My Take on the How a Black Panther Movie Might Work
I read many articles about how fans think a movie script should be structured as to make it “not suck.” I would like to try my own hand at this endeavor. Instead of yet another discussion about a high profile comic book movie like Batman versus Superman or Captain America: Civil War, I would like call shine a light on an upcoming movie which might not be getting as much attention: Marvel’s The Black Panther. How could one structure such a movie without making it feel redundant or deviating too far from the original? It’s a particularly tricky balancing act in this movie for a few reasons.
Screen writer Mark Bailey needs to pull a few fast moves and hope that the audience doesn’t notice. Bailey has written eleven movie screenplays as far as I know. Of those, nine of them are historical pieces based on true stories. I don’t doubt his professional capability, but this one work is so far outside of the normal bounds in which he usually works, I can’t help but suspect that he is doing this just for the money. Several other writers have been associated with the project, including a nod in the form of writer credits to Jack Kirby and Stan Lee.
The Black Panther offers particular challenges. I count four.
First of all, the title character is one of the less known characters to carry an Avengers membership card. Even non-comic reading movie goers who are seeking the freshest special effects showcase had a vague idea of who Thor and Captain America were, and they could guess who Ant Man was based upon just his name and movie poster. The Black Panther, although dating back to Lee and Kirby’s universe building golden days (first appear was 1966, three months prior to the founding of the Black Panther political party), has never been a spotlight character. He also lacks a particular gimmick which allows him to be summarized in a single sentence. As the King of Wakanda, he is wealthy but not to extent of Iron Man or Batman. As an inventor and physicist, he is one of the most intelligent characters on Marvel’s Earth, but not quite at the level of Tony Stark or Reed Richards. He has a brawling acrobatic style of combat, and he is almost as proficient as Spider-Man or Daredevil. He sometimes employs his mystical heritage and enchanted weapons, but he is no sorcerer like Doctor Strange. He possesses enhanced senses, but his senses are not as sharp as those of Wolverine. He is the second or third place finisher in all of these comparisons and more, but together these skills make for a very potent package, perhaps making him the most dangerous hero in Marvel.
The second challenge is that he is African. There, I said it. As a king of a fictional sub-saharan nation, his ethnicity should not be glossed over or hidden with a mask for the entire movie. On the other hand, people want a story, not an exercise of sitting through an hour or more of “oh look, he’s a black superhero” shoved down their throats. Hey, it’s not just me saying that. Christopher Priest, author of the Marvel Knights: Black Panther series wrote as much in his afterward of the collected edition. The character would have to be portrayed as noble but not snobbish, powerful but not a warmonger, vulnerable but not a victim, and entertaining but not a clown.
Third, the movie would have to stretch extra far at this point to avoid being derivative. I don’t want to hear, “I liked this movie better the first time I saw it when it was called ‘Blade’.” The Black Panther movie can get in front of inevitable comparisons by telling a very unique story than one would not see in a Blade movie or a Batman movie.
Fourth, the movie needs to avoid being tied down by too many connections to established Marvel franchises. The movie will clearly be taking place in the same continuity as the Avengers movies, and that is okay. I could fill an entire page just listing the ways Wakanda or the Black Panther is already tied into Marvel’s Avengers cinematic world. This is just too much. As much tie-in as can be avoided in the movie, the better.
Mark Bailey (or whoever the script writer ends up being) has a heck of a job, but it isn’t as difficult as it might seem. The solution: all of these issues have already been resolved or avoided quite skillfully in the comics.
I will explain the character briefly for those who do not know. The origin of the Black Panther dates back to a pre-historic period and an ancient tribe called the Panther Clan whose leader has always been the Black Panther. With each new generation, a warrior is blessed by the Panther god, a totem spirit of significant power. This blessing comes with strength, agility, speed, and senses above those of any normal man – fairly standard superhero stuff. This package of superpowers also includes access to the memories and skills of every previous Black Panther. The current Black Panther, King T’Challa, is one of the most impressive ever. He was born a crown prince and trained as a warrior in the tribal traditions from a young age, but he was sent overseas as a young man to study. T’Challa attended Oxford where he studied advanced physics and engineering. He applied this knowledge to the development of his arsenal of weapons like his energy daggers. His costume is bulletproof and built for stealth. Yes, he does have vibranium claws in his gloves as one might easily guess, but his coolest gadgets are the vibranium soles in his boots which allow him to drop from any height without fearing impact and also can render his footsteps silent. When technology alone cannot do the job, he possesses a variety of magic artifacts. These include a sword of considerable power, the Ebony Blade and the accompanying Ebony Dagger. The ebony weapons have an origin tied to the legends of Camelot and been passed around the Marvel Universe a lot, but they have yet to appear in any movies. In D&D terms, he would be a Ranger-Barbarian-Theif-Cleric-Alchemist and just about anything else you’ve got except Bard.
