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Let’s overanalyze the ‘Black Panther’ teaser trailer

As a die-hard Black Panther fan, I was ecstatic to learn that Marvel was releasing the Black Panther trailer on June 9th, a full eight months before its release date of February 16, 2018. I thought we’d have to wait until at least the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming, if not San Diego Comic-Con, to get footage of the film, especially with Thor: Ragnarok releasing in November.

When the trailer premiered, I was floored by how much Marvel showed, giving fans glimpses at almost all the major characters in the film. I felt I had to dig into it more. So… let’s dig!

The trailer opens up with two returning characters: international pirate and arms dealer, Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), and CIA agent Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman). Klaue is being interrogated by Ross and, notably, is still missing his arm that was removed in Avengers: Age of Ultron. I’m not quite sure what role Klaue will be playing in this film. In the comics, where he is called Klaw, invades Wakanda to plunder its resources when T’Challa is still a child. Klaw kills King T’Chaka with a sound weapon before young T’Challa turns the weapon on Klaw, removing his arm. Eventually Klaw gets turned into “living sound” and can create constructs with sound, not entirely unlike Green Lantern. Since the films have largely written the personal conflict out of their relationship (with Klaue losing his arm to Ultron, and King T’Chaka being killed by Baron Zemo in Captain America: Civil War), I imagine Klaue will be a secondary villain in the film. But more on that in a bit.

As Klaue describes the real Wakanda to Ross, we see a shirtless T’Challa emerge from a transport into an arena-like pool of water. Instantly the film grabs you with the colors and costume designs. For the keen of eye, that is Forest Whitaker as Zuri in the purple on the right. In the comics, Zuri is an aged warrior/mentor/bodyguard for T’Challa and served at T’Chaka’s side when he was king. The way Klaue describes Wakanda is a brillaint move by screenwriter Joe Robert Cole and writer/director Ryan Coogler, tying in the larger mystery of El Dorado to the mythos.

As we pull back, we get a good look at the high-tech transport that brought T’Challa to the falls. For those unfamiliar with the characters, this transport instantly sells the merger between advanced technology and tribal customs that is Wakanda. The waterfall here appears later in the trailer, and is actually a key place from the comics: Warrior Falls.

Next we see our first look at Black Panther in what appears to be the same costume donned in Captain America: Civil War. I’m curious to know if this sequence is a flashback to before Avengers: Age of Ultron showing how Klaue’s was captured and branded prior to that film. Either way, it’s an awesome sequence that highlights Black Panther’s stealth, fighting prowess, and that bulletproof vibranium suit.

We get our first look behind the one-way mirror as T’Challa and Okoye (played by The Walking Dead‘s Danai Gurira) look on while Ross interrogates Klaue. Okoye is a member of the Dora Milaje, an all-female royal guard that not only represent the various tribes of Wakanda, but are one of its most elite combat units. During this moment, Klaue remarks, “I can see you,” providing an ominous tone. It’s unclear just what Klaue means: can he actually see through the one-way mirror, is there a spy on Black Panther’s side, or does he simply have a gut feeling as to who is watching from behind the mirror?

After the studio logo, and “Legend Has It” by Run the Jewels begins playing, fans get their first glimpse at the real Wakanda. An interview with Ryan Coogler reveals that this airship is T’Challa’s personal Royal Talon Fighter. This high-tech city certainly appears to be the Golden City from the comics, though it remains to be seen how large the country of Wakanda will be in the films. Is it just a city-state with some surrounding regions, or are there multiple cities like this, as in the comics?

Next is a close up of Forest Whiatker’s Zuri. His overall design makes him look much more like a shaman than a decorated warrior, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see his role altered a bit. The children here are helping mix something – possibly the heart shaped herb that gives Black Panther his enhanced strength, agility, and senses?

It’s during this shot that we hear John Kani’s King T’Chaka speak. Notably in this teaser, no one else has dialogue beyond T’Chaka’s narration, and the dialogue between Klaue and Ross earlier, so while we’re getting a lot of visual information, much of the plot remains hidden. T’Chaka’s monologue gives the biggest idea of what the film is going to be about, suggesting political intrigue as well as the weight of the crown.

“The world is changing. Soon, there will only be the conquered and the conquerors. You are a good man, with a good heart. And it’s hard for a good man to be a king.”

Next we see Erik Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan. Killmonger is Black Panther’s archnemesis in the comics, having repeatedly attempted to overthrow the king. A Wakandan exile, whose real name is N’Jadaka, he grew up in the United States and is able to match T’Challa intellectually as well as physically. He also has a habit of not staying dead.

The mask Killmonger wears visually calls back to the way the demon Mephisto was portrayed during Priest’s Black Panther (left, from Black Panther Vol. 3 #2) as well as to a mask he wore himself while dueling Black Panther towards the end of Reginald Hudlin’s run (right, from Black Panther Vol. 4, #38)

From what we can tell, Killmonger is breaking Klaue out of wherever he is being interrogated. The two villains have never worked together in the comics, but Killmonger is known for employing other Wakandan villains to help him in his plans to overthrow T’Challa, so that may be what is happening here.

The trailer then presents us with our first look at Nakia (Academy Award-winning Lupita Nyong’o). As in the comics, Nakia is a member of the Dora Milaje and is quite smitten with her king. A significant age difference between them (among other things) caused T’Challa to reject her advances, and she didn’t exactly take it well. Nyong’o and Boseman are much closer in age than their comic book counterparts, however, so I wouldn’t be surprised if she is his love interest here.

We then get our first shot of Okoye (Danai Gurira) in action, showing just what the Dora Milaje are capable of as she twirls a staff around to attack an enemy approaching from behind. This sequence appears to take place in a casino in South Korea, and it looks like there might be a pretty big set-piece of the film set there.

