Black Panther

With San Diego Comic Con well past us, and theatrical trailers are now focusing on Christmas films and 2018 features, now comes the opportunity to check back and catch up on recent trailer releases. Today, we’re audioviewing the first teaser trailer for Black Panther, originally released on June 10th.

For a film directed by Ryan Coogler (Creed, 2015; Fruitville Station, 2013) and set for release in 2018, this trailer is almost as notable for its music as it is for its subject matter. Indeed, just looking at the top two comments at the top of the YouTube comments section for the above embedded video at the time of writing (“some people just don’t understand how long we’ve wanted this”; “who else is loving the soundtrack?”) reveals much, even before seeing and hearing it.

The teaser is comprised of two parts. In the first minute, we see an interrogation scene where a man is explaining the mysterious land of Wakanda, the home of T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman, as The Black Panther). It’s likely no accident that the first scene of a trailer all about Marvel’s first black superhero, a hero with fifty years of lore to draw on for this film, is introduced with a conversation between white characters; moreover, we’ve seen both of them in previous Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films. Still, T’Challa’s point of view/audition provides our first glimpse/audition of Wakanda. It’s a utopian scene, effortlessly melding both traditional culture and futuristic flourishes. While this trailer was released far before Wonder Woman’s run in theatres,  we are hard pressed not to compare this origin story -- as presented so far -- with her film. (For example, actress Florence Kasumba plays both Amazon Senator Acantha in Wonder Woman and Ayo, a member of Black Panther’s royal guard.)

Although the music begins with some standard epic orchestral percussion intercut with dialogue, this gives way to some pretty unique synthesized sound effects, to convey mystery and rhen danger/action. In retrospect, the music is preparing the listener for a full clip from hip-hop duo Run the Jewels’ “Legend Has It,” a cut from Run the Jewels 3 of 2016 and, judging from the title, a song of obvious thematic resonance to the notion of T’Challa-as-legendary figure.

At 1:02, the mid-point, we leave the interrogation room and the presentation of story information, encountering the Marvel Studios card with Run the Jewels’ track playing in full force: there’s no mistaking its intro. A scene with Panther’s spaceship-looking Royal Talon Fighter is presented alongside more traditional, agrarian-looking scenes, highlighting the uniqueness of Wakanda’s high tech society.

Around 1:20, the narrator’s voice imploring Black Panther to be careful (“you are a good man with a good heart”) is juxtaposed between lines by Run the Jewels’ lyrics (“step into the spotlight”). At 1:35 extra sound effects are employed to accentuate Black Panthers’ leap from car to car, where we get one quick look at him in full costume.

The title card for the film is presented at 1:44, slowly emerging and thus effectively conveying the emphasis on stealth for this superhero. Exquisitely deep bass and rattling, sonorous upper percussion complement the high contrast and stark image of the title card.

In all, it's an excellent start to Black Panther's trailer campaign. It will be interesting to see whether follow-up trailers commit as completely to using Run the Jewels’ music, or whether this is a one-off like other music licensed for trailers but not for the associated films.


 - Curtis