When I wrote that the problems had already been solved in the comics, I was primarily referring to Christopher Priest’s series. That book was intelligent, hip, and highly relevant to 21st Century comic readers. The first full story arc of that series did an excellent job of addressing all of these concerns, introducing the character, and providing an epic globe-trotting story. The main problem presented by that particular story arc is the sequence of events. That series was written so that each couple of issues told an episodic story with its own distinct beginning, middle, and end. Strung together as a single narrative, they do not flow as well.
In that comic, here is how things shook out (with spoilers throughout this paragraph). T’Challa comes to New York City in order to investigate the murder of a child. While he is out of Wakanda, political enemies seize control of his capital in a violent coup de ta. T’Challa bullies the criminals of New York until he has constructed his own information network. He tracks down the killer without too much problem, but Mephisto (Marvel’s primary version of the Devil) was manipulating events in order to pressure the king into selling his noble soul. After fighting some random villains and preventing a riot, T’Challa duels with Mephisto twice, first in New York and then in Mephisto’s own realm. After resolving the problem of Mephisto, T’Challa finally returns to Wakanda and spends two issues with Captain America freeing his capital from a mad man’s control. All of this was narrated by a low-ranking American diplomat who also served as the story’s comic relief.
That was the comics. Now, let’s talk movie. As a single story, it would be anti-climatic for the hero to fight Satan (twice) and then the Unibomber afterward. Also, the narrator’s bad habit of telling stories out of sequence has absolutely got to go.
IMDB summarized The Black Panther movie like this: “T’Challa, prince of Wakanda, must rise to take the mantle of the Black Panther after his father, the king, is treacherously killed.” Please no, do not do make that into the entire movie. The character has already appeared by this time in Civil War. A drawn-out origin story is neither needed nor desired. We really don’t want this movie to become The Lion King Live Action. If there must be an explanation of his origin which involves him ascending to the throne, resolve it in the first five to ten minutes. Build it into an opening credits sequence as was done in The Incredible Hulk.
Now that we have a basic strategy, let’s break it down until we have an outline.
Begin the movie with that origin sequence. Narration could be provided by Houson who voiced The Black Panther in an earlier animated series. The opening sequence begins with a meteor of vibranium crashing into a prehistoric jungle. When quarreling tribes realize the potential power of the buried metal, the wisest among them know that they will likely wipe each other out entirely rather than surrender a gift from the stars. The elders agree that a single king must chosen to unify these tribes. In trail by combat, one warrior emerges as the new king, a man from the tribe of the Panther Clan. This warrior receives a blessing from the Panther Goddess, Bast. With the blessing comes instructions. The goddess tasks the king and his line with hiding the new kingdom from outsiders who would seek to conquer it or exploit it for vibranium. As countless generations pass, each new king takes receives the title of The Black Panther and contributes something new to the legend. Some Black Panthers are scholars who contribute greatly to Wakanda’s knowledge, making it one of the most advanced civilizations. Others are spymasters who infiltrate other powers in order to keep them ignorant of Wakanda. Some are innovative warriors who refine the unique martial art of the Panther Clan. Some are adventurers with wanderlust who bring home trophies, like the feared Obsidian Sword and its matching dagger, believed to been crafted in Asgard and passed down through the scabbard of King Arthur. It was from this noble line of kings and queens that Prince T’Challa was born.
T’Challa is shown as as a young boy, growing up in palace. He is taught the skills of a jungle hunter from these early years. This part also gives a chance to introduce Zuri, the huge warrior who will one day become T’Challa’s advisor. Young T’Challa is also shown reading, and the point is made that he is somewhat of a book worm. His older brother, T’Chaga, teases him about this. T’Challa replies something like, “Father has also told you that you will face the trials. You become the Black Panther. I learn about the jungle from Old Zuri, but do I need ambition beyond that? You will be the hero king, and I want to become a scientist.” – or else the narrator can say as much. As an adolescent, T’Challa and his younger sister sneak into a combat arena and watch T’Chaga fight a number of men who are dressed in white suits similar to the Black Panther’s costume. In a circle surrounding the combatants, we will see several characters in costumes based on African animals, including a few dressed as white gorillas (one of them being the villain, Man-Ape). T’Chaga victorious, King T’Chaka offers him a heart-shaped herd. The teenage T’Chaga takes a bite and then goes into convulsions. The queen comforts T’Chaga. The narrator explains, the combat was only the beginning of the trials for T’Chaga. He would face trials for the rest of the night, and emerge the next dawn as an avatar of the goddess.