“Come at me, bro,” Black Panther said as he calmly approached a crowd. I’m not going to comment on who he’s walking towards, as that reverse shot may contain some pretty significant spoilers if it shows what I think it shows. This shot also shows off Black Panther’s new suit, which is sleeker with a more refined necklace and less of the angular weave design present in the Captain America: Civil War suit seen earlier in the trailer.

We get some quick shots of Klaue robbing a museum (still missing his left arm) and of T’Challa in front of a United Nations panel before arriving on this shot of Killmonger being walked to the throne by W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya of Get Out), who is one of T’Challa’s most trusted warriors from the comics. Killmonger is wearing the same costume he has on during the Klaue breakout, so presumably he is captured after that event. Or he really likes this outfit and wears it every day.

The trailer bounces around the throne room, showing us the Dora Milaje guards, T’Challa approaching Killmonger, and this gentleman. The actor here is Isaach De Bankolé, who you might recognize from Casino Royale, 24, or The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. He’s currently credited as River Tribe Elder, which highlights the fact that Wakanda is made up of different tribes who don’t always get along. His character design borrows from the Mursi people and highlights the Afro-futurism present in the trailer.

Angela Bassett appears sporting white hair, reminding all comic book fans of the Storm we could have had. Here she plays Queen Ramonda, who is T’Challa’s step-mother and biological mother to Shuri. In the comics T’Challa’s mother N’Yami dies during childbirth, and he is raised by his father and Ramonda who loves him as if he were her own. I don’t know if the film will maintain that relationship or just simplify it and have her be his biological mother as well.

This scene sees Ramonda, Princess Shuri (played by Letitia Wright), Nakia, and Ross journeying into the cold mountains of Wakanda’s Jabari tribe. The Jabari are the main tribal rivals of the Panther tribe in the comics, drawing their powers from the White Gorilla god and are lead by M’Baku. It’s unclear why two members of the royal family are with the Jabari, but they don’t look happy about it.

Erik Killmonger and T’Challa duel on Warrior Falls in front of the tribal leaders. I’m not quite sure what the context is here, but Killmonger and Black Panther have dueled at the Warrior Falls before, usually when Killmonger is trying to win the rule of Wakanda by besting Black Panther in combat. And, unlike most villains, he has a winning record against Black Panther.

At this point, the trailer is a montage of action shots, but there are some highlights. Such as when two Dora Milaje find themselves back-to-back against a group of Wakandan soldiers. It seems someone is getting the tribes in Wakanda to turn against each other.

We also see Nakia holding some disc weapons and Shuri holding up Panther Blasters.

In the comics, Shuri has served as Black Panther in her brother’s absence, and while she isn’t quite Black Panther yet, it does look like she’ll play a serious role in the action. Interviews with actress Letitia Wright and Ryan Coogler have revealed that the film’s version of the character is a technological genius on par with Tony Stark, and that these gauntlets are of her own design. In the comics, T’Challa is one of Marvel’s super-geniuses, having invented the Avengers Quinjet, Falcon’s vibranium wings, and a host of his own technological designs. While seeing Shuri get a boost is wonderful, I hope they didn’t nerf T’Challa in the process. I’d rather see a brother-sister intellectual tag-team.

This is our first look at the mask of Black Panther’s new suit as he runs through the streets of what looks to be South Korea. This new suit has transparent lenses, though it’s hard to tell if that’s an actual part of the design, or just an unfinished effect with the lenses simply allowing the performer to see where they’re running.
Just before the trailer’s final shot, we get a good look at M’Baku (Winston Duke), holding a staff in one hand and a captured warrior in the other. We get a good idea for his strength here (he is holding the soldier off the ground), as well as the costume design for the Jabari tribe, which cleverly hints at their religion without putting them in the racist gorilla costumes that appeared in the earlier comics.

To top it off, the trailer gives us a glimpse of a car chase sequence in which Black Panther seems to use a kinetic or electro-magnetic pulse to take out an SUV while using the momentum to launch himself onto the car ahead. In the current run of Black Panther comics, penned by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Black Panther is able to use the kinetic properties of the vibranium suit he wears to direct force back at his opponents, often showing up as a purple burst of energy like we see here.
Cats always land on their feet, and Black Panther is no exception. The lenses here are much more opaque than the previous shot of the new suit, leading me to believe that the previous look at the new mask is simply unfinished.

Final Thoughts

As a Black Panther fan, I’m simply blown away by this trailer. Each announcement for this film – from the cast, to the director, to the concept art – has only built my anticipation. The trailer highlights not only the mystery of Wakanda, but the large and complicated political landscape that our hero must now learn to navigate. The trailer shows us brief shots of nearly all the main cast with some notable exceptions. While we hear King T’Chaka’s voice, we don’t actually see actor John Kani, and perhaps more importantly we don’t see anything of his son, Atandwa Kani, who is playing a younger T’Chaka in the film. Also missing is Sterling K. Brown, who just won an Emmy for playing Christopher Darden in The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. Brown is playing a character named N’Jobu, who is not in the comics. I have some ideas as to what role that character might play, but I don’t want to speculate too much until we see more.

The trailer also does a great job of not showing too much. We get glimpses of a lot of things, but because the film uses narration, we don’t actually learn the context of the scenes or what order they go in. I mean, when you really think about it, we rarely see Black Panther in the suit.

But perhaps more importantly, the teaser hints at a larger scale conflict without the world being directly at stake. There’s no portal-in-the-sky here, just several factions warring over a nation. If Black Panther can deliver on the political complications and nuance hinted at in the trailer, it will be one of the best films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.


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