Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’ Trailer Offers Lots Of Flash, Little Substance

If great films were merely a collection of stunning images, then Marvel’s upcoming Black Panther would be 2017’s leader in the clubhouse. The first teaser for this film dropped in June, providing terse glimpses of what we could expect from the mysterious African nation of Wakanda its the dynamic, diverse cast in-costume — Black Panther certainly looked to be Marvel’s boldest and most distinctive film yet (and that’s saying something). However, many fans came away wondering about the film’s storyline, which the teaser kind-of-sort-of hinted was a variation on the legend of El Dorado — the lost city of gold.

For no particular reason Marvel chose to release their full, official Black Panther trailer today, titled “Hero, Legend, King.” Given the imminent release of Thor: Ragnarok, one might have expected this trailer to accompany this highly anticipated film; perhaps we’ll see the Avengers: Infinity War trailer with Thor instead, but I digress.

What we see and hear in this Black Panther trailer is truly amazing, and smartly builds upon the teaser. This is pure Marvel — all dizzying quasi-science and neo-futurism — cranked-up to eleven. Unfortunately, by the end of the trailer we’re no closer to realizing the film’s plot or understanding its core conflicts. It’s an oversight, sure, but there’s so much cool stuff happening that it’s easy to forgive the trailer’s lack of narrative.

Wakanda is a (fictional) isolationist nation that possesses great technological power and hordes tremendous wealth, inviting opportunists like uber-mercenary Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) to mount armed incursions in search of hidden treasure. There’s also a power-struggle subplot between Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). Pretty thin stuff, which begs the question: what is Marvel holding back, and why?

The trailer is jam-packed with chases, fights, and lots of things blowing up. Two other standout elements: the intricate, beautiful costumes and the film’s embrace of saturated color — many have commented on Thor: Ragnarok‘s bright palette, but Black Panther is no slouch in the bright lights and shiny objects category. There’s also an undeniable energy and tension expressed in the trailer; every character seems on-edge and harboring secrets — granted, this might just be a byproduct of the editing, but the undertone here suggests a more emotional film focused on family, honor, and tradition than anything else Marvel has done to-date.

A final note on tone (it’s a minor issue, but bothersome). The introduction and narration provided in both teaser and trailer is delivered by two of the film’s white actors (Andy Serkis and Martin Freeman). It’s an odd choice for a film that is unquestionably about black characters and black culture. The choice kept me, as a viewer, at arm’s length from the amazing visuals and characters, rather than immersing me within its world. If this was Marvel’s intent, then ‘Mission Accomplished,’ I guess, but it strikes me as a bit tone-deaf.

This movie looks amazing and the cast is spectacular — if the script can keep pace with its looks and performances, this should be something special. Also, judging by Black Panther’s release date, it appears the 2018 summer movie season officially begins in February (endless summer, indeed).

Black Panther War hits theaters on February 16, 2018.

Marvel Studios’ Black Panther follows T’Challa who, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king. But when a powerful old enemy reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king — and Black Panther — is tested when he is drawn into a formidable conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people and their way of life.

Black Panther stars Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, with Angela Bassett, with Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis.

The film is directed by Ryan Coogler and produced by Kevin Feige with Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Nate Moore, Jeffrey Chernov and Stan Lee serving as executive producers. Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole wrote the screenplay.