T’Challa as a young man is permitted to travel aboard, so he is seen studying at Oxford University. He could even attend a lecture by Hank Pym which stresses that every time scientists have thought that they almost had it all figured out, a new field of science opens up and shows them that the universe if far more complex than they thought it to be. Princess Shuri is permitted to attend an art school somewhere else (maybe Japan or France). Prince T’Challa is forced to leave his university before graduating when Zuri arrives at his dorm room door with bad news. If time permits, the arrival of Zuri could be played up as a funny scene.
Zuri informs T’Challa that the King, Queen, and T’Chaga have been assassinated, and T’Challa is needed to claim his birthright. T’Challa doesn’t want to leave, but Zuri warns him that if he does not take face the trails, Zuri will bring his sister, Shuri back to Wakanda instead, and she is less likely to survive due to her age. In the very next shot, T’Challa is next seen, bloody and bruised, accepting the magic herb and taking a bite. This ends the montage scene.
The first coherent scene of the movie opens on Wakanda and its palace. Let the CG artists take their time with this and make the place look nearly as good as Asgard looked in Thor. Unlike those images, Wakanda should look busy with thousands of pedestrians busily moving through it. The jungle and gleaming futuristic buildings should be mixed together with jungle trees growing out of the sides of skyscrapers and birds and snakes moving across them. Wild elephants share the roads with people. Flying vehicles deliver passengers to balcony landings. The palace should be unmistakeable, like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon but magnified for effect.
On a palace balcony, T’Challa looks over his domain. Shuri arrives and greets him with a big undignified hug. She has just returned from touring Europe [or wherever] after graduation. She asks him about matters of state, but he shrugs it off. He has to talk about politics and business with his advisers for hours every day, but today he would rather hear about her trip. Shuri informs him that she met someone and is engaged. T’Challa admits that he expected this might happen, but as a princess she also has a marriage proposal from the Wakandan chieftain, Erik Killmonger. She tells him that she refuses to marry a man who has never set foot outside of Wakanda. He responds that he understands but stresses that she should let Erik down gently so as to not insult him; Killmonger tries his best to live up to his own name.
Zuri, now with white hair, interrupts them with a traditional formal greetings. He has come to fetch King T’Challa for a meeting of the council. Shuri excuses herself, but T’Challa asks her to attend.
In the next scene, T’Challa meets the chiefs. The tribal chiefs – both men and women – are seated in a type of throne room which has elements of a corporate meeting room to it. M’Baku, the Man-Ape, is in attendance. A man in the white uniform (White Wolf) announces that his special forces have finally captured the last of the conspirators who tried to overthrow the government beginning with the poisoning of the royal family. The operation which began when T’Challa tracked and captured their ringleader, a mad man named Reverend Achebe, is officially closed. The chiefs all beat the table and shout in admiration. The purpose of this aside is to establish that T’Challa is not some rookie superhero stumbling through misadventures but an experienced soldier and respected leader of his nation.
M’Baka challenges the special forces commander. The conspirators are captured, but it took years because they were hidden in Erik Killmonger’s community. M’Baka states that Killmonger’s city is far too independent and needs to be forcefully brought back inline. T’Challa cautions patience. If Killmonger really wanted independence, he could have easily taken it during the coup. Erik Killmonger is a man-child who just wants to be the center of attention, and the royal government will be goaded into giving it to him. The city had a legal right to offer refugee status to those conspirators according to the laws of King T’Chaka. Those laws will be reviewed, but the government will not penalize Killmonger at this time.
At this point, Killmonger is supposed to look like the bad guy of the story. His role is that of a red herring. M’Baka (the Man-Ape) will isntead be playing the role of Black Panther’s foil.
T’Challa also thanks M’Baka for personally fighting to retake the palace during the coup. He appreciates how M’Baka refrained from eating the sacred herb himself. M’Baka replies that there was no need to eat that herb, because gorillas are stronger than panthers.
Shuri asks about the business ties that the conspirators had with outsiders. Another chief confirms that the conspirators did receive support from a man named Ulysses Klaw (the vibranium dealer from Avengers: Age of Ultron). This foreigner gave them gold and bombs in exchange for a shipment of raw vibranium from the sacred mine. The vibranium was never recovered.
T’Challa shares with the council that he tracked Klaw across Africa. He arrived too late. The Avengers got there first and destroyed the entire smuggling operation. Klaw himself escaped but had already paid for his crimes with the loss of his hand.
