Warning! Spoilers to follow for Black Panther. Come back later if you haven't seen it yet.
The interconnectedness of Marvel's shared cinematic universe is both a blessing and a curse, as it is able to both bring characters together for huge stories but also necessary to build up future films. Marvel's latest movie Black Panther is interesting in this regard, focusing mostly on its own story, even though it is the last Marvel chapter to come out before the massive Avengers: Infinity War. It turns out the choice to not have more ties to the larger MCU was a conscious one. CinemaBlend's own Eric Eisenberg sat down with Black Panther screenwriter, Joe Robert Cole, who explained this decision, saying:
I think we wanted Black Panther to kind of stand on its own, and occupy its own space. And I think Wakanda provided us with an opportunity, making Wakanda a character, provided us with an opportunity to actually live in a space that we world-build in a way where we could place this within the MCU, but it was not beholden to the MCU as other movies might have been. So I think we embrace that, and approach it that way.
Given the level of success Black Panther is currently enjoying, it is hard to argue with any of the decisions this film made. People are coming out in droves for Black Panther and not because of how it sets up Infinity War or packs in a bunch of heroes, but because of the singular story and characters contained within the film. Black Panther was not beholden to the wider MCU and didn't even really offer much in the way of tie-ins beyond Everett Ross (who is a Black Panther character in the comics) and Bucky Barnes in a post-credit scene. So people who don't usually come out for superhero films were able to enjoy Black Panther without any need to have seen the rest of Marvel's extensive canon, or even Civil War where T'Challa was first introduced.
Solo films in the MCU are trickier nowadays than they used to be. As the scale of the universe grows, so too does the interconnectedness. So when a solo hero faces a global threat the obvious question is raised of where are the other heroes. In Black Panther, there is an in-story explanation that makes sense as to why the Avengers didn't swoop in and prevent the loose nukes situation of Wakandan tech starting a war with the world: nobody knows about Wakanda. The secrecy of Wakanda's true nature allows the film to be insular from the wider MCU as well as weave its own tapestry for the African country. So this allows Black Panther to tell its own story, but still make logical sense within the MCU at large.
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As Joe Robert Cole explained to CinemaBlend, Wakanda is its own character and an incredibly important location in the MCU. It was important to fully flesh this out and Marvel was on board to spare no expense in doing so. Had this film spent time worrying about infinity stones or galactic threats, it may have detracted from the very compelling struggle for the heart and soul of Wakanda that took place. Not all solo films will have the luxury that Black Panther enjoyed, but Ryan Coogler's film is testament to the enduring power and resonance of standalone superhero stories. Black Panther is in theaters now. Check out our list of upcoming Marvel films to see where the MCU goes from here.