Black Panther is a 2018 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, it is the 18th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film was directed by Ryan Coogler, who co-wrote the screenplay with Joe Robert Cole, and it stars Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa / Black Panther alongside Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Sterling K. Brown, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis. In Black Panther, T’Challa is crowned king of Wakanda following his father’s death, but he is challenged by Killmonger (Jordan), who plans to abandon the country’s isolationist policies and begin a global revolution.
Wesley Snipes planned to make a Black Panther film in 1992, but the project did not come to fruition. In September 2005, Marvel Studios listed a Black Panther film as one of ten films based on Marvel characters intended to be distributed by Paramount Pictures. Mark Bailey was hired to write a script in January 2011. Black Panther was officially announced in October 2014, and Boseman made his first appearance as the character in Captain America: Civil War (2016). Cole and Coogler had joined by then, with additional casting in May. Black Panther was the first Marvel Studios film with a Black director and a predominantly Black cast. Principal photography took place from January to April 2017 at EUE/Screen Gems Studios in the Atlanta metropolitan area, and in Busan, South Korea.
Black Panther premiered at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on January 29, 2018, and was released theatrically in the United States on February 16, as part of Phase Three of the MCU. Critics praised its direction, writing, acting (particularly that of Boseman, Jordan, and Wright), costume design, production values, and soundtrack, but some criticized the visual effects. Many critics considered the film to be one of the best in the MCU, and it was also noted for its cultural significance. Organizations such as the National Board of Review and the American Film Institute named Black Panther as one of the top ten films of 2018. It grossed over $1.3 billion worldwide and broke numerous box office records, becoming the highest-grossing film directed by a Black filmmaker, the ninth-highest-grossing film of all time, the third-highest-grossing film in the U.S. and Canada, and the second-highest-grossing film of 2018.
Black Panther was nominated for seven awards at the 91st Academy Awards, winning three, and received numerous other accolades. It was the first superhero film to receive a Best Picture nomination, and the first MCU film to win several categories. A sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, was released on November 11, 2022, while a television series set in Wakanda is in development for Disney+.
In June 1992, Wesley Snipes announced his intention to make a film about Black Panther, and began work on it by that August. Snipes felt that Africa had been portrayed poorly in Hollywood films previously, and that this film could highlight the majesty of the continent due to the title character being noble and “the antithesis of stereotypes”. The next July, Snipes planned to begin The Black Panther after starring in Demolition Man (1993), and a month later he expressed interest in making sequels to the film as well. In January 1994, Snipes entered talks with Columbia Pictures to portray Black Panther, and Black Panther co-creator Stan Lee joined the film by March; it entered early development by May. Snipes had discussions with several different screenwriters and directors about the project, including Mario Van Peebles and John Singleton. When the film had not progressed by January 1996, Lee explained that he had not been pleased with the scripts for the project. Snipes said that one of the issues with the project’s development was confusion among those unfamiliar with the comics, who thought the film was about the Black Panther Party.
In July 1997, Black Panther was listed as part of Marvel Comics’ film slate, and in March 1998, Marvel reportedly hired Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti, who at the time were editors of the Black Panther comics, to work on it; Quesada and Palmiotti have both denied this. That August, corporate problems at Marvel put the project on hold. A year later, Snipes was set to produce, and possibly star, in the film, while Artisan Entertainment announced a deal with Marvel in May 2000 to co-produce, finance, and distribute the film. In March 2002, Snipes planned to make the film or Blade 3 (2004) over the next year. In July 2004, Blade 3 director David S. Goyer stated that he felt Snipes starring as Black Panther in addition to Marvel’s Blade “might be overkill”.
In September 2005, Marvel chairman and CEO Avi Arad announced Black Panther as one of ten films being developed by the new Marvel Studios. Marvel Studios received financing to produce the slate of ten films to be distributed by Paramount Pictures. In June 2006, Snipes said he hoped to have a director for the project soon, and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige reiterated in February 2007 that Black Panther was in development. By that July, Singleton had been approached to direct the film. Two months earlier, Fantastic Four (2005) director Tim Story expressed his interest in casting Djimon Hounsou as Black Panther if he were to direct another Fantastic Four film after Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007), but a third Fantastic Four film helmed by Story went unproduced. In March 2009, Marvel hired writers to help come up with creative ways to launch its lesser-known properties, including Black Panther; Nate Moore, the head of the writers program, was overseeing the development of Black Panther specifically. Snipes’s involvement stalled at this time, as he was convicted of failing to file a tax return, serving his sentence from June 2010 to April 2013. In January 2011, Marvel Studios hired documentary filmmaker Mark Bailey to write a script for Black Panther, to be produced by Feige. By October 2013, the metal vibranium, which comes from Black Panther’s home nation Wakanda, was introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; Marvel had considered showing Wakanda itself as early as Iron Man 2 (2010), but were waiting until they had “a full idea” of how to depict it.