White Wolf recommends that all foreigners be hunted down and executed on site for the crime of trespassing in the country. T’Challa rejects this suggestion. The tradition of isolationism is an ideal which cannot be attained in a century of supersonic jets and spy satellites. It is better that Wakanda manage its exposure. This is the reason why T’Challa has established diplomatic relations with S.H.I.E.L.D., bankrolled disaster relief in India, and established schools in both China and the United States.
“About that –” White Wolf offers news. The school in the United States was set on fire. The fire was made to look accidental, but the work was clumsy, and the local police could tell it was arson. Everyone in the building was killed including the two hundred poor children that the school was educating.
T’Challa is deeply moved by this news, but he remains calm. Zuri bugs out. The murder of children cannot be tolerated. T’Challa announces that he is leaving to cooperate with the local authorities who no doubt have questions for him. M’Baka cautions him to not leave while Killmonger’s arrogance remains unchecked and Klaw remains free. T’Challa will not be swayed and internally rages his way out of the room.
Shari asks to come with him. T’Challa says no. He is expecting trouble in Wakanda as soon as he leaves. The attack on the school was designed to draw him out of Wakanda. If he does not leave, subsequent attacks will follow until he does, and more innocent lives will be lost. He needs to learn who is pulling the strings. Shuri will stay behind to command the loyal forces and to keep them organized when trouble does start. He cautions that Wakandan tribes still fight amongst themselves as much as against any common enemy.
T’Challa arrives somewhere in the U.S. Atlanta has a thriving black culture which would be an interesting contrast to T’Challa’s Old World style. Seattle would make a type of geographic sense because it is as far removed from Africa as possible. I don’t particularly care where in the U.S. he comes so long as it is NOT New York City.
Instead of being met at the airport by Special Envoy Ross (the narrator of the comic), let’s place Agent Maria Hill in this slot. Hill is a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent again, and she has been tasked with assisting the King of Wakanda during his visit. SHIELD really wants to keep Wakanda’s vibranium under control now that it is known the small secretive country possesses it, and that means establishing a close relationship with the country’s ruler.
T’Challa arrives on a Wakandan airplane. No advanced technology is on display on this plane. He brought about a hundred people with him, including Zuri in a loin cloth and holding a spear. T’Challa himself is in a very fashionable tailored suit. Agent Hill offers to call ahead to the hotel and reserve adequate rooms for his entourage. T’Challa declines her offer. They will be staying at the burnt school for the duration of his investigation.
In the second act, the Black Panther swings into action like Spider-Man on a roid rage. He brings Maria with him. He wants her to observe him for ever moment of that he is in the U.S.A. so that he is not suspected by her superiors of any ulterior motive for his visit.
T’Challa begins switching to his costume – right in front of her. Then he takes to the city’s roofs. He leads her through the night time cityscape. She asks why. He explains that he has enhanced senses. His hearing and nightvision are slightly better than most humans and his sense of smell is much better just like a jungle cat. She asks what he is trying to find on the rooftops. He answers “trouble.”
When he finds a car thief committing the crime, he drops down from several stories and lands almost silently on the car’s roof. The thief looks out his driver’s side window at the roof. When he looks back, Black Panther is sitting shotgun. “I want to complement you on your technique. I have never seen this particular model of car before tonight, and I did not know there was such an easy way to unlock the door. I tried it. It worked.” The thief pulls out a knife, but with a flash of light, the blade of the theif’s knife has been melted off its handle.
“In my country, I am royalty. In your country, I am just a criminal like yourself. You are a thief. I am a crazed psycho-killer. This is the part where I claw out your eyes or cut off your nose. Then I dunk you in a river or cover you in gasoline. Then I tell you that you have one chance to tell me what I want to know. We don’t actually have to go through all of that, do we, thief?”
“I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you anything. What do you want to know?”
“I am investigating the fire at the school two blocks from here.”
Very scared, the car thief answers, “No, I don’t know anything about that. I mean, I just steal a car once in a while, really.”
“I understand. You aren’t an arsonist. I would have smelled it on you. It’s sort of like how I can smell you have lost some control of your bladder, just a drop. You don’t know about the fire, but you know people who know people who know things. I am starting a gang, and you have been recruited. You talk to the person who fences the stolen vehicles for you. You talk to the pusher who sold you those uppers you took before you came. You ask about the fire. When you learn something, you come see me. I’ll be at the school. Just tell my people that you are there to see the Black Panther. Don’t disappoint me now. Clawing out your eyes remains an option.”
