Wakanda Is The Conflicted Hero
Fitting in with this theme, it's not really T'Challa who goes through a character arc in the movie - it's actually Wakanda. As beautiful and idyllic as Wakanda may be, the truth is that it has ignored the rest of the world's needs for millennia. Wakanda was established 10,000 years ago; it has watched from the shadows as empires rose and fell, as the Dark Ages came and went, and - in the MCU - as alien forces attacked a major American city. Then, finally, a major event humbles Wakanda. Killmonger arrives on the scene, claims the throne for himself, and begins to subvert and destroy Wakandan traditions. Wakanda is forced to reconsider its place in the world, and T'Challa dedicates his nation to a new interventionist philosophy.
It's actually the same character journey followed by Iron Man, Thor, or even Ant-Man. It's just, this time, it's enacted on a national level rather than on a personal level. The scale of the movie is absolutely staggering, with director Ryan Coogler telling a very personal narrative that literally transforms an entire country's philosophy.
What Black Panther Means For The MCU Going Forward?
When Tony Stark revealed his secret identity to the world, he started the age of heroes. Now T'Challa has decided to bring his nation out of the shadows, and into the light. There's simply no way the world can remain unchanged as a result.
In the real world, global power is centered around the North American and European continents, with China and Russia ascendant. In the MCU, however, Africa has just became the power player. As Wakanda emerges on to the global stage, the delicate balance of power will be disrupted. Wakanda, not the United States, will become the world leader. In narrative terms, the trailer for Avengers: Infinity War teases that this simply has to happen. The film is partly set in New York, but also partly in Wakanda. When Marvel released trailers for The Avengers in 2012, they stressed that the action would be set in what was recognizably New York. As for Infinity War? The trailer's "money shot" is of the Avengers charging into battle alongside the Wakandan army.
The science and technology of Wakanda has to have a transformative effect on the MCU, too. Again, the trailer for Infinity War has teased as much; Tony Stark's new armor clearly uses nanotechnology inspired by Wakandan science. But unlike most superheroes, Wakanda is determined to share their technology with the world's poor and needy. The MCU as a whole is about to become a far more fantastical place, one with advanced science beyond anything we see in the real world. No longer can the MCU be set in "the world outside your window."
It's surely no coincidence that Marvel released Black Panther in 2018. Fans have viewed Infinity War as the MCU's 10-year-anniversary celebration; but Black Panther is part of that too. Ten years into their shared cinematic universe, Marvel has released a film that will transform it utterly. That means Phase 4 will be set in "the world that could be outside your window."
- Black Panther (2018) release date: Feb 16, 2018
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019