BURBANK, CA — One of Marvel Studios’ most anticipated new films is the long-awaited “Blank Panther.” The film is currently in production, but during a press visit to Marvel Studios on Monday afternoon, concept art and footage was shown.
Director Ryan Coogler (“Creed“), Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and many members of the cast, including star Chadwick Boseman, were part of a behind-the-scenes “first look” of the film that began the official tour. It’s unclear how old this promo reel was, but it featured a ton of production art from the film and made it clear this was a film with epic scope (or that’s the intention). The renderings of Wakanda, the Black Panther’s homeland, were almost otherworldly. Coogler, the producers and cast remarked about how the nation’s supply of Vibranium — the metal Captain America’s almost-indestructible shield is made of — has allowed them to develop technology that is the envy of the rest of the free world. The one question unanswered at the time the video was made was what part of the world would stand in for the exterior landscapes of this great fictional nation. It’s been reported that production will shoot at the Iguazú Waterfalls in Misiones, Argentina, but that was not mentioned in the reel or during the visit.
At another point of the tour, concept art featuring the Black Panther’s personal guard, the Dora Milaje, was displayed, and we learned our hero’s costume was “streamlined” at Coogler’s request following his first appearance in “Captain America: Civil War.” The production designs were a tease, though, as the media on hand were shocked to eventually learn we’d be watching actual dailies from production. The idea was to show how the Marvel executives work on a daily basis, but it amounted to a true “sneak peek” at footage from the film.
The first shot we saw featured some African soldiers or militia (clearly not from Wakanda) shooting their guns into the jungle that was constructed on a sound stage (a blue screen was evident in the distance). Wearing a dark green robe with a hood, Naikia (Lupita Nyong’o) does a few flips on the ground and knocks out some bad guys.
The next shot found the Dora Milaje on their way to Warrior Falls in an uncovered boat. The boat was real, but left stationary on a blue-screen stage. The camera moves closer to the actors — creating the illusion the boat is floating on a river — as they dance to the drumbeats and chant in an unrecognizable native dialect. One member of the Dora Milaje says to Okoye (Danai Gurira), “You look good.” Okoye laughs, “I know.”
The following shot found a larger procession on a similar boat also on the blue-screen stage, but this time fit featured Naikia and Ramonda (Angela Bassett). They are also dancing and singing.
We cut to T’Challa (Boseman), who descends from a boat/aircraft at Warrior Falls (unclear, but a modern ship of some kind) and is shirtless and carrying a spear. T’Challa also has a unique tattoo that covers his back and wraps around his shoulders to the corners of his chest. It was hard to tell what it was, exactly, although it seemed to resemble bird’s wings (or it’s a personal tattoo of Boseman’s they were partially covering with something to CGI out). People sing and bang drums as he enters the water, and the camera pans up to see his family and dignitaries in the walls of the rock surrounding the falls looking down at him. The crowd grows quiet and Zuri (Forest Whitaker) announces, “The prince will now have the strength of the Black Panther. Strength away.” (We’re shown this footage from both behind and facing T’Challa as he enters the falls for the ceremony.)
Another extended scene found the Claw (Andy Serkis) arriving at a South Korean casino with some henchmen (a casino created on a soundstage). Serkis’ character was known as Ulysses Klaue in “Avengers: Age Of Ultron,” but he’s referred to as The Claw in this context. He descends a set of stairs to find Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) near a blackjack table. As he walks down the stairs, you can hear what appears to be T’Challa saying, “Claw” and Naikia adding, “plus eight.” She suggests, “Position to secure our exit.” T’Challa says, “The Vibranium?” “No, I don’t see it yet.” When Claw finds Ross, the latter jokes, “You’ve got quite the entourage. Got a mixtape coming out?” “Actually, I’ll send you a link,” Claw responds. Ross says, “No, no, it’s fine. I was just saying you brought a lot of people.” Claw laughs, “Yeah.”
We then move ahead in that sequence to see the casino basically become a major fight zone with T’Challa — in a green suit — knocking out security people and henchmen. He kicks them with roundabout kicks (I believe that’s the term) to knock them out. This is all Boseman dong the stunt choreography.
Also screened was a car flip on a soundstage and T’Challa visiting his sister in the Wakanada Design Center flanked by four members of the Dora Milaje, including Okoye.
Clearly, these were actually dailies. There was only so much you could discern from the footage. The only interesting disconnect was that the production art had a unique style and cinematic look that was missing from what was screened. Granted, color timing and special effects could change the appearance of this footage, but it all looked like it was still more in the Marvel-style wheelhouse than we hoped for.
“Black Panter” opens nationwide on Feb. 16, 2018.