Wakanda may be an extremely technologically advanced nation with a penchant for secrecy, but last night Marvel Studios peeled back the curtain on the Ryan Coogler-directed Black Panther, showing off the first footage from the film at an open house event for assembled press in Burbank, CA. In addition to a three-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, Marvel Studios co-president showed off dailies from the Black Panther set, a series of work-in-progress scenes that gave us our best look yet at T’Challa’s solo film.
In the wake of Civil War, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) now finds himself with an identity crisis to reconcile. Before the events of the 2016 film, T’Challa’s father T’Chaka ruled over Wakanda as king, while the heir to the throne protected his home in disguise as the Black Panther. However, now that his father has died, T’Challa must not only be a superhero, but his country’s head of state as well. As seen in the new behind-the-scenes reel, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige asserted that “going forward, Black Panther will be a big part of the cinematic universe.
Codenamed “Motherland,” Black Panther is currently in production, filming at Atlanta’s Pinewood Studios and other locations around the globe to bring the weird, wild world of Wakanda to life. The footage, which, as mentioned earlier, was unfinished, showed off a variety of brief scenes from Black Panther, including a few action scenes and a few quieter moments of Wakandan life.
One of the first scenes we saw depicted Lupita Nyong’o doing what she told me she was most excited to do when I spoke with her at the Toronto International Film Festival: kicking some butt. Nyong’o plays Nakia, a fierce warrior and member of the Dora Milaje, Black Panther’s elite retinue of female bodyguards. Clad in a drab olive cloak, Nakia sneaks up on unsuspecting soldiers wielding assault rifles and beats them to a pulp quickly and quietly while their compatriots shoot at the darkness. The best part was actually an unscripted accident: when Nyong’o executed a combat roll to hide behind a jeep, part of her cloak got stuck on the car and she had to extricate it like nothing happened. She acquitted herself nicely and it made for a very useable take that may well wind up in the final film.
The film’s elaborate costumes were on display in a series of scenes depicting members of the Dora Milaje and other Wakandan officials trekking to Warrior Falls, the ceremonial site where the King of Wakanda is coronated. Performing traditional Wakandan dances on a boat–which is, in truth, the facade of a boat on a studio backlot surrounded by blue screens–the assembled actors were decked out in brightly colored robes, ceremonial armor, and vibrant tunics that look like they’re straight off the page.
While we saw T’Challa looking resplendent in a black-and-gold ensemble that looks like a classier version of the infamous Kanye West Tekken story mode tweet, his best look in the trailer was in his ceremonial garb as he approached Warrior Falls for his coronation as King of Wakanda. Bare-chested, T’Challa had panther-like markings on his pectoral muscles, shoulders, and back as he slowly approached a woman wearing pristine white robes. The woman was flanked by tiers of other Wakandan officials and VIPs imperiously staring down at T’Challa as he performed a brief ritual and bowed before the woman.
The footage presentation ended with a particularly tense scene set in a casino. T’Challa and members of the Dora Milaje are spying on the villainous Ulysses Klaw (Andy Serkis) and his goons, who are meeting with Everett Ross, the Deputy Task Force Commander for the Joint Counter Terrorist Center. (You may remember him, as played by Martin Freeman, from Captain America: Civil War.)
“You’ve brought quite the entourage,” Ross remarks to Klaw. “You got a mixtape coming out?” Clearly these remarks don’t wind up going over super well with the smuggler because the next scene is a full-on firefight in the casino with T’Challa taking cover behind an overturned table. Something tells me that this is going to wind up being a bonkers set piece that sets some of the film’s major conflicts into motion. After all, where there’s Klaw, there’s shady dealings pertaining to vibranium afoot!
Black Panther opens on February 16, 2018. Find out what else we learned at the Marvel Open House!