sibling handshake. Of course they do.
In the DC universe, Wonder Woman has an invisible jet, but here we see Shuri driving what looks like a crystalline car.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.