A few months ago, director Ryan Coogler and the cast of Black Panther came to Comic-Con International and showed a trailer for their new movie. Set to Kendrick Lamar’s “DNA,” it caused a reaction stronger than anything else to hit Hall H for that entire con, and probably a few cons prior. There was a standing ovation, with swaths of the crowd in tears—as well as the cast, which hadn’t yet seen the footage. (For a second, I thought Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o might crawl along her own panel’s table to tackle-hug Coogler.) It was exactly the reaction you want to see in a room full of fans who have waited years for a movie to be made. But Marvel never released that trailer.
Until today. It’s a slightly different cut, and set to Vince Staples’ “BagBak” mixed with some Gil-Scott Heron, but all of the energy that came through in that Comic-Con Black Panther trailer is here, and it’s a sight to behold.
It should be. Unlike previous Marvel movies, which have either been primarily set in New York or space, Black Panther takes place in Wakanda, the technologically advanced (and vibranium-rich) African nation glimpsed briefly in the mid-credits scene of Captain America: Civil War. T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is now king of Wakanda following the death of his father, T’Chaka (John Kani)—but there’s no time for orientation. Threats from inside Wakanda and out have little sympathy that he’s a newcomer both to the throne and the Avengers; it’s time for T’Challa to figure out, in the words of fighter Nakia (Nyong’o), “what kind of king [he is] going to be.”
Black Panther also features what could be the best cast ever pulled together for a Marvel film: In addition to Boseman and Nyong’o, there’s Danai Gurira (fellow fighter Okoye), Angela Bassett (T’Challa’s mother, Ramonda), Michael B. Jordan (T’Challa’s Wakandan rival Erik Killmonger), Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya (T’Challa’s second-in-command, W’Kabi), recent Emmy winner Sterling K. Brown (the mysterious N’Jobu), Forest Whitaker (warrior Zuri), and returning Marvel players Martin Freeman (Everett K. Ross) and Andy Serkis (Ulysses Klaue/Klaw).
It also looks marvelous. One of the many great things about Coogler’s Creed was the immaculately choreographed boxing matches, and he seems to have brought that thoughtful intricacy to every action sequence in his new movie. From Black Panther’s aerial, acrobatic car chase to his face-off with Killmonger near the end of the trailer, the footage has the rhythm of adrenaline and the grace of ballet. As much as down-and-out fights can be beautiful, these are. (One standout moment from the Comic-Con presentation that sadly didn’t make it into this trailer: Okoye disorienting an assailant during a fight by throwing her wig at him.)
Finally, there are the many wonderful gadgets of Wakanda itself: the aircraft flown by Okoye using only her hands in mid-air, those mini-tracker(bomb?)-like things T’Challa throws, Wakanda’s levitating trains. Then, of course, there’s T’Challa’s Black Panther suits, which we see his sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) present to him. (Also, did you catch the car she was driving? The one that appeared to have a steering wheel made of pure light?) And considering that in the Marvel comics Wakanda is a nation far more technologically advanced than anywhere else on Earth, that’s just the beginning.
Fans will find out what kind of king T’Challa wants to be when Black Panther hits theaters February 16 (aka Not Soon Enough).