***This post contains spoilers for the end of both Thor: Ragnarok AND Black Panther. Don’t read this if you haven’t watched either film. You have been warned.***
I had a lot of thoughts floating through my head as I watched Black Panther this weekend. First and foremost was awe — Marvel pulled off another great movie, which is increasingly becoming the norm for that company. Secondly was tremendous respect for Ryan Coogler, who managed to not only deliver an incredibly fun superhero movie, but a blockbuster with something important and fascinating to say. Third was a simple wish to have Letitia Wright as my new best friend which, c’mon, shouldn’t be that hard, right?!
But one thought that was in the back of my mind throughout most of Black Panther was, admittedly, a rather geeky one. And the kind of geeky thought that stems from nothing more than the rather childish instincts of having all my favorite toys playing together. Sure, that is a major part of the fun that the Marvel Cinematic Universe represents, but it doesn’t make the instinct of “oh, what if these two met and became BEST FRIENDS?!” any less of a reductive thought. All that being said…wouldn’t it be super awesome if Thor: Ragnarok’s Valkyrie met the Wakandians?! I mean, she would LOVE it there, right? A warrior culture of advanced lifeforms who are primarily protected by a troop of badass, all-female fighters? She would have SO MUCH fun! And since she was the undeniable MVP of Thor: Ragnarok (next to Korg, at least), it would be a lot of great to see her hang out with the great ensemble that was built up in Black Panther.
…Which got me thinking.
The way Thor: Ragnarok ended left a huge question mark in that particular area of the MCU. Choosing to literally destroy all of Asgard, leaving its occupants in flight and in search of a new home, was kind of a ballsy choice for the sequel. And then when Thor suggested immigrating to Earth in the final line of the film, I couldn’t help but stifle a chuckle. The world can barely handle the people it has — Thor is in for a rude awakening if he thinks that they will just invite a whole crop of alien refugees to share their resources. In a post Brexit, Syrian refugee crisis world, the idea of the Asgardians just coming to Earth and being welcomed with open arms is (sadly) laughable.
But, regardless, the question still remained: what would become of the Asgardians as they made their way to Earth? Clearly, Marvel has a plan here, as it would be very unlike them to set up this plot point without ever addressing it again in the future. If they had no plan for the ship full of Asgardians, why even save them? Well, I have a theory: they were saved because they will serve an important purpose in a future MCU installment. Namely? Black Panther 2. Or whatever it will end up being called. Marvel doesn’t like numbers anymore.
But that’s beside the point. Let’s now shift focus to the aforementioned Black Panther, which concluded with King T’Challa finally realizing (through the inactions of his ancestors) that Wakanda could no longer be a nation of isolationist. That, in the modern world, Wakanda could just not turn its back on people who need aid. He spoke to the UN about creating “bridges” rather than barriers to outside countries, which made for a rather rousing and uplifting message for the film to conclude on.
But what made Black Panther a great movie is how it didn’t rely on moral absolutism, even for things that seemed obvious (i.e you should help those that need it.) Killmonger was one of Marvel’s best villains because he had a point, and was correct in many of his stances towards how Wakanda was doing a disservice to the world. But opening the doors to the outside world has its fair share of potential issues and problems too, which the film briefly addresses as light rebuttals to Killmonger’s main points. If Wakanda shared its advance knowledge with the world, how much of it would be used for ill? What responsibility does Wakanda even have towards the world at large? Should it take precedence over their well being as a singular culture? The film wisely doesn’t provide clear-cut answers for these issues and, though what T’Challa does is ultimately the “right” thing, the right thing can often lead to consequences of their very own.
Which is what I imagine the potential sequel will tackle. Just like how Iron Man 2 delt with the fallout of Tony revealing his identity to the world, and how Captain America: Winter Soldier dealt with the fallout of Steve Rogers being a man out of time, Black Panther 2 will absolutely have to tackle how the massive change in status quo for Wakanda impacts its people and their king. And what better way to do that then by actually showing Wakanda literally opening its doors to another people? Say another people with an equally strong sense of culture and traditions, who are currently floating through space without a home of their own? If my theory is even slightly correct, than Wakanda would be the perfect place for the Asgardians refuges to settle…and Black Panther 2 would be a perfect place to give such a move its due.