The Panther proceeds to abduct and scare a number of criminals in scenes similar to that. He might carry a two hundred pound mugger up the side of a building (as happened in Priest’s comic). He might carve through a brick wall with an energy knife to reach a meth dealer. He will accost both men and women in this way.
Meanwhile in Wakanda, M’Baka (the Man-Ape) is plotting against the Wakandan government. He is handing out weaponry to his gorilla warriors. His guns are sound weapons provided by Ulysses Klaw; incapacitating at one hundred paces, lethal at fifty paces, brings down buildings at twenty, and at ten it will shake apart a tank. Someone tells him that this will be just like the coup a few years ago. He answers, “No, this will be nothing like a takeover. This is civil war. We don’t stop until the city is rubble.”
Around this time, we will also need a funny scene to lighten things. In the comic, Ross got into trouble at a strip club and got everyone arrested. The movie version might involve Zuri being loud and starting trouble.
When Maria demands to know why Panther is grabbing criminals and then letting them go, he explains, “I looked through the financial records of the school while we were flying here. There were several irregularities. That school was laundering cash money for someone. That means someone local was bringing dirty money here. Whatever happened at this school, your country’s criminals were involved. I am building an information network.”
Maria asks, “If you make this much noise, the people involved will run.”
“No, the person behind this all wants me to be loud. This person wants to be certain that I am busy before making the next move.”
“Is that the way things are done in Wakanda? You send the king away and manipulate him into some kind of trap?”
“No, but it is the way that I would do things if I were plotting against the king of Wakanda.”
Panther receives a message from Princess Shuri. She informs him that fighting has broken out in the capital. Militia bases and police headquarters were bombed. Tanks are moving into the streets. Early reports say that sonic weapons are involved.
Panther tells her to remain inside of the palace. The vibranium girders should absorb any sonic attack, but if she peaks her head outside, it might be crushed. They may only get one chance at the mastermind behind this war, and he will reveal himself very soon.
Zuri breaks in and tells Panther that they have a lead. The information network has lead them to a bomb maker who lives on a farm just outside of town. She used to work for the mob, but after her clients all went to prison or died from old age, she has been setting fires for insurance fraud. The word on the street is that she was hired to light the school’s fire. Panther asks Maria for a ride.
Half way around the world, fighting picks up in Wakanda. White Ape soldiers enhanced with sound weapons and superhuman strength are pushing towards the palace.
In the U.S., Black Panther apprehends the arsonist. This can be either an intense emotional scene with a lot of close ups and yelling or a wide shot scene with more action. When he has captured the arsonist, she confesses that she was paid to torch the school. A mysterious client had told her exactly how to lock the building down so that no one could escape. Then she was told to light the match. She did secure the building as she was told, but she stopped short of ignition. The children were supposed to have not been there, but she could see them inside staring at her. She took the money and wanted to leave with it before her client found out. Then, as if by magic, the fire started inside the school. Someone inside of the school must have lit the match.
Panther tells her that he believes her. He explains to Maria that he suspected that he knew who set the fire due to the symbolism all throughout the building. If the police noticed such things, they would not have understood them. He would have almost missed it also, but one of his ancestors had a fascination with occult symbols. The arsonist’s story confirms it. He leaves her.
Panther receives a call from the Wakandan Palace. His sister tells him that traitors have overrun the loyal soldiers and broken into the palace, and she needs him home right then. Panther tells her that the soldiers are also pawns in a larger game and that the he is after their master. He instructs her to go into a panic room and to remember her training from the hunters. Shuri is angry but does as instructed.
Cut to M’Baka, the Man-Ape. He and his soldiers are inside a communications room in the palace. Dead Wakandans a stretched across the floor. A soldier reports that Shuri was seen moving into the panic room. M’Baka says to let her hide. He is more interested in finding the shrine to the panther god.
In the burnt-out school, T’Challa and Agent Maria return to a building full of worried-looking Wakandans. He delivers a short speech about how they are worried about their homes and families far away, but he needs them to carry the courage of Wakanda. He tells them to all returns to their rooms and continue their work. As they disperse, Maria asks him what work are they doing anyway.
In Wakanda, M’Baka breaks into the sealed shrine. He enters first, followed by his soldiers who are dragging a prisoner. He takes some clump of grey dry material from the altar and addresses the prisoner. “So you are Reverend Achibee, the conspirator who would be king. I was lucky to find you still alive in the dungeon, but it was more lucky for you. This dried fruit is the bridge between man and the divine realm of the gods. You will eat it. It will either kill you, or you will become a god.” M’Baka force feeds the food to Achibee.
