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An overly detailed breakdown of the official ‘Black Panther’ trailer

Marvel Studios released their official Black Panther trailer yesterday and AiPT!’s got the most detailed (over)analysis around.

Previously, I took a look at the Black Panther teaser and tried to discern what I could from the footage shown. And now I’m going to dive into the “Official Trailer” released by Marvel. I suspect that this will be the last trailer for the film – Disney has three major releases before February: November’s Thor: Ragnarok  and Coco (the former of which will undoubtedly be showing this trailer as one of the previews), as well as December’s Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (which is likely where we’ll get the first trailer to Avengers: Infinity War).

Why do I bring this up? Well, as presumably the last “real” trailer for the film, I feel somewhat inclined to dive in as much as I can, and that means SPOILER territory. I’m going to take some big swings at the film’s plot, character motivations, tech and point out some details that I think provide both major and minor spoilers to the film. I’ll do my best to save the big stuff for the end, but for now, I present this scenic picture of Spoiler Mountains:

The new trailer opens up in a way that calls back to the original teaser, a seeming meta-nod to the way “previews” are consumed. Whereas that opened with Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) telling Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) how much he didn’t know about Wakanda, this new trailer opens with Ross admitting to T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) that – in spite of what has happened in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – he’s never seen anything quite like Wakanda. It’s a moment that really sets the stage for the rest of the trailer.

During this opening, we get a look at the imposing throne room of M’Baku (Winston Duke). Only glimpsed in a single shot in the initial teaser, M’Baku still remains a bit of a mystery here, though the Jabari tribe shows up a little more. This room is made all the more wondrous by the carved objects hanging. I can’t quite tell whether or not these are branches or elephant tusks, but they all resemble staffs, which makes me wonder if these are the staffs of all the previous rulers of the Jabari tribe.

We also get a good look at this mysterious locale, which I think may be a Vibranium mining facility. The blue glow under the panther statue resembles what we see of the Vibranium mines later in the trailer, and we later see a conflict between Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) and the Dora Milaje outside this same building.

Some minor details before we head into the main portion of the trailer: if you look in the background of the shot with Ross, you can see Klaue laughing it up, presumably knowing that he put Ross on the path to get under T’Challa’s skin. Also, I can’t quite tell, but from the position of T’Challa’s shoulders, I think he might be in handcuffs.

As the trailer truly gets started, we once again mirror the teaser, entering Wakanda along with T’Challa’s Royal Talon fighter. This time, though, we get to see the hologram that hides Wakanda from the rest of the world. Wakanda looks gorgeous, and this time we get to see a fairly large body of water that may serve as the country’s main reservoir. Of note, when the ship flies through the hologram, pieces of the hologram appear to fade away or disintegrate, a visual design choice that appears elsewhere in the trailer.

We then see that Okoye (Danai Guirira) is flying the ship using some sort of non-contact based interface. More interesting to me from a story standpoint is the next shot though of T’Challa and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) getting ready to exit the ship. They’re very clearly holding hands, but it seems that whatever love or affection they have for one another is not public, at least not at this point in the film.

Here we get another look at Wakanda, but this time, rather than of the royal palace, we get a view of the bustling city streets, with a hovering monorail to boot.

Ramonda (Angela Bassett) welcomes her son home. Once again, I’m leaning towards the film simply making Ramonda T’Challa’s biological mother and cutting N’Yami from the mythos. Also, can we just give costume designer Ruth E. Carter all the awards right now?

I’m pretty sure this is T’Challa in the Panther mask fighting against a representative from the White Gorilla tribe with Zuri circling around in the background. To truly ascend to the throne, the Black Panther must take on all challenges, and that may be what we’re seeing here. This location is Warrior Falls, where we saw T’Challa and Killmonger dueling in the teaser.

It’s possible, though I think unlikely, that this is T’Chaka (T’Challa’s father) in the mask. We know that Atandwa Kani will be playing the younger version of the character his father, John Kani, played in Captain America: Civil War. However, I have a feeling those bits are being saved for the film itself.

Here we see the same structure above the Panther statue but from the other side. A deep cavern seems to lead credence to the idea that this is the entrance to the Vibranium mines. Approaching the mines is a bird-like aircraft that seems to based on the comic book designs by Brian Stelfreeze.

