Black Panther is in cinemas now and if you've already seen it (that was quick!), you probably want to dissect, theorise, and talk about it a lot, right? Right. If you haven't seen it yet, click away now and get yourself to your nearest cinema because I'm going to be talking about some big story stuff. T’Challa’s first solo outing poses more questions than it answers and, while it's fairly self-contained in terms of the wider MCU, the film's events could have a lasting impact on everything after and including Avengers: Infinity War, so it's worth discussing. Keep reading for the six questions I have after watching Black Panther.
1. How will Wakanda's new global presence effect the wider MCU?
Much of the movie’s power struggle revolved around how Wakanda should move forward. Should it remain hidden behind a veil of secrecy, or should it present itself to the world with open arms? T’Challa (eventually) chooses the latter and, in one post-credits scene, even gives a speech at the United Nations. Politically, it’s going to be a fraught period for the African nation, technologically, it could change everything.
Wakanda has been shown to possess technology outstripping even that of Tony Stark, and now that this information is open to the world? It spells big trouble. Sure, medicinal and societal advances will be welcomed but – remember, we’re talking the MCU here – there’s bound to be a few ne’er-do-wells who will end up getting their hands on some Vibranium stocks. Ulysses Klaue, hardly the world’s greatest mastermind, nearly overcame Black Panther with it early on in the movie, so if it's put it within the reach of someone like Thanos or Doctor Doom...
2. Is T’Challa REALLY a good king?
“A good king cannot be a good man.” Those are the words that T’Challa’s departed father, T’Chaka, tells the new King of Wakanda when they meet under the purple-hued skies of the Wakandan ancestral plain. It is an argument that courses throughout the movie, and one that may have many a viewer siding with Killmonger’s world view for much of Black Panther’s runtime. T’Challa isolationist outlook helps no one and, even as that begins to melt away, we are confronted with someone who puts his own people before anybody else.
Does that make him a good king? In a sense, yes. But he is not a good man for most of Black Panther. He breaks his word upon failing to bring Klaue back to Wakanda, he learns that his father kills his uncle and yet murders his own cousin, and even tries to put Nakia’s yearning for life outside Wakanda to one side for his own gain.
Killmonger's death is the most crucial to answering that question though. Yes, it was in self-defence, but you can count on one hand the amount of MCU heroes who directly kill their human opponents. Black Panther not only kills a fellow Wakandan – a family member – when he makes it painfully clear earlier in the movie that he has the technology to apprehend rather than maim. He’s not quite the good man he’s made out to be but, of course, T’Challa knows that, that’s what makes him a good king.
3. Will Killmonger or Klaue return to the MCU?
Perhaps the biggest shock to come out of Black Panther is that neither Michael B. Jordan’s electric Erik Killmonger, nor Andy Serkis’s Ulysses Klaue made it out alive. This being a comic book movie, though, means no one is ever really dead (until Thanos blows a hole in your favourite character, of course). Wakandan technological beads already fixed Everett Ross’ spine after he was shot, and T’Challa himself survived a 100-foot drop and emerged from a coma. What’s a sword to the chest or a bullet to the face in the face of that?
While the franchise may move on to other villains – Malice would be my pick – it’s still a gut-punch to think that neither actor will return, especially as Jordan’s flame in Fantastic Four shone so brightly and was dimmed so quickly. If nothing else, I’d love a flashback of Klaue sorting through his mixtape.
4. Has Bucky been cured (and what's up with his new nickname)?
It sure seems that way. Black Panther’s post-credits scenes may not have had the sting of, say, a one-track minded Thanos or the formation of the Avengers, but it’s offered up some cryptic clues about what to expect in Infinity War - and especially a certain Sgt. Bucky Barnes.
Captain America: Civil War saw the Winter Soldier frozen again to fight off Zemo’s pesky trigger codes. He’s awake now so you’d imagine all is well. Except, pay attention to what he’s called by Shuri. To her, and the people of Wakanda, he is the White Wolf. If you know your comics, you’ll be aware that Bucky shares a nickname with T’Challa’s adoptive brother Hunter. He is a white man, taken in by Wakanda and cared for after a traumatic incident. Sound familiar? The White Wolf eventually becomes consumed with taking T’Challa down and, if that moniker has any meaning at all (it’s surely not a throwaway reference), then it may mean Bucky may not be back on the side of the heroes just yet.
5. Is Black Panther 2 happening?
Black Panther, in the words of Homer Simpson, wrapped everything up in a neat little package. Having said that, there are a few teases that offer up a taste of what’s to come. The movie ends with Okoye putting Wakanda over her lover W’Kabi and Nakia torn between T’Challa and continuing her life away from her home country. If T’Challa’s eyes go wandering towards Nakia and away from Wakanda, that may yet put Okoye and Nakia at odds with each other. That fight would be worth the price of admission alone.
The potential sequel – nothing has been confirmed as of writing – may be best served by focusing on the impact Wakanda has had on the world and, conversely, what external strife may find its way into Wakanda’s borders. Either way, T’Challa will have a considerable task ahead of him.
6. Seriously, where is the Soul Stone?
Anyone? Hello? Thor: Ragnarok was its likely resting place, surely? Nope. No Soul Stone. Black Panther came and went… no Soul Stone. Nary a glimpse. Surely, then, it must mean that the missing Soul Stone will be one of the key driving forces in Infinity War – though, in this case, what brings Thanos’ minions to Wakanda is anyone’s guess.
The Soul Stone could still be found in Wakanda’s mountains, especially as the country has hidden itself away from prying eyes for so long, but it’s disappointing that we didn’t get the answer in Black Panther if that’s the case. Black Panther was a film less concerned about the outside world, and including the Soul Stone would only have cheapened that. This is a movie that deserves to stand alone, not make up another piece of the Infinity War puzzle. We’ll find out where the Soul Stone is soon enough – let’s hope it’s worth the wait.