Shuri is locked in the panic room with a few members of the palace staff, primarily older men and women. She screams at a bust of T’Challa for abandoning them to die while he plays games on the other side of the world. She lashes out and destroys the statue. Zuri out something hidden inside of the statue. “Shuri, do you know what this is? This is the same fruit that your brother ate during the trails. I remember him taking a small bite because he was worried that he would not hold it down on his first attempt. Why did he put this here?”
Achibee spits. He shouts, “Dung! You just feed elephant dung to me!” M’Baka is so angry, he throws the prisoner with superhuman strength and sends sliding on his face across the room. “The Panther thinks we are fools! He knew that were listening, and he has hidden the divine fruit somewhere else! Break into the panic room, drag out the survivors, and pull their bones out of their bodies until they tell us where it is hidden!”
In the U.S., Panther is mixing ingredients into a large bowl. The customary flames around it make it clear to the audience that this is a spell being cast. As T’Challa names the ingedients one by one, he is handed the American version of each. He requests, “The fat of the boar,” and he is handed a bag of pork rinds. Et cetera. Agent Maria is taking notes.
Suddenly, the fires flare. Mephisto, in his long-faced demon form, stands behind Panther. He is over twice Panther’s size and burnt red in color. “Your majesty, why did you summon me to the mortal world?”
“I did, demon, but you were already in this realm, weren’t you? You have been here for some time, scheming against me and tempting those men who might have been my friends into being my enemies. You started the fire which killed the children in this school, and you didn’t even bother trying hard to cover your involvement.”
“You are clever, aren’t you, King T’Challa. Your pride gleams on your spirit like gilding on a trophy.”
“The men who slaughter my soldiers and terrorize my city, you sent them.”
“I did, and I can just as easily send them away. M’Baka and Achibee were eager to strike a deal with me, but I have little desire for the souls of corrupt men. I collect quality, not quantity. Your soul is exceptional. You are exceptionally noble. You are exceptionally prideful. The war will stop, and your sister will live to continue your father’s line.”
“For my soul?”
Agent Maria Hill this entire time is taking photographs of what is happening.
“You can be the pride of my collection, T’Challa. Your eternity with me can be a retirement to luxury and intellectual musings. All I ask is that you renounce you loyalty to that animalistic god, Bast. Admit that I am your master, and I will make you the god.”
“I reject your offer. All of Wakanda will burn to ash and my father’s line will be stamped out before I reward your evil scheming.”
“You are quick to sentence your own people to miserable deaths, T’Challa. I have observed that this is an easy thing to do from the far side of your planet, but are you so cold when an innocent mortal suffers and dies in front of you?” Mephisto attacks Agent Maria. The room transforms into a nightmare version of itself, covered in hissing snakes and twisted angles. Chains break through the walls and floor to strangle her.
Panther grabs the Ebony Blade, pulls it from its sheath, and strikes at Mephisto. The devil simply vanishes, and the chains release their prisoner.
“Your majesty, I need to know what is happening right now.”
“That devil’s true name is Mephisto. His is the mind conspiring against me. I did not mean for you to be here when he arrived.”
“You could have said something before completing that spell.”
“I did not complete the spell. The devil arrived early. I made a mistake, and you might perish because of it.”
“Hey, don’t let him rattle your confidence now. I am guessing that you didn’t kill him with your sword.”
“That was an illusion. He left the room when I took my eyes off of him for just an instant to grab the ebony blade. He enjoys playing the trickster.”
“If we find him, can we kill him?”
“This place, it is him. He and his realm are the same, and we are in it. He is everywhere. Your gun will be useless here. So will my energy daggers. The only technology that works in this place is what he allows. These blades, however, are enchanted. I will carry the Ebony Blade. You take the Ebony Dagger. If you do as I say, I will get you back to your world.”
“I have to take the deal.”
“If you make a deal, T’Challa, I will kill you myself. Is that clear?”
Panther and Maria wander into the hallway. It should be cramped and dark, the foil of Wakanda. The set designers should really go bug nuts with the Mephisto Realm, making it as bizarre as they can.
In Wakanda, soldiers break into the panic room. M’Baka struts inside and finds the room. A hole has been torn into the ceiling through stone and steel. He turns and leaves. In the throne room, he shouts an order for all of his forces to regroup. He offers a bounty to the man who shoots the princess first.
Shuri’s voice echoes through the palace. “Regrouping is a good strategy, Chief M’Baka. Had you moved more quickly, it might have saved you. Instead, we found your men spread out and easy to hunt.” M’Baka hears screams coming from all around him.
“Little princess! We slaughtered your army! You do not have enough soldiers left to retake this palace!”