Then we have just a few more examples of why Ruth E. Carter deserves all the awards:

This shot of Shuri (Letitia Wright) is particularly interesting, and not just for dap reasons. Behind her appears to be a statue of a molecular structure (perhaps of Vibranium?). This is a subtle hint at the genius-level intellect Shuri will have in the film.

And here we see Shuri provide T’Challa with the best present a sister could ever give a brother: a stylish new suit. T’Challa seems taken aback by the gift.  I really love the dynamic between T’Challa and Shuri in these fleeting moments and I hope there’s a lot more of that sibling synergy in the film.

Then begins the first real action of the trailer, as T’Challa descends from a ship (presumably his own Royal Talon Fighter) onto the band of mercenaries below. Production designer Hannah Beachler and her team deserve all the awards as well. Floors of planes should not look this glorious.

Mister Terrific should sue T’Challa for taking his T-Spheres. T’Challa’s shown various tech at this time, but these orbs that flatten into discs may be new. They seem to be magnetically attaching themselves to the vehicles above, though I think a later shot in the trailer gives away their true usage.

While press interviews with the cast and crew have hinted at the spiritual nature of Black Panther’s powerset, this is the first time viewers have gotten to see it. There are multiple panthers in the tree that T’Challa approaches, and it will be interesting to see if they are representative of the Panther God, the previous Black Panthers, or some combination of the two. Either way, this looks to be a scene that truly differentiates Black Panther from other tech-based heroes.

In the comics, Black Panther can meet with the previous Panthers through the spirit world thanks to his connection to the Panther Goddess, Bast.

Shuri sees Wonder Woman’s invisible jet and raises her one light-car. 

Then we see Panther change suits faster than Superman. This has been an ability of Panther since Priest, Mark Texeira, and Joe Quesada overhauled the character in the late 90s, but visually there’s also a heavy Stelfreeze influence.

Black Panther’s many suit changes. Left from Black Panther vol. 3 #1 by Mark Texeira and Brian Haberlin. Right from Black Panther vol. 6 #1 by Brian Stelfreeze and Laura Martin.

What’s perhaps most notable, though, is the way that T’Challa’s dress suit seems to break away and dissolve, not unlike the way the hologram shielding Wakanda dissolved. Are his dress clothes just a disguise for his costume?

We are then introduced to the predator in Panther’s basement, Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger. There’s no accent in Jordan’s voice here, as it appears the MCU Killmonger will experience some form of the exile his comic book counterpart did. We get some indication as to Killmonger’s goals, “I’m gonna burn it all!” I have a sneaking suspicion that the MCU Killmonger is going to share some traits with another Black Panther villain, but more on that in a bit.

A big portion of the action footage centers around a dogfight between the Royal Talon fighters and the birdlike ship, presumably leading to the wreckage that T’Challa walks through towards the end before the trailer finally reveals its hand:

Erik Killmonger also has his own suit (note that his street clothes disappear/disintegrate as well). I’ve seen this suit referred to online as the Gold Jaguar, and I’m not quite sure where that’s coming from, as it’s not an alias Killmonger has ever taken on in the comics and I can’t find any official (or leaked) material that actually shows that moniker. While jaguars aren’t from the African continent, I could see the U.S.-raised Killmonger “corrupting” the mantle and making it his own.

In the comics, Killmonger has worn a Panther suit as well, but that was when he had bested T’Challa for the mantle and had taken the title of Black Panther for himself. His suit in the film bears a strong resemblance to the suit T’Challa used in the Priest run, perhaps serving as a nod to the fans who were hoping that T’Challa would move on from the silver accented suit. It could also be a reference to Preyy, a pet leopard that Killmonger keeps in the comics.

Sometimes it’s the quieter shots in a trailer that reveal the most, such as the above when T’Challa is expressing his concern that the trouble in Wakanda would affect the rest of the world. If you look around him, you’ll recognize that decor as that of M’Baku’s throne in the Jabari region. In the original teaser, we saw Ramonda, Ross, Shuri, and Nakia in the presence of the Jabari tribe and it’s looking more and more like M’Baku may be a third party that both T’Challa and Killmonger will try to appeal to in their battle.

Speaking of battle, we have an extended fight sequence between T’Challa and Killmonger in what appears to be the vibranium mines. I have to imagine that this is the final fight and will take place after the fight outside of the mines, which probably takes place after the aerial dogfight seen in the trailer. The staging of the battle also reminds me of a fight T’Challa has had with another Black Panther villain, but I’ll touch on that at the end.