After all, such a migration would lend a Black Panther sequel a ton of interesting, relevant themes to dwell upon, themes that can build upon those of the first Black Panther, and can be just as politically relevant and insightful. What kind of conflicts arises when two ancient, powerful cultures are forced to share the same living space? What becomes of the nation of Wakanda when it actually puts its money where its mouth is and adopts a more multi-cultural approach to its civilization? Would doing so risk diluting the culture of Wakanda as it stands, erasing the identity of the people with it? And how would the Asgardians, previously a nation of conquerors and “protectors” over all others, move into a more submissive position in which they have to rely on another people for support? And how would the two kings caught in the middle (Thor and T’Challa) deal with such a cultural clash? Now normally I wouldn’t predict a superhero blockbuster to so strongly address a real-world issue (in this case, the Syrian refugee crisis), but I sure as hell didn’t expect Black Panther to address the themes it did either. So if any modern blockbuster series would, it would be this one. The themes are already baked into its DNA, after all, and the way the way the overall story is moving in the MCU itself would seem to lead to such a plot turn.
And while I can see certainly see a bit of cynicism to the concept of Black Panther 2 so heavily absorbing another branch of the MCU (“What, does Marvel not think Black Panther is a strong enough series to support itself without a big crossover?), I think the potential of the story outweighs the fear of this becoming a paint-by-numbers superhero team-up film. And recent Marvel history not only shows how open and willing they are to play with their characters in this way, but also gives them the benefit of the doubt to do it. Even if this hypothetical Black Panther includes Thor and his brood of supporting characters (who at this point are only Valkyrie and Heimdall, really — technically Loki is with him too but, let’s be honest, that dude is TOAST come Infinity War), I trust the people at Marvel can find a way to add these characters into the world while still allowing the movie to be a Black Panther sequel. Throwing in Hulk for Thor: Ragnarok never made that one feel like less of a Thor movie. And, despite what could have happened, Spider-Man: Homecoming remained a Spider-Man film, and didn’t ever become “Iron Man and His Amazing Web-Swinging Friend” as initially feared. Hell, Captain America: Civil War included nearly all the Avengers in substantial roles, and I still feel like the center of the story was on Steve Rogers and his overall arc. I see no reason why bringing in Thor, Valkyrie, Heimdall (and, of course, Korg) would take away from the focus of the story being on T’Challa, Shuri, Nakia, Okoye, W’Kabi, M’Baku, et al. And the dramatic potential this story could have on the Black Panther AND Thor characters far outweighs the potential negatives, in my mind.
Of course, I have to end all this blatant fan theorizing by stating the obvious: I have no idea whatsoever what will happen in future Black Panther installments, or the rest of the MCU for that matter. Everything I am writing here is pure conjecture, based on nothing, and I very well could be wrong about where this entire thing is heading. After all, Avengers: Infinity War is going to come and blow all my MCU theories out of the water anyways. What the shape of this universe will be post-Infinity War/Avengers 4 is anyone’s guess. For all I know, Infinity War might go full Alien 3, and begin with Thanos killing off every Asgardian aside from Thor. But, like I said, I have more faith in Marvel’s storytelling abilities than that.
And even if Black Panther 2 doesn’t have anything to do with the universe of Thor and its characters…I have to imagine there will be a grander purpose for the Asguardian refugees. And with the movie directly after Thor: Ragnarok concluding with a separate, powerful group deciding to open their borders and help those in need (including by taking in refugees, as directly stated by Nakia earlier in the film)…well? All I can do as a viewer is try to connect the dots.
…AND fanboy out about my favorite characters meeting some of my other favorite characters. Valkyrie and Okoye need to swap war stories about protecting kings. And share fighting tips. And just be awesome, in general. And since the MCU is built specifically to facilitate such team-ups, I argue: why the hell not? We might end up getting something pretty damn interesting out of it along the way.
Also published on Medium.