The thrilling first trailer for Marvel’s epic-looking Black Panther starts out kind of small. Minor Age of Ultron villain Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) is being interrogated by CIA operative Everett Ross (Martin Freeman). Klaue, who claims to be the only person who has seen Blank Panther’s home country, Wakanda, and lived to tell about it, explains that nobody knows what’s really going on inside the reclusive nation’s borders. All those “third world” textiles are just a front, and Wakanda is actually the most advanced country on the planet.
It’s pretty cool (and true, as the rest of the trailer goes to show), but how is it even possible that nobody knows what Wakanda really is?
For those unfamiliar with Wakanda, it’s a small fictional country in East Africa that managed to keep itself isolated, uncolonized, unconquered, and generally unbothered with the outside world. Wakanda is a fairly small country tucked away amid mountains and other natural barriers, so it’s not like too many people were going to run into them without trying.
But, even if you were looking for the real Wakanda you’d have trouble finding it, because the people of Wakanda are hiding for a reason. They’re sitting on the only vibranium mines in the world. This, in addition to a lack of colonization by outside forces, has allowed the small African country to secretly become the most advanced nation in the world.
Prior to Age of Ultron, as far as the Western World knew, the only vibranium in the world had been forged into Captain America’s shield. “It’s stronger than steel and a third of the weight. It’s completely vibration absorbent,” Howard Stark tells Cap in The First Avenger. “That’s the rarest metal on Earth. What you’re holding there, that’s all we’ve got.”
So, to recap, Wakanda is so advanced and special because it has been able to exist in isolation on top of a supply of one of the most important materials in the planet, one that the rest of the world doesn’t have access to. This is also why Wakanda has technology that nobody else can even dream of.
Things are starting to change for Wakanda in the MCU, though. Ulysses Klaue was able to learn the truth, as he smuggled out the vibranium that Ultron later made a body out of. During Captain America: Civil War, the world is still under the impression that Wakanda isn’t anything special, though they make an effort to engage with the rest of the world more than they usually do. When King T’Chaka speaks at the signing of the Sokovia Accords, he admits that vibranium does come from Wakanda, but he’s still keeping the advanced nature of the country a secret.
“When stolen Wakandan vibranium was used to make a terrible weapon, we in Wakanda were forced to question our legacy. Those men and women killed in Nigeria, were part of a goodwill mission from a country too long in the shadows,” T’Chaka announces. “We will not, however, let misfortune drive us back. We will fight to improve the world we wish to join.”
Still, it’s somewhat odd that Klaue has to school Everett Ross on Wakanda’s true nature. Ross saw that T’Challa is the Black Panther, and he saw how advanced the technology in the suit is. Surely, he realized there must be something more to Wakanda than just third world textiles and a mine full of rare metal?
Wakanda seems like it’s at a bit of a crossroads in the MCU. Maybe the truth will finally come out in Black Panther. Between Klaue and some agitators within the nation’s borders, Wakanda might not be able to stay in the shadows for much longer.
Black Panther hits theaters on February 16, 2018.