This shot is gorgeous. Rachel Morrison’s cinematography is fantastic throughout the trailer, and I have a feeling that some of the lengthy tracking shots that Ryan Coogler likes to employ are being masked by the trailer’s length. I just love the purple in this so much. The way the lights from the bridge reflect on the car. The car that has no driver. No one is driving this car!

Watch this shot in the trailer and notice that that glowing purple in the center of the hood isn’t a reflection of the lights – it’s a device attached to the car. No one is driving this car because it’s being commandeered by the Black Panther. I have a sneaking suspicion that this purple hood ornament is a version of whatever those discs were that he tossed while jumping out of that plane, and that he may use these to crash their vehicles, leading to the jungle conflict seen in both this trailer and the original teaser.

Even more cool tech is shown when Nakia blocks this strike by Killmonger with her disc which has an energy shield emerge in the hole as he strikes. I spy with my little eye, Shuri with her Panther gauntlets.

KLAW!!!!!!!! Andy Serkis reveals his gun. I’m just a tad disappointed that it splits his hand as opposed to it taking the place of his middle finger, but I’m the guy who thinks the Wolverine middle claw jokes are hilarious every time. I can’t have everything…

Final Thoughts and Multiple Villains

Once again, I’m a bit blown away that Marvel and Disney have allowed the creation of something that’s so Afro-futurist. Wakanda continues to blow away every expectation I have, and I’m somewhat convinced that Ryan Coogler went into my dreams and stole my concepts for the greatest car chase ever (and I’m perfectly okay with it). I still would have liked to have seen something of young T’Chaka and Sterling K. Brown’s N’Jobu, but I think I know why we’re not seeing them.

In the comics, Erik Killmonger’s parents and village are forced by Klaw to work with him to invade Wakanda to steal vibranium. For this, they are exiled and Erik grows up in the U.S., resenting the royal family. Killmonger’s parents have never been named in the comics, but his real name is N’Jadaka, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Sterling K. Brown’s N’Jobu is his father. While in the comics, Klaw’s invasion led to T’Chaka’s death, that obviously won’t be the case for the film, but I could see N’Jobu perhaps being responsible for the death of T’Challa’s birthmother N’Yami (who died during childbirth in the comics) and that being the reason for his exile.

In the trailer, Killmonger clearly is motivated by something in his past (“I’ve waited my entire life for this!”) and from looking at the footage in the teaser and the trailer we can tell that he’s going to make multiple attempts to overthrow T’Challa. I personally hope they keep Killmonger’s capitalist heart and that he’s trying to exact his revenge by exploiting Wakanda financially. It’s an angle that makes him a bit unique as opposed to yet another supervillain that’s out to destroy everything the hero loves. Making Killmonger more defined here will also leave room for sequels to explore other villains. Due to the fact that Black Panther is king, most of his villains are attempting a coup, but it’s their goals and reasoning that make them compelling. Killmonger wants to assert Wakanda as a capitalist empire, Achebe is a madman with few real plans, M’Baku wants to return Wakanda to its tribal roots,  Tetu is a despot who believes himself to be a revolutionary.

When Killmonger proclaims “the world’s going to start over!” he actually reminds me of another villain in the Black Panther mythos, one that is unlikely to appear in the films: Hunter, the White Wolf.

A big player in Priest’s run, Hunter is T’Challa’s adopted elder (and white) brother who grows to lead the Hatut Zeraze – the Wakandan Secret Police. When T’Challa assumes the throne, he disbands the order due to their cruel acts, but Hunter never quite abandons his younger brother and tries to manipulate events to get T’Challa to use Wakanda’s military might. In a nice twist on the “jealous brother vies for the throne” trope, Hunter wants to serve T’Challa – so long as T’Challa rules the way Hunter sees fit.

From Black Panther vol. 3 #12

It’s a fascinating dynamic, but not one that I’d bet on a two hour film properly developing (especially in trying to sell the idea that T’Challa has an elder Caucasian brother). But in Killmonger’s tone and action, I see the potential for Hunter’s more militaristic style to be implemented, and perhaps some element of the brotherhood. While Killmonger never fought Black Panther as the “Gold Jaguar,” Hunter did fight him in the White Wolf suit that was, for all intents and purposes, another Black Panther suit. I can’t guarantee that’s what’s going on in the film, but considering how much influence Priest’s run seems to be having on the rest of the film, I wouldn’t think it impossible.


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