9:30am PT by Graeme McMillan
'Black Panther': All the Essentials in One Place
He was one of the emerging stars of Captain America: Civil War, but the first solo movie for Marvel's Black Panther — due in 2018 — will be a break from tradition for the studio in that it'll be the first Marvel movie in its existence not to have a white male lead. Chadwick Boseman, are you ready for the challenge awaiting you?
THE MAIN DETAILS
Black Panther is scheduled to hit theaters Feb. 16, 2018, the third release date the movie has had since it was announced in 2014. The movie will be directed by Creed and Fruitvale Station's Ryan Coogler, who's also reworking the screenplay by Joe Robert Cole. Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige has said that "a number of writers" are working on the movie, but none have been named beyond Coogler and Cole. Despite rumors to the contrary, Black Panther comic book writer Ta-Nehisi Coates is not one of those writers, although Coogler has admitted that he's influenced by the current comic book series. Production on the movie is scheduled to begin in early 2017.
WHO'S IN IT?
Having debuted as the character in Captain America: Civil War, Chadwick Boseman returns as T'Challa, the titular hero and ruler of the African nation of Wakanda. Appearing alongside him will be Michael B. Jordan as antagonist Erik Killmonger, Lupita Nyong'o as Nakia, Danai Gurira as Okoye — head of the Panther's body guards, the Dora Milaje — and Forest Whitaker, who will be playing an "elder statesman" of Wakanda. Angela Bassett is playing Ramonda, mother of T’Challa. Daniel Kaluuya and Winston Duke will also make appearances, while Florence Kasumba will reprise her memorable role as Ayo, the foreboding member of the Dora Milaje from Civil War. Unmentioned as yet is Andy Serkis, who played Ulysses Klaw in Avengers: Age of Ultron — the character is, in comic book mythology, often considered a Black Panther villain.
WHAT'S THE STORY?
Although Marvel has yet to release an official plot synopsis for Black Panther, Lupita Nyong'o spilled the beans about the basic plot at San Diego Comic-Con in July: "Black Panther's leadership [of Wakanda] is being threatened by two foes that come together, and so Black Panther gets the help of the CIA and the Dora Milaje to try to defeat the enemy," the castmember teased. The mention of two foes is interesting, as only one of the named characters announced for the movie is unmistakably a villain — Michael B. Jordan's Killmonger. Does this mean that Andy Serkis' Klaw will be showing up after all, or will Nyongo's Nakia, who turns against the Panther in the comic book mythology, follow suit in the movie?
Being a Marvel release, Black Panther won't just have to stand on its own two feet: Kevin Feige has said that the movie "links to the next Avengers films" in some way, although the nature of the connection remains unclear for now. (Could the meteor responsible for the creation of Vibranium, the supermetal only found in the Panther's nation of Wakanda, be one of the Infinity Stones that Thanos is searching for?) Feige also called Panther "a big geopolitical action adventure that focuses on the family and royal struggle of T'Challa in Wakanda and what it means to be a king." So they're not aiming for anything too ambitious, then.
WHAT'S AT STAKE?
Black Panther might be Marvel's most groundbreaking project yet — not only is it a movie with a black lead, it also has a majority nonwhite cast (indeed, none of the announced actors to date are white) and takes place in an entirely different country altogether. It's a chance to trail-blaze not just for Marvel but for the superhero-movie genre in general.