The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a complex timeline in which heroes go on their own adventures before coming together for films like Captain America: Civil War or Avengers: Age of Ultron. Trying to make sense of it all can get more confusing than ever these days with Infinity War looming on the horizon. But anyone going into Black Panther blind shouldn’t worry too much about the timeline of the MCU, because it won’t matter much to a film this self-contained.
T’Challa was first introduced in Captain America: Civil War, a film in which his father was killed, making him simultaneously the King of Wakanda and the nations mythical protector: The Black Panther.
Other than that, the film should stand on its own. (But it will help a bit to remember side characters like Everett K. Ross and Ulysses Klaue.)
Black Panther picks up right where Captain America: Civil War left off. T’Challa goes home to assume duties as king of Wakanda and as the superhero Black Panther. We’ll get introduced to a new corner of the Marvel universe that’s only been talked about in the past.
Odds are the entire nation will be mourning T’Chaka’s death when Black Panther begins.
Wakanda being kept mostly a secret in the MCU up until now means that most of what we’ll see will not only be new, but it’ll likely be self-contained to the movie — even if Wakanda’s borders open up to the world by the end.
The film’s villains Killmonger and Ulysses Klaue both want Wakanda and its Vibranium, but the rest of the world is still mostly unaware of the technologically-advanced, warrior nation that is Wakanda.
CIA operative Everett K. Ross says in the trailer that Wakanda is a third-world country known for its textiles and “cool outfits.”
But the bigger picture is so much more complicated. The film grapples with the nation’s internal politics and the villains who want to conquer it. Both of those things don’t have much to do with the rest of the Marvel universe … for now.
Apart from T’Challa and Ayo — both of whom we met in Captain America: Civil War but learned very little about — viewers don’t know any of these characters. There’s literally an entire nation of characters that viewers have yet to meet.
The Black Panther deserves a real introduction because he debuted as one part of the bigger story in Captain America: Civil War. Before Age of Ultron and Civil War, the most notable thing Wakanda did is provide Howard Stark with the metal he used to make Captain America’s shield.
It’s probably difficult to continue making one-off movies for characters like Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and Ant-Man while reconciling them with the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe.
But because Wakanda is so self-contained, it makes it easier for Black Panther to do the same. It’ll make it that much easier for Infinity War to bring tons of Wakanda-based characters into the fold for an epic war against Thanos.
While Black Panther is an important piece of the bigger Marvel puzzle, moviegoers can walk into the film and leave without having to worry too much about understanding where and when it fits into the broader MCU.
Black Panther hits theaters February 16, 2018.