Black Panther trailer decoded: Secrets of the new Marvel movie
'Black Panther' trailer deep dive
Wakanda doesn’t reveal all its mysteries at once. Sometimes you have to look deeper to even know what you’re seeing. The teaser trailer for the upcoming Black Panther movie has finally dropped, and EW’s special guides to the footage are director and co-writer Ryan Coogler (Creed, Fruitvale Station) and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige. They’re opening the door to this fictional African nation. Let’s take a closer look...
We don’t open on Chadwick Boseman’s black-clad hero. We start with the villain. Andy Serkis was last seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Ulysses Klaue, a mercenary arms trader in Avengers: Age of Ultron who had gotten his hands on some of the precious metal known as Vibranium — then lost his hand to the vicious robot overlord.
He’s back now, and in custody, being questioned by Everett K. Ross, a CIA operative who thinks Wakanda is just another African savannah. For geeks, it’s Bilbo vs. Gollum, all over again. “One person knows quite a bit about Wakanda and another person who thinks they do, but they don’t,” says Coogler. “But I thought it would be awesome to start with a character who has seen Wakanda in its true light.” But look who is watching...
This interrogation takes place in a safehouse in Korea, where a few visiting dignitaries are watching the interrogation from behind one-way glass: Black Panther himself, T’Challa, and his security chief Okoye (The Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira.) They know a lot more than either of these men. And they’re worried. The less anyone knows about their homeland, the safer it is.
Vibranium is the unique metal with almost mystical, technological powers. A little bit of it was used to make Captain America’s shield, and massive stores of it from within the heart of Wakanda have allowed the nation to develop technologies that make the rest of the world look like the Stone Age. Here, Coogler says we see the Royal Talon Fighter, Black Panther’s personal shuttle, flying over the capital city.
Wakanda is steeped in tradition, and we see a flashback to one of them: The steps of the Royal Talon Fighter open as T’Challa descends into the waters of Warrior Falls, where kings are coronated. He is ascending the throne after the murder of his father, T’Chaka, in Captain America: Civil War.
In the background stands Zuri, Forest Whitaker’s character, a shaman and trusted adviser of the king. Here, T'Challa stands without armor in a holy place, before his people — the leaders of the tribes of Wakanda. They do not always unite like this. Although it is united against the outside world, Wakanda is divided within itself.
“He’s somewhat a religious figure or spiritual figure,” Coogler says of Zuri. “Spirituality is something that exists in Wakanda in the comics, and it’s something we wanted to have elements of in the film. Forest’s character, more than anything, is a major tie-back to T’Challa’s father. Zuri is someone he looks to for guidance.” He says to think of him as the Wise Old Man — Black Panther’s version of Obi-Wan Kenobi.
These children are part of Zuri's sacred ritual, creating something for the king from a plant unique to Wakanda. “People who read the comics would be familiar with the Heart-Shaped Herb and the ceremonies that surround that,” says Kevin Feige. “That’s partially spiritual. We certainly don’t call it magic, but there’s Vibranium that has been interwoven within that soil and that land for thousands of years, so there are other things going on with it.”
“The Heart-Shaped Herb is how Black Panther achieves his powers. He can fight hand-to-hand with Cap, who’s a supersoldier, so he has super strength and heightened instincts that give him his enhanced abilities,” Coogler says. But not just anyone can partake of its powers. “The Heart-Shaped Herb is what Black Panthers over the generations would consume, once they earn the title, which gives them their physical edge.”
The king doesn't have to face every challenge alone. One of his most loyal agents of the Dora Milaje is Nakia, played by Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong'o, seen here in a casino in femme fatale mode. T'Challa is going to need the help...
If there’s one thing we know about power, it’s that someone else will always try to take it from you.
Klaue wants Vibranium, but this masked man wants something more — perhaps power over the nation that Black Panther rules. This masked figure is ready to spring Klaue loose from his CIA safehouse, and the two villains will join forces.
In the comics, Klaue’s weapon was a sonic emitter he used as a prosthetic for his missing arm. In this film, he attaches a piece of advanced Wakandan mining equipment as his arm-cannon — which is presumably what led the CIA and Black Panther to capture him. In this shot, we can see the limb has been taken from him.
