Black Panther Gets a Suit Upgrade After Civil War
Black Panther's Vibranium outfit was already pretty impressive (the ability to repel bullets comes in handy), but as fans will have seen from the trailers, it's getting a bit of an upgrade in T'Challa's solo movie. As Nate Moore teased:
"We always love the idea of giving the audience something new. You’ll see the Civil War costume and you’ll see 2.0 of that. That again will be a part of Shuri’s contribution. She’s seen what the costume can do. She’s seen the limitations of the costume and she may have some ideas of how to upgrade that costume to give him a little bit more juice."
We found out one of the Black Panther suit's new powers in a recent TV spot: the ability to absorb and build up kinetic energy from the bullets that hit the suit, and then unleash them all in a massive pulse of energy. Shuri isn't the head of the Wakanda Design Group for nothing!
You've Never Seen Fighting Like This Before
Nate Moore told us that, in order to emphasize how isolated Wakanda has been from the rest of the world, the nation also needed to have a fighting style that was entirely unique:
"The way Panther fights, the way the Dora fight, is unlike anything you’ve ever seen because their culture is so different. It’s not just stand up, bare knuckle punching. It’s a new fighting style that again borrows from a lot of different fighting styles from around the world. We wanted it to feel like -- they’ve been off the grid doing their own thing so whatever they do should feel distinct. It shouldn't feel like what you or I can see in any other movie. They have weapons that are weapons we haven’t seen before. They have vehicles we haven’t seen before. Imagine a whole world that is going to open up to audiences."
It appears that Wakanda's unique fighting style will be created through a hybrid of other martial arts. Nyong'o told us that "Nakia’s fighting style is being informed by judo and ju-jitsu and silat."
Marvel Learned Its Lesson With The Ancient One
As mentioned before, Marvel has been making an effort to update their old comic book properties for a modern audience, do away with tired stereotypes and diversify the lineup of characters - but not all of those efforts have worked out. A notable recent example was the casting of Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One in Doctor Strange - a character who was originally an elderly Asian man in the comics. Marvel was attempting to avoid the "Magical Asian" trope, but ended up facing criticism for whitewashing the character. This, Moore explained, was an important lesson for the studio.
"We’ve always tried to find room for faces that look like everybody and not just homogeneous casting. Panther obviously is a big swing that we hope to continue through many sequels and take some of these characters and put them in other franchises because I do think there’s a way to cross-pollinate in an interesting way. But it’s also finding new heroes and new stories that allow us to do that organically. Looking at casting as a way to find the best actor regardless of race or gender frankly. Sometimes we step in it a little bit. I think the Ancient One in Doctor Strange was a bit of a lesson for us. In trying to avoid a stereotype we created an issue that we completely understood in hindsight."
One of the challenges when it come to adapting the Black Panther source material was updating Winston Duke's character, M'Baku, who was better known as Man-Ape in the comics. "The character of M’Baku has always been problematic," Moore said plainly. "Man-Ape is an image that I personally find offensive." The version of the character in the movie (who is never referred to as Man-Ape) is based on his characterization Christopher Priest's run of comics. Said Moore: "This guy who is the head of the religious minority in Wakanda, that’s fascinating. That’s something that’s real... defining the world of Wakanda and how M’Baku and the Jabari fit in that world was important in making that character work at all."
Marvel is Hoping For Many Sequels and 'Cross-Pollination'
Black Panther is one of the most definitively standalone movies that Marvel has made in years - but the future of Wakanda's protector (and his allies) is likely to spill over into the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We've already seen this in action, as T'Challa and the forces of Wakanda were featured prominently in the first trailer for Avengers: Infinity War, and Moore described Black Panther as "a big swing that we hope to continue through many sequels," and also said that Marvel can "take some of these characters and put them in other franchises" and "cross-pollinate in an interesting way."
With that said, Black Panther is not concerned with setting up future storylines or sequels within other franchises. Moore firmly said that "we try not to... make [standalone franchises] set things up specifically," though he added a caveat that "sometimes it’s a happy accident that they do." For example, Captain America: Civil War was never a movie that was intended to set up a Black Panther story, but "it was a storyline that sort of dovetailed really nicely into it." With that in mind, "there are storylines in this movie that could potentially spin off to do other great things."
Spiritualism is a Major Part of the Movie
Technological and scientific advancement is often thought of as being at odds with spiritualism and religion - but that's not the case in Wakanda. One of the most important elements of the comic book mythology is the Heart-Shaped Herb - a plant mutated by Vibranium, which is applied to a person's body once they have overcome the trials necessary to become the Black Panther, and grants them Super-Soldier levels of strength, agility, speed, endurance, healing and senses. Naturally, this is "a big part of the movie," according to Moore, who added:
"[Wakanda is] not only the most technically-advanced civilization in the world, but it has a very strong ancestral history that was never eliminated in a way it has been in other places because they were never conquered. So imagine a place that still has standing monuments that are centuries old, next to the most modern skyscrapers in the world. In the same way, they haven’t lost a lot of their cultural touchstones that other places have. They still worship, potentially the same gods they did when they first started. They still have rituals that are centuries old because they never had that sort of cultural imperialism that you’ve seen across the world. So it’s a place that really sits between being technologically advanced but also having a high value on their traditions."
Another important element from the comics that is included in the movie is Necropolis - the City of the Dead, where Black Panther can go into dream states and visit with his ancestors. T'Challa is, of course, only the latest in a long line of Black Panthers who have protected Wakanda over the centuries, and in order to face the challenges ahead, he may need to draw on the wisdom of these since-passed spirits. Based on what we've seen in the trailers, and what we saw in concept art on the set visit, this could be the most visually interesting part of the movie - much like Doctor Strange's initial mind-bending astral projection.
- Black Panther (2018) release date: Feb 16, 2018