“You forget, we are Wakandan. Every man and every woman is trained in the sacred hunt from a child. I have a city full of soldiers, a million soldiers are closing in right now with their spears and knives, striking from shadows, striking from behind you.”
In Mephisto’s realm, Panther and Maria are exploring the nightmare version of the school. After a couple of more strange rooms, they are separated by a gate of some sort which slams shut between them. Mephisto rises out of the ground in front of Panther. “I can continue this game for centuries, T’Challa. You cannot. In Wakanda, the war for your throne draws to a climax. This very minute is the last chance you have to save your sister. Tell me what I want to hear.”
“I am taking the deal, Mephisto.”
Maria curses at him, draws her pistol, and shoots Mephisto to no effect.
Mephisto begins drawing the soul of T’Challa out.
“What of the woman? Do you hunger for her soul also?”
“No, I am satisfied with this prize.”
“Your stomach might be satisfied, demon, but mine is not. The soul of this man is one and the same with the panther god, and the panther is hungry. You have drawn her out.” A giant ghost-panther springs from T’Challa’s body, pouncing on Mephisto. T’Challa uses an energy dagger to cut through the gate that separates him from Maria. The panther god and Mephisto wrestle in the background. T’Challa pulls Maria through and tells her, “Hold tightly to me. I think the demon is about to spit me out.”
“Not the most romantic line, your majesty.”
The panther god claws at Mephisto viciously. She bites at the devil’s head and sinks her teeth into his face. A flash a red light fills the room.
T’Challa and Maria find themselves standing back in the real school again. She asks him, “Is it over? Did the panther kill that monster?”
“No, I still smell fresh sulfur in the air. What we did is lure the devil back into our world. Here, we have power. You should reload your gun.”
M’Baka grabs a sonic weapon and runs to the balcony (the same place where we saw T’Challa and Shuri at the beginning of the film). He sees that Shuri’s prediction is true. The Wakandans are literally swarming over the palace. White Ape soldiers are being dragged from their tanks.
He turns. An energy blade strikes his sonic gun and destroys it. Shuri is blocking his exit with hulking Zuri at her side, holding his huge spear. Shuri is wearing a part of the Panther costume over her previous clothes with the necklace, gloves, and belt of energy blades. M’Baka furiously strikes the floor, making it crack. Shuri nimbly leaps to a gargoyle. Zuri stumbles and then recovers just before M’Baka slams into him.
Shuri pulls another energy blade to throw, but the wall behind her gargoyle is smashed by a beam of sonic energy. She lands on the banister of the balcony. With her ears painfully ringing, she looks up to see Reverend Achebee approaching with a sonic weapon in his hands. He shouts something she cannot hear and points the weapon at her.
M’Baka and Zuri continue to wrestle.
Shuri rolls off the banister as the weapon is fired again, destroying the stone. She digs claws from her gloves into the palace wall to stop her fall.
M’Baka gains the upper hand over Zuri, snapping the spear into two pieces and breaking bones. He pauses when he hears Achebee say, “I remember you. You are the Man-Ape. You made me eat dung.” Achebee points the sonic weapon at M’Baka. The chief grabs the large stone conference table to use as a shield. The table withers under the sonic assault and sends M’Baka tumbling. Achebee picks up the spear point off the ground and holds it overhead as if to stab Zuri. M’Baka picks up an energy blade off the ground, rolls over and up, and charges Achebee.
Achebee howls. A second energy dagger flies through the air and severs Achebee’s arm just above the elbow. Shuri rushes in from off screen, knocks the sonic weapon away from Achebee, grabs the spear out of the air, knocks Achebee out of her way, and stabs the charging M’Baka with the spear point (with Achebee’s hand and forearm still attached).
Zuri says, “That was nice, Shuri. I was just about to do the exact same thing myself.”
At the burnt out school, Panther and Maria enter the principle’s office. She asks, “Are you alright?” as she helps him into a chair.
“I will be soon. I just need to rest for a few minutes. Mephisto took more from me than I expected.”
“Having your soul ripped out of you must sting. Is it gone?”
“No, I can feel the panther god inside this body again.”
Mephisto says, “And that was merely the first round. Would you like to do it again, king?” The huge devil is blocking the door out of the office. His body is covered with claw wounds, and his face shows puncture holes. “I have been in your world for months, T’Challa, gathering my power.”
Panther says, “Yes, but what does that actually mean, demon. Why did you not simply appear on the day that you decided you wanted my soul and take it? I think I have you figured out, Mephisto.”
“I am a realm made flesh. I am greed incarnate. My magic is beyond your understanding mortal. You have figured out nothing.”
