Black Panther director Ryan Coogler explains the heart-shaped herb from the teaser. The first trailer for Black Panther has dropped and it is bananas. The action shifts between America and the supposed third world African country of Wakanda, which is full of futuristic technologies that are kept hidden from the outside world. Also hidden – until it is too late to escape him – is their hero Black Panther, the alter ego of King T’Challa.
Many superhero movies are origin stories, the tale of how the heroes got their powers and became the saviors that they are. Black Panther – while it will certainly have to explain some of the history and abilities of the character – will be taking a different route. The character was already introduced in Captain America: Civil War as the Black Panther, so while he may need to experience some personal growth, he already is a hero. Though since the story follows the death of his father in Civil War, it is still the story of his becoming the King – and balancing out being the leader of Wakanda with being its hero. That said, while there have been attempts to make a movie about Black Panther before, this is the first live action film about the character, so much of his story is unfamiliar to audiences.
Black Panther director Ryan Coogler and Marvel Films President Kevin Feige spoke to EW recently about the film’s trailer, and explained some of the elements that audiences might not know about. One of those elements is the heart-shaped herb, which Feige introduced:
“People who read the comics would be familiar with the Heart-Shaped Herb and the ceremonies that surround that. 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.”
Vibranium is a vibration absorbing mineral in the comic books, best known for Captain America’s shield. In the books, it came to Wakanada as a meteorite. It’s possible that the vibranium mutated the herb, a plant that is native only to Wakanada. Indeed, as Coogler explained, it is from the herb that the Black Panther gets his power:
“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.”
Black Panther certainly held his own against several of The Avengers in Civil War, so the powers the herb gives him are clearly pretty impressive. But in spite of all it can do, according to Coogler it is only the person currently acting as Black Panther who takes it:
“The Heart-Shaped Herb is what Black Panthers over the generations would consume, once they earn the title, which gives them their physical edge.”
There is no indication that some or all of Black Panther will deal with an enemy also finding the herb and using it to become T’Challa’s equal, but based on a recently revised synopsis it certainly seems like a distinct possibility; the herb makes the hero far too strong for a mortal man to face off with, so his enemies will definitely need an edge before taking the hero on. And the Heart-Shaped Herb might just be the best way for them to make the fight a more evenly matched one.