The superhero origin story is not exactly played out — talk to Patty Jenkins and Wonder Woman about that. But a decade into a world full of expanded comic-book cinematic universes, it’s tough to introduce a new hero without hitting the same standard beats: moment of personal crisis, discovery of incredible powers, assumption of heroic mantle, third-act crisis of faith, climactic battle, and trampoline toward a sequel.
Black Panther, Ryan Coogler’s upcoming addition to the Marvel universe, knows this. We already met T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), the titular hero and king of fictional African nation Wakanda, back in Captain America: Civil War. We got the introduction out of the way. But we’re not done meeting new faces in new places. Because Black Panther isn’t the origin story of a single hero — it’s the origin story of an entire country.
Judging by the first trailer, released during Friday’s Game 4 of the NBA Finals, this will prove to be an extremely wise decision. Let me take a breath to compose myself before I say: Black Panther is off the goddamn rails, and I would trade a kidney to be transported to its February 16, 2018 release date.
We open with Martin Freeman (a good guy) and Andy Serkis (a bad guy, with one arm and some kickass Chelsea boots) chatting in some sort of detention facility. “Explorers have searched for it,” Serkis’s Ulysses Klaue (his nickname is “Klaw,” because comic books) says of Wakanda. “Called it ‘El Dorado.’ They’ve looked for it in South America. But it was in Africa the whole time.”
And then: Bang, a spaceship appears in front of a waterfall, Black Panther trashes some bad guys, and Run the Jewels’ “Legend Has It” crashes the party. Welcome to Wakanda, pals.
It was cute when Marvel digitally added Tony’s Stark Tower to Manhattan. But this? This is something else entirely. In the Black Panther cosmology, Wakanda is an isolationist African nation with technology that far outstrips the adorable red and gold metal Iron Man is made out of. And now we get to see a whole movie there. Also: That movie is directed by Ryan Coogler, who made Creed. Which starred Michael B. Jordan, who is here as villain Erik Killmonger (!):
Who has either been apprehended by or is in cahoots with Daniel Kaluuya’s W’Kabi. (Honestly, I’m not sure which scenario I’d prefer. But I think I’m rooting for the bad guys in this one.)
Here’s Academy Award–winner Lupita Nyong’o strutting through a casino:
Which means two things: One, Academy Award–winner Lupita Nyong’o is in the film, and two, there is a scene in a casino, which is a top-five type of movie scene.
To zoom out for a moment: It’s hard to express just how fun this trailer feels, and not just because Danai Gurira is messing dudes up with a staff. It’s more that it feels self-contained. Yes, Black Panther represents an important link in the Marvel Cinematic Universe chain. And perhaps we’ll learn in trailer no. 2 that Loki or Thor or Spider-Boy or whoever is behind everything we see here. In the Marvel universe, the guardians of the galaxy (and sometimes the actual Guardians of the Galaxy) always lurk just out of frame.
But for now, Black Panther exists in its own universe. It has its own grammar, its own style, and its own stars. Superhero movies aren’t supposed to feel this fresh in 2017. But Black Panther is taking us to Wakanda. I’ll charter the jet.