Some mild ‘Age of Ultron’ spoilers coming up (nothing major, we promise)…
Writer-director Joss Whedon made a point of emphasising recently that there “aren’t a ton of Easter eggs” in his new blockbuster sequel ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron,’ insisting his primary concern was to give the audience “a complete experience... [to bring] you on a journey and close it out.”
Absolutely the correct attitude - and I’m sure most cinemagoers who’ve already ventured out to see the film (and there have been quite a few of them) will agree that Whedon more than succeeded in his goal. However, this is not to say that ‘Age of Ultron’ isn’t still loaded with little nods toward what’s yet to come from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
One such nod is to the character of Black Panther, set to make his debut in next year’s ‘Captain America: Civil War’ before headlining his own movie in 2018, with actor Chadwick Boseman in the role.
There’s a nice moment about midway through ‘Age of Ultron’ when - in a somewhat rare occurrence - Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark and Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers are on the exact same page, understanding something the other Avengers don’t.
Mark Ruffallo’s Bruce Banner has tracked Ultron to an obscure (and fictional) African nation called Wakanda (after at first mispronouncing it as ‘Wakanada’), which to Stark and Rogers means one thing: the extremely rare, ultra-powerful (and, again, ultra-fictional) metal called vibranium.
Rogers knows of vibranium because it’s what his shield is made of; Stark knows of it because his father built said shield. And Wakanda is the only place in the world that it is found.
This leads the team to cross paths with the villainous Ullysses Klaue AKA Klaw, played by Andy Serkis, who has some of the highly coveted metal at his disposal, making him of interest to Ultron - and inevitable havoc ensues.
Okay, so thus far no mention of this Black Panther fellow - perhaps because Whedon insists he did not intend for this sequence to serve as a ‘Black Panther’ prologue, stating he was unaware at the time that Marvel intended to bring the character into the MCU.
The link is Wakanda. As well as sitting on top of the world’s only vibranium mine, the sovereign nation is under the protection of the Black Panther, a mighty warrior of mythic, even supernatural proportions.
However, in truth the Black Panther is not just one man: it is a title passed down through generations, held by the rulers of Wakanda. The Black Panther we are set to meet, as played by Chadwick Boseman, is the Prince T’Challa, son of T’Chaka.
The Black Panther does not have superpowers as such, but is trained to the peak of human ability, to the extent that he can hold his own in terms of speed, strength and agility even against Captain America.
In the comic books, T’Challa inherits the throne of Wakanda - and by extension, the mantle of the Black Panther - when his father is murdered by Klaw, who wants control of the vibranium for his research. Klaw goes on to use vibranium to craft deadly sound-based weaponry.
And of course, one of Klaw’s most notable features - as his name might suggest, he has a metallic claw, often used as a weapon, in place of his missing hand. We can’t fail to note that we see Klaw lose said hand after running afoul of Ultron. (In fact, this moment’s a bit of a double whammy, for as well as setting up Klaw’s future it’s also one of those nods to Star Wars which it’s recently been revealed are recurring in Marvel’s phase two movies.)
Black Panther's introduction in 1965 was a big deal, as he was the first non-white Marvel superhero. However, given that the aforementioned origin story was first told in the pages of ‘The Fantastic Four’ - characters to whom Marvel Studios does not own the film rights - there will inevitably be some changes made to the tale. Still. broadly speaking we would anticipate much of this core story to make its way to the screen in the ‘Black Panther’ movie.
Wakanda, as eagle-eyed viewers have long since spotted, was first referenced in the MCU via a literal blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Easter Egg in ‘Iron Man 2,’ when the nation came up on a computer screen map.
Now it’s been officially inducted into the MCU, and the way has been paved for a whole new chapter to begin in ‘Black Panther.’
Serkis is expected to return alongside Boseman, and a script has reportedly been written by Mark Bailey, but no director for the 2018 movie has yet been named.
Picture Credit: Marvel