Part of the joy of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is just watching the continuous build and strengthening of the continuity. Even the most solo of the solo adventures tend to advance previously established elements of the franchise, and after 10 years it's amazing to see how much has changed as a result. Ryan Coogler's Black Panther is no exception to this -- and while you could go into the film really knowing nothing about the comic book movie world beyond it, there are also certain things that are good to know. It's in this department that we have your back today.
Having screened Black Panther a couple weeks ago, I've since taken a look back at the Marvel Cinematic Universe and identified all of the info any audience member would need to fully understand everything going on in the movie. I've broken it all down into sections that you'll find below and across the next few pages, so read on and learn everything you need to remember before the film hits theaters this Friday.
T'Challa a.k.a. Black Panther
Marvel Studios has traditionally introduced its biggest heroes through their own individual solo films, but the franchise took a different strategy with T'Challa a.k.a. Black Panther (played by Chadwick Boseman). Prior to the upcoming Ryan Coogler movie, the character made his big screen debut in Joe and Anthony Russo's Captain America: Civil War -- teaming with Iron Man to end The First Avenger's campaign against the Sokovia Accords. Much like what Spider-Man: Homecoming did for Spider-Man, Black Panther will be all about fleshing out the individual protagonist's home, but as-is audiences already know quite a bit about this legendary hero from his previous appearance.
T'Challa is first introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as not only the prince of Wakanda, a mysterious African nation best known for shutting itself off from the world, but also its greatest warrior and protector. Wearing a suit made woven with Vibranium thread -- the same indestructible metal that was used for Captain America's shield -- he is his nation's first line of defense in times of conflict. As his father's eldest child, he is also heir to the Wakandan throne which is something that very much comes into play during the character's first big screen arc and fuels his passionate quest for revenge...
As mentioned, T'Challa was only a prince when he was introduced in Captain America: Civil War, but unlike many fictional princes who must deal with tyrannical fathers, he had an amazing paternal figure in King T'Chaka (played by John Kani). And while it's true that we don't see much of him in the Russo brothers' film (he dies in his first scene), the quick sense delivered is that he's a responsible leader who, after decades in power, is ready to change his nation's relationship with the rest of the word.
Because he is dead at the start of Black Panther's story, T'Chaka's impact on the film is different than all of the other characters mentioned in this feature, but his influence is just as significant. T'Challa is a man who carries immense respect for his father, so naturally he is on his mind quite a bit as he is going through his coronation. It's also worth noting that the new king/hero describes the ultimate fate of his father in Captain America: Civil War -- running forever in the green veld -- which factors into the Ryan Coogler film.
It's funny to think about now, but the nation of Wakanda was once at the center of one of Marvel Studios' coolest early Easter Eggs. Towards the end of Iron Man 2, Tony Stark is with Nick Fury for a pre-Avengers Initiative dialogue, and one of the screens in the background features a digital map of the world with Wakanda pinpointed. Since then we've never really learned the full extent of the info that S.H.I.E.L.D. had on the African country, but dribs and drabs have provided Marvel fans with bits of background over the years.
Following the Easter Egg, the first time Wakanda was ever mentioned by name was in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, where its shown that the nation is so mysterious that knowledge of it has somehow managed to elude even the brilliant Bruce Banner. It was in that film that we first learned about the country's rich Vibranium resources (more on that on the next page), but it wasn't until Captain America: Civil War that we actually got a full-fledged taste of the place. The mid-credits sting in the Russo brothers' film offered audiences the first scene set in Wakanda, with Captain America and The Winter Soldier taking advantage of the amazingly advanced technology by putting the latter on ice for a while within the closed-off borders.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has familiarized audiences with villains who are questing for power or are just plain nutty -- and Ulysses Klaue, played by Andy Serkis, is one of the few who slots into both categories. First appearing in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, he is presented as a thief and arms dealer who sells Vibranium, but he is legitimately much more than that. The reason why he possesses the special metal is because he's one of the few people on the planet who knows what Wakanda really is and the secrets that it's hiding.
Ulysses Klaue first found himself introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe because of his past connection to Tony Stark. The man also known as Iron Man used to associate with Klaue back in his pre-superhero days, and Ultron learned this while trying to discover ways to upgrade himself. Along with his cohorts Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, the dangerous artificial intelligence made his way to Klaue's headquarters in South Africa to complete a deal for Vibranium -- and while the deal was completed, Klaue also lost an arm during the incident. As audiences will see in Black Panther, however, this hasn't stopped him from continuing to travel around the world causing chaos for personal gain.
To be blunt, Everett Ross was kind of a joke when introduced in the pages of Marvel Comics back in the late 1990s. A U.S. State Department employee assigned to tour around foreign dignitaries, he was set up as the classic "in way over his head" guy -- peeing his pants in the face of danger while Black Panther settled things in his classic cool, stoic fashion. As audiences saw in Captain America: Civil War, however, this is not the version of the character who has made his way to the big screen, with the Marvel Cinematic Universe offering something richer and more interesting for the Wakandan ally.
Rather than being the Chandler Bing-esque creation he was originally designed as, Everett Ross in the MCU is a man all about business in the MCU -- and with good cause. The reason he is introduced (played by Martin Freeman) is in response to the aforementioned terrorist attack against the U.N. and assassination of King T'Chaka. Admittedly he kind of fumbles the ball in his first on-screen mission, as he ultimately allows Helmut Zemo access to Winter Soldier to reactivate his Hydra brainwashing, but don't hold that against him. He's a competent agent operating for the C.I.A. in the big screen world, and proves an important friend to T'Challa in Black Panther's first solo adventure.
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Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.