How Black Panther Sets Up the Future of the MCU
Here's how the new Marvel movie sets up what's to come in the MCU!
The Impact of Black Panther
Marvel's newest movie is making waves at the box office and with critics. It's that rare film that speaks on multiple levels and has fun while delivering an important and timely message to audiences across the globe. It's breaking down barriers for underrepresented cultures and breaking records with it's unexpectedly high gross this past weekend. However, this film also sets up a lot of potential for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. At eighteen films in, the shared movie world has expanded in many ways, and with this summer's Avengers: Infinity War it seems the MCU is due for some major changes. Here are a few things that this movie might be setting us up for. Warning! Spoilers ahead.
West Coast Avengers
At the end of the new film, King T'Challa opens a series of outreach centers in Oakland, California, the one-time home of Erik Killmonger, to bridge the gap between Wakanda and the rest of the world to share technology, resources, and information. Since Marvel's Phase 4 is looking very much like a changing of the guard, could it be that one of these will ultimately serve as a base of operations for the West Coast Avengers. Since Ant-Man and The Wasp are already based in San Francisco this would make sense. It's unlikely that Robert Downey Jr. will be sticking around after Avengers 4, so the team is going to need someone new to bankroll them and Black Panther definitely fits the bill. A West Coast setting would also be a refreshing change of pace, shifting the focus off of New York. I think Black Panther should lead this group of superheroes with Ant-Man, Wasp, War Machine, Bucky, and Scarlet Witch joining him.
The events of Black Panther take place only one week after the events of Captain America: Civil War and that film's villain Helmut Zemo is briefly mentioned both in a news report and by Agent Everett Ross when he reveals that the bad guy remains in custody. The fact Zemo is very much alive is a sign that the door is open to him coming back in a future installment of this franchise which makes perfect sense given the history between these two characters. After all, Black Panther stopped Zemo from killing himself and while he seemed guilty about T'Chaka being caught up in his nefarious plot, that guilt could very easily turn into rage! There are a lot of antagonists the follow-up could use but Zemo would be a great fit, especially if that brings him closer in line with his comic book counterpart. For now, though, we'll have to wait and see since there is another villain the film sets us up for quite well.
Enemy Turned Ally?
At the start of the movie, it's made clear that M'Baku isn't a fan of Wakanda or T'Challa. However, when Black Panther proves that he's ready and willing to treat the leader of the mountain-dwelling tribe as an equal in a way his father never did, we soon learn that he serves as an ally to the hero moving forward. That explains why we've seen him fighting alongside the hero in the Avengers: Infinity War trailer. However, this also opens the door to some very interesting possibilities moving into future Black Panther movies because M'Baku could become a villain in the form of his comic book alter ego Man-Ape! We'll have to wait and see but this guy could become a key player in the MCU from here on out.
The Final Black Panther?
The first thing that Erik Killmonger does when he's named the new King of Wakanda is destroy all of the African nation's heart-shaped herbs. This plant gives the Black Panther his superhuman abilities and is protected and passed on from generation to generation. T'Challa's love interest Nakia manages to retrieve one which is later used to heal Black Panther and give him back his superpowers. However, since Killmonger burns down the place where the herbs grow there's no way they'll ever return and that means T'Challa is now Wakanda's final Black Panther. It also means that if he's critically injured, there will be no way back for him, something which makes the hero a whole lot more mortal now.
The Next Black Panther or The New Iron Man?
Shuri is the technological genius of Wakanda and is Black Panther's sister making her next in line for the throne. In the comics, she dons the Black Panther suit and takes over as leader of the nation for her brother once he dies, but in the movies there are no more heart-shaped herbs for her to take in order to gain superpowers. However, with her high IQ, she could easily use technology to achieve those types of powers. Another option altogether is to take Shuri and make her another protege of Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man (like Spider-Man) since he's going to be taking on a different role in the MCU in Phase 4. That's right, she could return as a new version of the comic book character Riri Williams who becomes the new Iron Man named Iron Heart! Either way, Shuri is sure to become one of the MCU's most valuable members moving forward.
The Soul Stone
Going into Black Panther, most of us assumed that we'd finally get to see the final Infinity Stone, The Soul Stone, as that's what we assumed might make Wakanda such a special place. Instead, this movie confirmed that it's actually a Vibranium meteor that has transformed the African nation and there's no mention of the Infinity Stone. It is, of course, possible that the Soul Stone was in the Vibranium space rock which struck the Earth thousands of years ago all along, but we'll have to wait and see for sure when Thanos attacks in Avengers: Infinity War. If the Soul Stone isn't somehow connected to Wakanda and those magical heart-shaped herbs, then we have to assume that fan theories about Heimdall holding that power may be correct after all. There's no way of saying for sure, but Black Panther goes at least some way in setting the stage for this final Stone.
Agent Everett Ross in Captain Marvel
We didn't learn a whole lot about CIA Agent Everett Ross in Captain America: Civil War, but Black Panther reveals that he was once an excellent Air Force pilot. Martin Freeman has previously confirmed that he'll return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe after this movie and that all points to Captain Marvel being a perfect fit. Considering the fact that is going to be set in the 1990s, we'd probably meet a much younger version of Ross who works alongside Carol Danvers, another Air Force pilot who is granted alien superpowers and becomes the space-faring hero Captain Marvel. However, Freeman's character could also be featured in the movie's present-day scenes as the female hero returns to Earth and attempts to reconnect with her past. We'll have to wait and see, but that seems like a far more likely possibility than the already extremely crowded Avengers: Infinity War.
Bucky's New Identity
In Black Panther's final post-credits scene, Shuri meets up with a now fully-cured Bucky Barnes who is free of his mental Hydra programming. The children looking at the American man refer to him as "White Wolf" who's a lesser-known comic book character and Black Panther's long-lost older brother. While unrelated to The Winter Soldier, White Wolf could be the new identity Bucky adopts rather than becoming the next Captain America! Instead, Cap's mantle could be passed on to Sam Wilson a.k.a. Falcon just like in the newer comics and Bucky could put his more covert skills to use as Wakanda's deadliest enforcer White Wolf. Either way, the stage is now set for Bucky to player a big part in Avengers: Infinity War when he reunites with Steve Rogers and Earth's Mightiest Heroes to do battle with Thanos' forces in Wakanda.
T'Challa is shown addressing the United Nations in the mid-credits scene and makes it clear that Wakanda is ready to share its many resources with the world. Some fans might think this scene is dull in the grand scheme of Marvel stingers but that's very short-sighted. By stepping into the spotlight and becoming a hero and leader known to the entire world, Black Panther is making a shocking move. Wakandan technology getting out there could change the entire landscape of this shared universe and see it take on a more advanced form which feels a little less grounded and a lot more comic book-y. This event, much like Tony Stark's revelation as Iron Man ten years ago, is a major game changer.