Back in January, I made it known to the world that I'd been to Wakanda and got to take in Black Panther, which is without a doubt sitting amongst the best films Marvel Studios has released in the last decade. What I didn't tell the world was that this was a return visit. In April of 2017, I made my first trek to Wakanda (by way of Atlanta), and if I'm keeping it funky, it wasn't what I expected. Off top, they had Rae Sremmurd's "Black Beatles" playing. Loud. It was unlike any set visit I'd been to, primarily because it was so damn black.
For anyone keeping up with Black Panther news since December of 2015, when Ryan Coogler was officially confirmed to be directing the Marvel film, that shouldn't be a surprise. Coogler's previous feature films (Fruitvale Station and Creed) have dealt with black men searching for their identity and place in the world, but Black Panther is an entirely different animal, with a massive budget for Coogler to work with and increased stakes for Marvel to get this character right on screen. The film takes place in Wakanda, a fictional East African nation, that is rich in vibranium, a fictional metal in the Marvel Comics universe that has been around since 1966 and is not only what makes Captain America's signature shield so strong, but its woven into the fabric of the suit of the Black Panther, making him bulletproof. The role of the Black Panther is to be the protector of the nation of Wakanda, which is hidden from the rest of the world to keep its vibranium from falling into the wrong hands. The king of Wakanda, T'Challa, is also the Black Panther, as his father, T'Chaka, was before him.
While Marvel has visited Africa before (there was a vibranium-themed sub-plot in Avengers: Age of Ultron), Black Panther would be the first real glimpse fans would get inside of Wakanda. I'd been to movie sets before, and it's not like Spider-Man: Homecoming was lily white behind the scenes; it's that you could feel the black excellence emitting from Ryan Coogler's set. From the thumping 808s emitting from the hidden sound system on the set during breaks in shooting to the extras dressed in gorgeous African garb chowing down on lunch on the sidelines, taking in a scene set in the lab of T'Challa's sister, Shuri, deep in the heart of Wakanda.
On one side of the set, there were mannequins set up, dressed in a few pristine Black Panther suits. That lead to a spiral walkway that housed the day's scene, featuring Chadwick Boseman as King T'Challa the Black Panther, his sister Shuri (played by Letitia Wright), Lupita Nyong'o's Nakia, and Okoye, who played by Danai Gurira (of Walking Dead fame). The scene would also feature Daniel Kaluuya, who was in the early buzzing of his recent performance in Get Out, and involved Wright having to deliver some good news to T'Challa before Kaluuya's character, W'Kabi, got real with T'Challa for what he perceived to be an oversight. Upon seeing the film, the scene ended up being one smaller piece of a larger puzzle, but it was awesome to see Coogler at work. Head (and face) full of hair, it felt like we were watching the Jay Z of Film Directing turning the visions in his mind into what's slowly becoming the beginning of the next chapter in the Marvel Studios saga.
With a regular work day allotted to a group of journalists on set to pick up as much as we can from what shaped not only one of the best films from Marvel Studios, ever, but one of its most important, there was no time to waste in regards to soaking up knowledge.