It may have taken longer than some fans would have liked, but Marvel has finally made their plans for introducing a minority hero clear: Black Panther is coming in 2017, and the African hero will be making history for the genre in the process. However, it’s likely that the non-comic book crowd (who has helped make films like The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy record-setting blockbusters) may have never even heard of Black Panther – let alone thought of what to expect from a big screen adaptation.
In the past, we’ve offered brief summaries of the reasons why DC heroes like Aquaman, Shazam, or The Flash all deserve shots at big screen success. With Marvel now looking to launch standalone franchises off their lesser-known heroes (in the eyes of the mainstream, at least), we thought it time to consider the 5 Reasons why Black Panther could be a great Marvel superhero movie.
5. The World
Even casual audiences now realize that there are only so many ways that an origin story can be told. And with far too many superhero movies on their way for any sane person to hope to keep up with, there’s no question that they’re starting to overlap in terms of fiction or setting. Cosmic movies may head into space, but the more ‘grounded’ characters tend to find themselves in the same generic ‘city’ backdrop – a primarily American one, to boot.
Although Black Panther (in costume) will first appear in Captain America: Civil War (played by Chadwick Boseman), his home is far from North America – set in the long-hidden nation of Wakanda, Africa (the exact location is unclear). In the comics, Wakanda’s technology and brilliance puts any Western metropolis to shame.
In Wakanda, the cutting-edge construction, technology or architecture aren’t symptoms of globalization or western influence, but rather the riches attained from its own people (and the sizeable vibranium deposit the country sits on). If audiences have grown even more weary of the concrete jungles of Marvel’s American leads by the time Black Panther rolls around, then a chance to visit a real jungle, set within a society steeped in African tribal mythology and oral tradition would be seized without hesitation.
Since Wakanda is far more of a fictionalized society than the actual American locations of its core heroes, the writers have a bit of creative freedom. Perhaps a chance to tailor a society’s history and values so it offers a scathing reflection or stark contrast to those from which the Avengers themselves draw?
4. The Story
It’s immediately clear to newcomers that T’Challa’s origin story will differ heavily from any other existing hero in Marvel’s stable – actually beginning 10,000 years in the past, when the tribes of Wakanda were united under a single chieftain. From there began the royal line of chieftain/kings – known by the title of ‘Black Panther’ – passing the position to their oldest son only once they had educated themselves on Wakandan magic, tradition, academics and ‘the ways of the warrior.’
With leadership comes great responsibility – but also perks. For starters, our hero will have a connection to the Black Panthers that came before, and a hereditary immunity to a unique herb granting him superhuman strengths and senses. That was the future that awaited T’Challa as his own father T’Chaka sat upon the Wakandan throne, encouraging his son to excel at all aspects of life (to better earn the mantle).
Some royal children might wind up spoiled or entitled, but T’Challa took his father’s guidance to heart, earning numerous degrees and achieving both academic and athletic excellence while studying abroad – including a stay within the United States.
Proving that some heroes simply have greatness thrust upon them, the death of his father put T’Challa on path to proving himself worthy of the rank of Black Panther, ingesting the herbs required to connect him to the Panther God, Bast. With the weight of his father’s death on his mind – and a drive to bring the murderers responsible to justice – T’Challa put his wisdom to use, building Wakanda into a veritable technological superpower.
Running a country while acting as its top soldier and smartest thinker puts the workload of Captain America or Tony Stark to shame; but as one of the smartest, deadliest, and wisest people in Marvel’s universe, T’Challa has managed the task with excellence. And as enjoyable as it may be to see underdogs rise to an occasion in superhero films, seeing a character born into greatness manage to exceed even the highest expectations is compelling on an entirely different level.
3. The Characters
With Thor’s home realm of Asgard drawing on the beliefs of Viking culture, the tribal culture that shaped a far greater chunk of early human life has been largely unexplored. Black Panther would (if adapted faithfully) tie directly into that history, bringing allies and enemies from an entirely different walk of life. And it begins with someone genuinely unique to Marvel’s current roster: a loving, honorable father possessing a healthy, steady relationship with his son. So T’Chaka’s presence would be a change of pace, even if his role is a brief one.
But the Black Panther supporting cast is filled with several memorable figures, including T’Challa’s right-hand-man W’Kabi, who possesses a bionic arm and supreme fighting skills. There is also Shuri, his sister (who will one day go on to claim the mantle of Black Panther herself), and his adopted older brother, White Wolf, whose zealotry in protecting Wakanda leads him to be exiled from the country.