“I am no witch, but I do know things about magic, demon. Magic is simply the manipulation of reality. It requires specific parameters. The stars must be aligned just so, or just the right ingredients must be burnt in the ritual. You spent months on this scheme, because you needed that time to make the conditions right. Your power grows, but if the conditions change, you are cut off from you power, aren’t you? That is why you covered this building with your silly symbols, isn’t it?”
“The symbols do play a role, but they are merely catalysts. Those conditions of which you speak are fundamental aspects of your universe. The speed of your light. The strength of your gravity. The weight of your atoms. These things do not change.”
“Not much, but if those conditions change just a little, not enough that we would not be killed, not even enough that you would notice – that would ruin all of your preparations. Your months of accumulating power in this realm. Look around you, demon. Where are all of the people I brought with me from Wakanda? Why do they not rush to my side?”
Maria says, “Your entourage?”
Mephisto says, “Your diplomats.”
“No devil, my scientists and engineers. While we have been fighting and hunting each other, they have been busy in every other room of this building. In every classroom, they are changing the fundamental reality of this building. They are slowing the light. They are lightening the gravity. They are sciencing you to death.”
Mephisto extends his hand at Panther. He looks amazed when nothing happens.”
“Was that supposed to burn me with hellfire, or were you simply trying to turn me into a frog?”
Mephisto roars, “If I cannot win with sorcery, then I will crush you with my own claws, mortal!” Mephisto lunges at Panther, smashing the desk. They fight for about a minute, Mephisto striking out wildly as Panther makes accurate strikes with his own claws and his energy blades. Neither side is slowing. Maria empties a clip of bullets into Mephisto with no effect. Panther pulls out the Ebony Blade and swings it at Mephisto’s head. Mephisto catches the blade in his huge claw. “I know this sword. Your kind calls it the Ebony Blade. I will keep it.”
Mephisto roars in pain. Maria is standing behind him, having stabbed him in the back with the Ebony Dagger. “Take them both. They’re a matching set.”
Mephisto screams and turns to ash, collapsing onto the floor.
Panther collapses also in exhaustion. Instead of resting, he takes out his kimoyto card (his communication device) and checks something. “The battle for the palace has ended. My sister routed the traitors. I think it is finally over. Thank you, I thank you, Agent Maria Hill. The nation of Wakanda is now and forever, a friend of S.H.I.E.L.D. You may put that in your report.”
“A secret agency and a secret kingdom, it’s like we’re soulmates.”
“What S.H.I.E.L.D. tells the world is its own business, but Wakanda will live in the shadows no longer. For a long time, secrecy was our armor. Now it has become a weapon of our enemies. Wakanda will stand in the daylight for all to see. Shuri will see to it.”
“Shuri, not you? You’re banged up, but you aren’t dying, T’Challa. I’ve seen much worse than this.”
“A new Black Panther is in Wakanda. The queen will sit on her throne and rebuild the capital. It will be more beautiful than ever. She is an artist. Mephisto will continue to crave my soul, but he knows that he cannot ransom it from me by threatening my people. The farther I am away from my homeland, the safer my people will be from him. Here, you may keep the dagger. It is a gift from Wakanda.”
“What will you do? Where will you go?”
“Isn’t this the part where you ask me, ‘T’Challa, I would like to speak with you about the Avengers Initiative.’?”
“The Avengers are independent now. We don’t recruit for them anymore. If you are interested in becoming a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, I have a brochure.”
“I would like to see your brochure. Show me your country, Agent Hill. Show me your Grand Canyon and your baseball. Feed me your Chicken and Waffles. I want to learn everything.”
After Credits Scene:
In a hospital room, Achembee lays in a bed, his severed arm in a bandage. Mephisto’s cloven hooves approach the bed. “Achembee, are you awake?”
“Master? Is this really you? I have never seen you in your full splendor. You are beautiful.”
“Achembee, you took out the needle from your opium drip. Why did you do reject your pain killers?”
“I like the pain. I have learned to embrace it, to covet it. My pain is a gift. Take me with you, master. Make my pain last forever in your hell.”
“I did not come to collect your soul, servant. I merely came to say goodbye.”
“No, no, there are so many souls for us to save, Master.”
“My efforts in this realms were a last attempt to capture the souls of humanity while I could. It did not work out, but I will find a new interest to hold my attention for the eons.”
“What does that mean? Why are not collecting souls, Master?”
“Soon, there will be no more humans souls to collect, because there will be no more humans. Your species is going extinct, Achembee. It is due to be replaced with something else, something stronger and smarter, something inhuman.”