Ten agonising months after his grand entrance into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther is finally returning to the big screen in a film of his own this Tuesday. Here’s everything you need to know about the African king ahead of the film’s release.
Black Panther, or T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), left his isolated nation, Wakanda, after 11 of its citizens were murdered on a goodwill mission to Lagos, Nigeria, during the battle between the Avengers and Civil War’s main villain, Crossbones. First appearing on screen as the prince of Wakanda, T’Challa only took the throne after his father, the king, was killed in a bomb attack.
Having switched alliances from Iron Man to Captain America once already in Civil War, it’s clear the king is no puppet hero, but has his own agenda. We don’t yet know whether he has superpowers, but we do know that he can run super fast, so at the very least is at the peak of human capabilities.
The impenetrable metal that gives Captain America’s shield its strength has been a key resource for the Wakandans for generations.
Black Panther’s suit, laced with vibranium in Civil War, has been given an even cooler upgrade for the new film – after all, Wakanda is the most technologically advanced nation on the planet, so the suit needs to show it.
“One thing that people might not know is that Black Panther’s suit is not a superhero suit,” said director Ryan Coogler. “It’s a military uniform that he wears and something that has a history.”
Although there are some crossovers between Captain America and Black Panther, Coogler noted certain distinct contrasts between the two superheroes. He described Captain America as a soldier who makes clear distinctions between “black and white”. Black Panther, on the other hand, “exists in the grey area” – a soldier, but also a monarch who’s “constantly making choices in the fog of politics and in the fog of war”. Boseman, meanwhile, described his character as a world leader who “comes [with] the responsibility for an entire nation and [for] considering its place in the world”.
Almost all the actors in Black Panther did their own stunts, rehearsing for three months before filming began to prepare for the fight scenes. To add the musical quality found in many African-based martial arts to their movements, the cast and stunt team practised with African drums.
While most of the cast started from scratch, Boseman already had a background in martial arts – it isn’t hard to tell from his fight sequence in Civil War. So for him, it was a case of making the choreography seem authentic. “Sometimes it felt like we [were] training for a real fight,” the actor recalled. “So that was fun”.
The fierce, all-female Dora Milaje, whose job is to ensure the personal safety of the Wakanda royal family, is made up of a diverse group of women. They were deliberately cast from a pool of actors, dancers and stunt women so that each Dora could showcase a particular skill.
“We all had to shave our heads,” said Danai Gurira, who plays Okoye, the Dora general, “so, of course, instantly it’s a sisterhood. It’s been really cool to find a beautiful grace in the Dora and also a ferocity.”
Xhosa, an official language of South Africa, was chosen as the language of Wakanda early on when John Kani, who played T’Challa’s father, used his native accent in Civil War. Boseman then picked up the accent from Kani. But Xhosa isn’t the only language used in Wakanda; there’s also Korean, Afrikaans – another language spoken in southern Africa –, and a dialect influenced by Nigeria’s Igbo, which is used by Wakanda’s Jabari tribe.
Winston Duke, who plays tribe leader M’Baku, said that referencing Igbo helped to show the beauty of the Jabari’s seperate culture. “The rhythm of that language influenced the rhythm of my character,” he said.
Michael B. Jordan, who plays villain Erik Killmonger, spent about two and a half hours in the special effects makeup chair every day while close to 90 individually sculpted silicone moulds were applied to his upper body to give the character his scars. Each of Killmonger’s scars represents a “notch” of his kills over the years, explained Jordan.
“The scarification is a reminder for him of what he’s going through and what is keeping him on mission, and that he’s doing the killings for a reason,” he said. It’s not senseless. He kills for a reason and he believes what he’s doing is right. The sacrificial marks on his body are a constant self-reminder to be focused and to continue the mission straight through.”