The villains are just as memorable. Although Ulysses Klaw (king T’Chaka’s murderer and a foe of The Panther) may be rumored to appear in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Black Panther’s most iconic nemesis would have to be Erik Killmonger. A native of Wakanda with a quest for vengeance of his own, Killmonger’s desire to remove the influences of white colonialist thinking from the nation is a particularly charged theme (even if Marvel is unlikely to truly explore it).
But the real star of any Black Panther movie would be the Dora Milaje (“The Adored Ones”), a group of the country’s elite warriors charged with protecting the King as his personal bodyguard. The best part? They’re all women, selected to represent Wakanda’s best and brightest, and from whose ranks T’Challa is expected to find his Queen. (The comics had him eventually marrying Ororo Munroe (aka X-Men’s Storm); though we’d rule that out for a feature film version.)
2. The Change in Perspective
If nothing else, the recent confirmation that Marvel would be using Captain America 3 to kick off their own Civil War shows the studio is comfortable with seeing some of their heroes in a questionable light (they can’t all have the moral high ground). The parallels between Black Panther and DC’s Batman are clear enough, so it’s no surprise that T’Challa has shown his own tendencies to test the heroes and heroines around him to determine their true character.
If Civil War really is going to start raising some difficult questions (is a presumed threat more important than the rights of the people?), then the view from a true outsider could prove more than valuable. Not only that, but the origin story of T’Challa is relatable in ways that his fellow heroes never could be; the tale of a child sent abroad for education or experience, the returning home to lead the next generation of family, is a common one the world over.
But it’s T’Challa’s rank that holds the most promise, as the brilliant, deadly, and truly wise leader of a country that downright adores him (for the most part). In other words: Black Panther will have plenty of opinions and insights into the behavior of The Avengers, but also the status and clout to make them known. True, that may also be a direction taken with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in the future, but T’Challa is an example of royal excellence right here on Earth.
In truth, it’s Black Panther’s character, not his parentage, that has made him one of the most respected Marvel heroes in the eyes of its greatest leaders. A truer servant of the people (his people) than any other existing Marvel hero, Black Panther’s enemies have ranged from African mystics to violent denizens of Hell’s Kitchen. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is always in need of a new figurehead, and with Black Panther they could find one that is above the flaws and scars of his colleagues.
1. Crossover Potential
Although it may be thrilling to take a trip into space for some laughs and airborne battles, Captain America: The Winter Soldier showed that Marvel is still interested in upping their dramatic game in the real world of politics, national security, and espionage. If the studio is looking to push forward in that direction as well as their cosmic villains, then there’s no better time for Black Panther; a franchise able to offer insight into just about every other property.
For starters, it was Captain America that Black Panther sided with in Marvel’s comic book “Civil War,” making Cap’s stance legitimate to many around the world. But if Marvel is looking to make the connections deeper, it was during World War II (in the comics) that Steve Rogers first met King T’Chaka, granting him access to the vibranium making up his signature shield. Whether the films choose to make that link canon or not, the potential is there.
Furthermore, whether personal or not, Wakanda’s importance to the outside Marvel world is what the writers choose to make of it. An advanced technological country willing to aid Earth’s Mightiest Heroes against any foe could prove useful – and with Asgard clearly out of the picture on that front, T’Challa’s home could fill the void.
Beyond simple plot points or overlaps in history, though, the introduction of Black Panther could help audiences warm to the idea of the genuinely mystic and supernatural – not simply the superhuman. At present, that’s a realm expected to be first explored by Doctor Strange in 2016.
It may lighten the good doctor’s load to introduce just one more example of the kinds of ancient wisdom and powers that have been forgotten by most of the world – particularly the deity from which black Panther draws his strength and senses. It would be a shame if those abilities were disconnected from their comic source in the films; if magic is the real culprit, then it would stand to reason that the movie version of both T’Challa and Strange (like their comic ounterparts) could also find common ground for a united adventure down the road.
Those are just 5 reasons why we think Black Panther could – and likely will – be a film that breaks plenty of new ground for Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. This is just our view of why the property, despite being lesser-known to broad audiences, could succeed. Do you agree with our points, or is there a part of the equation you think is being overlooked, or underestimated? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Below you’ll find more key stories from Marvel’s recent event – CLICK any LINK for more info on that topic.
- Black Panther Coming in 2017, Starring Chadwick Boseman
- Captain Marvel & Inhumans Movie in 2018
- Captain America 3 Titled Civil War, RDJ Confirmed
- Avengers: Infinity War Announced For 2018-19 in Two Parts
- Marvel Has No Plans For a Black Widow or Hulk Movie
Black Panther will be in theaters on November 3, 2017.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce for updates on Black Panther as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.