Warning: This article contains SPOILERS for Black Panther.
Black Panther‘s opening scene, which explains the history and culture of Wakanda, was added after the film’s initial test screenings. For a long time, the biggest and most well-regarded fictional location in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was Thor’s Asgard. That all changed when Wakanda joined the fold in 2018’s Black Panther film, which was directed by Ryan Coogler and based on a script by Coogler and screenwriter Joe Robert Cole.
Wakanda is an isolationist nation in Africa that is unique not only for never being conquered by foreigners, especially Western countries, but also because of the advanced technology it possesses. What’s more, it’s a meritocracy in which its monarch typically acts as the country’s sworn protector – the Black Panther. All of that is explained throughout the film, as is Wakanda’s culture, but originally, audiences weren’t fully aware of Wakanda’s way of life, which is why the film’s opening sequence as added in.
In an interview with Empire, Black Panther executive producer Nate Moore explained revealed that Black Panther didn’t originally open with the animated sequence explaining Wakanda’s history. That scene was created after the film’s initial test screenings.
“It didn’t, actually. It was something that we found in testing the film. Audiences really liked the film but found there to be a barrier to understanding exactly what’s happening because they didn’t quite understand how Wakanda worked. So things, especially that I, as a comic book fan, took for granted and as a Marvel Studios fan sort of intrinsically understood how Wakanda worked, of why it was hidden, etc. So, they’d catch up to it by the third act, but the beginning always felt slow to them, because, ‘Oh, I’m trying to do this math of how Wakanda fits in the world.’ So, we wanted to figure out how to tell that story in a way that was entertaining and visual.”
Black Panther isn’t the first movie to employ an opening sequence that sets up the story and explains the nature of the film’s world. Of course, Moore says that they couldn’t just tell people about Wakanda (i.e. Star Wars‘ opening crawl), which is why they went for something that was more visual and entertaining, something clean and straightforward that can explain Wakanda’s fundamental way of life before they jumped right into the story in 1992 Oakland.
For those that don’t know, the man narrating Black Panther‘s opening sequence isn’t just anyone; it’s T’Chaka’s brother, N’Jobu (Sterling K. Brown). Just like Thor was talking to a skeleton at the beginning of Thor: Ragnarok (yet he was also talking to the audience), N’Jobu was telling his son, Erik (Michael B. Jordan), about the history of Wakanda, while also giving audiences a brief history lesson. That actually wasn’t the filmmakers’ first choice for the sequence, but Moore says that, ultimately, it will be quite “satisfying” for audiences, especially during repeat viewings.
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