In October 2014, Feige announced that Black Panther would be released on November 3, 2017, with Chadwick Boseman cast as T’Challa / Black Panther. Boseman did not audition for the role, instead discussing what he wanted to do with the part with Marvel, and earned $2 million for appearing in the film. The actor was set to first portray the character in Captain America: Civil War (2016). Snipes gave his support for the project, despite no longer being involved. Feige said that Marvel was considering minority writers and directors for the film, but would prioritize “the best filmmakers, the best writers, the best directors possible. So I’m not going to say for sure that we’re going to hire from any one demographic”. He added that they had met with former Black Panther comics writer Reginald Hudlin. In January 2015, Boseman said that the film was going through a “brainstorming phase”, and the next month Marvel pushed back the release date to July 6, 2018. Also in February, Feige stated that casting for the film was underway, and added that he was set to meet with directors about the film following the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) at the end of April.
By May 2015, Marvel had discussions with Ava DuVernay to work on either Black Panther or Captain Marvel (2019) as director. In June, Feige confirmed that he had met with several directors, including DuVernay, and said that he expected a decision to be made by mid- to late 2015. By early July, DuVernay had passed on directing the film, explaining that she had been drawn to the cultural importance of depicting a Black hero to the whole world, but disagreed with Marvel on the story and did not want to compromise her vision. By October 2015, F. Gary Gray and Ryan Coogler had been considered as directors for the film, though negotiations with Coogler had cooled, and Gray had chosen to direct The Fate of the Furious (2017) instead. Joe Robert Cole, a member of the Marvel writers program, was in talks to write the screenplay, and Marvel changed the release date once again, moving it to February 16, 2018. By December, discussions with Coogler were reignited after the successful opening of his film Creed (2015).
- Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa / Black Panther:
The king of the African nation of Wakanda who gains superhuman strength by ingesting the heart-shaped herb. He ascends to the throne following the death of his father T’Chaka in Captain America: Civil War (2016). Boseman called T’Challa an anti-hero who is “very much aware” of his responsibility as the leader of Wakanda. Black Panther’s suit, which forms around his body, was inspired by a similar design by artist Brian Stelfreeze in Ta-Nehisi Coates’s comic book series Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet. For his Wakandan accent, Boseman worked with the same dialect coach he had for Message from the King (2016), and worked with Marrese Crump to stay in shape between Civil War and Black Panther. To prepare for the role, Boseman visited South Africa twice; examined Shaka Zulu, Patrice Lumumba, speeches from Nelson Mandela, and Fela Kuti songs; talked to a Yoruba Babalawo; trained in Dambe, Capoeira Angola, and Zulu stick fighting; and took a DNA test to better understand his African ancestry. He signed a five-film contract with Marvel, beginning with Civil War. Ashton Tyler plays a young T’Challa.
- Michael B. Jordan as N’Jadaka / Erik “Killmonger” Stevens:
A black ops mercenary and former U.S. Navy SEAL who seeks to overthrow his cousin T’Challa and enforce his own opinion on how Wakanda should be ruled. Jordan had wanted to play a villain for “a while”, and likened Killmonger and T’Challa’s relationship to the X-Men characters Magneto and Professor X. He added that Killmonger is strategic, thoughtful, patient, and “trained to a T”. Killmonger’s bumpy, ritualistic tribal markings on his chest and torso resemble the scar tattoos of the Mursi and Surma tribes, and consisted of 90 individually sculpted silicone molds that took two-and-a-half hours to apply. Jordan would have to sit in a sauna for two hours at the end of the day to remove the prosthetics. Killmonger’s dreadlocks hairstyle was a modern take on the character’s long hair in the comics. To prepare for the role, Jordan studied Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Huey P. Newton, Fred Hampton, and Tupac Shakur. He also cited Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight (2008) as an influence. Corey Calliet, who had previously worked with Jordan on Creed (2015), served as his trainer. Seth Carr plays a young Stevens.
- Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia:
T’Challa’s former lover and a War Dog, an undercover spy for Wakanda, from the River Tribe. Nyong’o called Nakia a “departure” from her comic counterpart. She begins the film fighting for enslaved women in Nigeria. Nyong’o trained in judo, jujitsu, silat, and Filipino martial arts.
- Danai Gurira as Okoye:
An “extremely proud” Wakandan traditionalist from the Border Tribe who is the head of the Dora Milaje, Wakanda’s all-female special forces and T’Challa’s bodyguards. Director Ryan Coogler cast Gurira based on her performance in Mother of George (2013), rather than her popular role of Michonne in the television series The Walking Dead, which Coogler had not seen. Gurira said that the fighting skills she learned playing Michonne complemented the skills of Okoye, but noted that the Dora Milaje are a secret service, which covers intel as well as fighting. She explained that though the character is stoic, “she also has an unexpected sense of humor. She has a heart, but for her country and for her people.” Gurira’s head was re-shaved every day to have her head tattoos applied, which took two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half hours.
- Martin Freeman as Everett K. Ross:
A member of the Central Intelligence Agency whom Freeman described as having an “uneasy peace” with T’Challa. He added that the character goes on an “enlightening journey to Wakanda” in the film. Freeman and the filmmakers sought to depict Ross as a capable agent rather than just comic relief as he is in the comics.
- Daniel Kaluuya as W’Kabi: A confidant to T’Challa and his best friend who is the head of security for the Border Tribe, serving as the first line of defense for Wakanda.
- Letitia Wright as Shuri:
T’Challa’s 16-year-old sister who designs new technology for the country. Wright described Shuri as innovative of spirit and mind, wanting to take Wakanda to “a new place”, and felt she was a good role model for young Black girls. Executive producer Nate Moore called Shuri the smartest person in the world, even more so than Tony Stark.
- Winston Duke as M’Baku:
A powerful, ruthless warrior who is the leader of Wakanda’s mountain tribe, the Jabari, who protest T’Challa being the new king. Duke described the Jabari as people who “strongly believe that to move forward, you have to have a strong adherence and respect for the past. So they have a deep moral conscience.” Character elements from Christopher Priest’s 1998–2003 Black Panther series were adapted for M’Baku’s portrayal in the film. M’Baku is not referred to in the film by his comics alter ego “Man-Ape”, since Marvel felt there were “a lot of racial implications that don’t sit well” in having a Black character dress up as an ape. This aspect of the character was instead reworked to have the Jabari tribe worship the gorilla gods, with M’Baku still wearing elements of fur on his arms and legs and a chest-plate that hints at the gorilla. Moore continued, “Man-Ape is a problematic character for a lot of reasons, but the idea behind Man-Ape we thought was really fascinating … It’s a line I think we’re walking, and hopefully walking successfully.” To further differentiate the Jabari, Duke spoke a version of the Nigerian Igbo language rather than the Xhosa language spoken by other Wakandans
- Sterling K. Brown as N’Jobu: T’Chaka’s brother and Killmonger’s father.
- Angela Bassett as Ramonda:
T’Challa and Shuri’s mother, the Queen Mother of Wakanda. Ramonda serves as an adviser to T’Challa for when he would otherwise have turned to his father. Bassett wore a silver, waist-length wig for the role that was made from 120 pieces of hair hand-rolled into dreadlocks. Calliet also served as Bassett’s trainer before and during filming, creating high-intensity interval training circuits and helping to craft her diet.
- Forest Whitaker as Zuri:
An elder statesman of Wakanda and the keeper of the heart-shaped herb. Coogler called Zuri a religious and spiritual figure, referencing the spirituality of Wakanda from the comics, and compared him to Obi-Wan Kenobi from the Star Wars series. Zuri is also a “major tie back” to T’Chaka for T’Challa. Denzel Whitaker, who is not related to Forest, plays a young Zuri.
- Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue:
A South African black-market arms dealer, smuggler and gangster who is allied with Killmonger. Klaue uses a segment of advanced Wakandan mining equipment as a sonic disruptor arm-cannon that serves to replace his left arm, which was lost in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015). Boseman described Klaue as a threat to Wakanda, one of the few outsiders to enter the country, and someone with access to vibranium. He compared the character to Osama bin Laden. Serkis added that in addition to his desire for vibranium, Klaue is motivated by a “personal” vendetta against T’Challa, and “to expose what he thinks is the hypocrisy of Wakanda”.
January 29, 2018
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