What is Wakanda?
Wakanda is a fictional African nation in the world of Marvel Comics. It is massively isolationist, rarely allowing outsiders in to witness the secret wonders it holds. From the first Black Panther trailer, it’s assumed that the Wakandans allow the world to think they’re a third-world country, but the reality could not be more different. Because of its stores of the mineral vibranium (the rarest and most valuable material in the world, also the material Captain America’s physics-defying shield is made of), it is the single richest and most technologically advanced country in the world — and they do not like sharing their stuff.
‘Black Panther is T’challa, the badass, panther-suited prince played by Chadwick Boseman’
What is the Black Panther?
The Black Panther is the title given to the ruler and protector of Wakanda. The title is hereditary, meaning that the son or daughter of any Black Panther is automatically the next Black Panther, but that son or daughter must prove themselves by surviving trials and consuming the ‘heart-shaped herb’ to fully assume the title. Anyone in Wakanda can challenge the Black Panther for the mantle, but defeating a Black Panther is incredibly difficult, as that heart-shaped herb gives them powers similar to those found in Captain America’s super-soldier serum.
Ok, but who is the Black Panther?
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the current Black Panther is T’challa, the badass, panther-suited prince played by Chadwick Boseman and last seen in Captain America: Civil War. In the events of that movie, T’challa’s father, King T’chaka, was killed in an explosion, making T’challa the new king. At the time of his father’s death, T’challa was already acting in the protector role of Black Panther, likely due to his father’s advanced age — in most comics, T’chaka was the Black Panther before T’challa donned the catsuit.
‘The Dora Milaje are an all-female, super-elite force’
Why are there so many badass women warriors in the trailers?
Those ferocious women are the Dora Milaje (DOOR-uh mill-AH-jay), the guardians of the Wakandan royal family. They are an all-female, super-elite force that are collected from all the different tribes of Wakanda and trained to protect and support the Black Panther as well as the other members of his family. Danai Gurira from The Walking Dead plays Okoye, the leader of the Dora Milaje in Black Panther, and from the looks of the trailer she and her squad are a force to be reckoned with.
It’s worth noting that in the comics, the Dora Milaje come from the different tribes because tradition dictates that the king will marry one of them, but the Black Panther filmmakers have said that they ignored the pre-betrothal aspect of the Dora Milaje because it seemed creepy. Good call!
What about Angela Bassett and the girl from Black Mirror?
First off, her name is Letitia Wright. Second, those are T’challa’s family members Ramonda and Shuri. Ramonda/Angela Bassett is T’challa’s stepmother, the Queen Mother of Wakanda and the widow of King T’chaka. She is not T’challa’s biological mom, but since his mother died when he was a baby, she’s the only mother he knows. She is, however, the birth mother of Letitia Wright/Shuri, T’challa’s half-sister and a genius whose ability to work with Wakandan technology probably makes Tony Stark’s Iron Man suits look like hobby kits. From the trailers, it seems like Shuri is a lot more than a lab nerd – those panther gauntlets she wears pack quite a punch.
‘Lupita is Nakia, a super-spy, basically.’
And Lupita Nyong’o?
Lupita is Nakia, a character who is one of the hatut zeraze (ha-TOO zehr-AH-zay), or ‘war dogs’ of Wakanda. The hatut zeraze are the black ops of the Wakandan military, functioning as spies or special agents. So, she’s a super-spy, basically.
Who is Michael B Jordan playing in the movie because he looks fine AF but also dresses different from everyone else?
Michael B Jordan is playing Erik Killmonger, and while there’s some info out there on his comics background, it’s probably best not to speculate too hard on his movie portrayal. In the comics, Killmonger is a Wakandan who was exiled after his family betrayed the crown. He grew up in Harlem, was an American special-ops solider, and returns to Wakanda to exact revenge on the royal family for ruining his life. How he got that badass suit from the trailers is anyone’s guess, but he has historically been a major thorn in comic-book T’challa’s side.
‘X-Men mutant Storm and T’challa were .. THE power couple of Marvel for a minute or two.’
Where have I seen Andy Serkis in the Marvel before? And is that Martin Freeman?
Oh, right. Andy Serkis made his MCU debut in Avengers: Age of Ultron, in that scene where Wanda/Scarlet Witch, Pietro/Quicksilver and Ultron were trying to steal vibranium to make Ultron a better robot body. Andy Serkis played Ulysses Klaue, a criminal who just … loves messing around with Wakandan minerals, I guess. Anyway, he got his arm chopped off in Ultron and now he’s back with a claw hand (get it, he’s Ulysses Klaue).
Martin Freeman is reprising his role from Captain America: Civil War, where he played Everett K. Ross the Deputy Task Force Commander of the Joint Counterterrorism Center. It’s a long title, all you have to remember is he was bad at his job and let the bad guy take Bucky Barnes out of his custody. He’ll be back in Black Panther, where he’ll share some scenes with Klaue, marking a reunion of Bilbo Baggins (Freeman) and Gollum (Serkis) from The Hobbit.
Why do I keep hearing about Storm?
That would be because in the comics, the X-Men mutant Storm and T’challa were briefly married. It depends on the run of comics you’re reading, but they were THE power couple of Marvel for a minute or two. Since Black Panther was made before Disney acquired the X-Men properties, there was never any chance of Storm showing up in the movie, but once the deal is finished there is a legal possibility of uniting the two African leaders on screen. Just a legal possibility. There’s no promise of it happening, but it would make quite a few fans very happy if it did.
Black panther will be released in South Africa on 16 February 2018