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NYCC 2016: What Black Panther Movie Casting Reveals About Story

There was so much comic book news to come out of New York Comic Con. Additionally, we learned a great deal about upcoming TV shows and movies based on comic books. During NYCC, there was also some big Black Panther movie casting news. What we found out about the actors involved not only increases excitement about the movie, it might tell us some things about the story.   Black Panther movie - Civil War   During the Black Panther movie panel at New York Comic Con, we learned that Forest Whitaker will be joining the cast. This comes after his role in the upcoming Star Wars movie Rogue One. Whitaker will be playing Zuri, who is described as “an elder statesman in Wakanda.” There were additional casting revelations. Daniel Kaluuya, Winston Duke, and Florence Kasumba will be joining the cast. Perhaps most intriguing to me is that Kasumba, who appeared briefly in Captain America: Civil War, will be playing Ayo, a member of the female guards called The Dora Milaje.   What do we know about Zuri, the character Whitaker will be playing? Zuri does not have a huge history in Marvel Comics. He is a warrior and ally to T’challa. Writer Christopher Priest and artist Mark Teixera created Zuri in their run on Black Panther in 1998. In perhaps his most important moment, Zuri protected T’challa during a battle, resulting in Zuri's death. The warrior W’kabi was also killed during this battle with the villain Morlun. Interestingly, Daniel Kaluuya will be playing W’kabi. Does this reveal anything about the potential story?   Forest Whitaker Rogue One - Black Panther movie   Whitaker is a substantial actor, so we can probably assume that the role will be significant. That does not guarantee a lot of screen time, though. Perhaps one of the major conflicts in the Black Panther movie will result in Zuri and W’kabi being killed protecting T’challa. However, Marvel Studios does at times change a supporting character’s role from the comics (ahem, The Mandarin). Another upcoming example is Doctor Strange. In it, Mads Mikkelsen will be playing Kaecilius. He appears to be the main villian, even though Kaecilius has had a rather insignificant role in the Doctor Strange comics, mainly as a henchman. So perhaps the fates of Zuri and W’kabi in the Black Panther movie will be quite different than what happened in Black Panther #5 from 2009.   We can probably assume that the movie will be somewhat influence by Priest's Black Panther though. For one thing, Priest created Zuri. Additionally, many fans and critics praise Priest's work on the Black Panther comics. I think there is also a good chance that the current, highly-lauded Black Panther comics written by Ta-Nehisi Coates will also be an influence. That’s why announcing Kasumba as Ayo seems important. Ayo plays a major part of Coates’ early stories. She turns against T’challa and forms a rebel group out of the Dora Milaje called the Midnight Angels. Ayo does not have a long history in Marvel Comics, having been created just this year.   Black Panther #6 - Black Panther movie   Still, even if included, the filmmakers might not be reproducing Coates' story exactly in the Black Panther movie. For one thing, the movies have changed details from the comics, such as the differences between Captain America: Civil War and the comic Civil War. Also, Ayo rescues a fellow Dora Milaje named Aneka. So far, I have not seen a character with this name cast. Furthermore, the two most prominent female actors cast for the Black Panther movie are Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira. Both will be playing Dora Milaje members, named Nakia and Oyoke respectively.   It would be somewhat unusual for Nyong’o and Gurira to be cast and for Kasumba to have a more prominent role in the film. Perhaps the movie will adapt Coates’ Midnight Angels plot and change the characters’ names? Having Nyong’o and Gurira playing rebel guards would be quite interesting. So it would seem a little odd to have a character named Ayo in the movie with the Midnight Angels plot. However, Marvel has adapted comics loosely for their movies and TV shows in the past.   Black Panther movie - cast at SDCC   We cannot tell anything definitively about the story of the Black Panther movie from the casting news. However, the character names do give us some potential hints. Perhaps the movie will go in one of these directions. At the same time, the casting news confirms the talent that will be making the film. Whitaker (and the other three newly-announced actors) joins Nyong’o, Gurira, Chadwick Boseman (T’challa), and Michael B. Jordan (Erik Killmonger). Add these actors to the direction of Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed). So there is reason to be very exciting about the Black Panther movie, even though it will not be released until February 2018.


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