But you can't keep a bad guy down. Here we see Klaue in the midst of a heist at a museum displaying treasures from Wakanda. Coogler isn't ready to reveal the exact context of this scene, but you can bet he has inside information.
This was the man in the mask: Erik Killmonger (played by Michael B. Jordan, who also teamed with Coogler for Creed and Fruitvale Station.) The man with the hostile name is a Wakandan exile, being escorted into Black Panther's throne room under the watch of W'Kabi, a loyal adviser to T'Challa played by Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya.
Here we see the larger view. It's tough to see, but Black Panther is face-to-face with Killmonger, facing him down before the room full of tribal leaders.
The camera lingers on one especially compelling presence among the tribal rulers. Coogler says the man with the emerald suit and lip plate is "the elder of one of the largest tribes in Wakanda." He's played by actor Isaach De Bankolé, known for brutalizing Daniel Craig's 007 in Casino Royale. Across from him sits T'Challa's widowed mother, Ramonda (played by Angela Bassett)...
This is Ramonda in all her glory, flanked by Lupita Nyongo's Nakia and T'Challa's sister, Shuri, played by Letitia Wright. Everett K. Ross, an outsider, is with them in the background as they venture into mountain territory of the Jabari tribe — and their ominous ruler...
Meet M'Baku, played by Winston Duke (Person of Interest). As the ruler of the mountain tribe, he has a ruthless nature, and in the comics — where he wore a mask and white, fur-covered armor and went by the name "Man-Ape" — he was one of Black Panther's most dangerous foes.
Will M'Baku and T'Challa end up in battle? Probably; everyone in the Marvel Cinematic Universe fights sooner or later. But all we know from the teaser is that T'Challa has a knock-down, drag-out fight with Eric Killmonger at what looks like the Warrior Falls in some kind of trial by combat. (You can spot the river tribe leader looking on from the back left.)
This shot it set outside one of Wakanda's Vibranium mines. The Dora Milaje stand to one side, while tribal leaders, including Daniel Kaluuya's W'Kabi (although he's out of focus) stand to the right.
Black Panther, king, defender, and servant of the country walks before them with his mask off in a pose that seems intended to suggest he means no harm. This is one mystery we will have to wait to have solved.
We also get a sample of peaceful life in Wakanda. Here, the king greets a child alongside Nakia under the quietly intense protection of Dora Milaje bodyguard Ayo (played by Florence Kasumba), known from Civil War for the line, "Move, or you will be moved."
Here we see political life for the young ruler as he ventures outside the borders of his country to speak before the United Nations — although such interaction with fellow countries is what got his father killed. Some threats can't be defeated with isolationism. Look closely at the monitors in this still, and you'll see "Climate Change" is on the Black Panther's agenda.
But peace is not long-lasting. In this shot, Jordan's Killmonger faces down an entire squad of Dora Milaje on what appears to be a landing pad on the outskirts of the city.
Coogler doesn't want to reveal too much about Killmonger's background, but in the comics, he has one of the darkest origins for a supervillain. One should not experiment with sacred herbs meant only for the royal bloodline. And sometimes, in those cases, death might be a more welcome outcome than whatever survival follows.
As Killmonger does battle, the Dora Milaje may find that the other tribes of Wakanda are no longer loyal to their king.
Family is different. T'Challa will always be able to count on his sister, Shuri. And Nakia, as a member of the Dora Milaje who is often sent on missions around the world, is another woman Panther knows he can trust.
Wright's Princess Shuri character is not only a fighter but a brilliant scientist, on par with Iron Man's Tony Stark, Coogler says. She has spent her life researching and experimenting with Vibranium, and these twin blasters are just one of her devices.
As the trailer wraps, we see Black Panther in full costume — and far from his homeland. Judging by the signs in the background, this is a scene set in Korea, either before or after Klaue is captured.
Take note: This is an example of the bad luck that follows if this particular black cat crosses your path. Black Panther will be in theaters on Feb. 16, 2018.