What Does 'Black Panther' Mean For The Future Of The Marvel Cinematic Universe?

We've written at length about how Ryan Coogler's Black Panther is a cinematic force to be reckoned with. It's a full-fledged box office juggernaut, an inspiring cultural touchstone, and a damn good movie to boot. It also introduces some significant new aspects to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and by the time the film ends, the world will never be the same.

Let's explore the Black Panther MCU impact and what the movie means for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – both from a business perspective and in terms of its narrative storytelling.

Will We See More Black Heroes?

One of the reasons Black Panther is so important is because it destroys Hollywood's long-held perception that movies with black leads don't perform as well as ones with white leads. But money talks, and Black Panther's record-breaking success means you can bet that not only Marvel, but other studios, will be green-lighting projects with black leads in the hopes of capitalizing on the film's popularity.

In terms of Marvel Studios projects, though, I think the answer of whether or not we'll see more black heroes on screen is unequivocally yes. There are already opportunities waiting in the wings to give existing black characters in the MCU a profile boost: Anthony Mackie's Falcon could easily become the new Captain America if the current Cap dies in Infinity War. If Thor bites the big one, maybe that mantle could be taken up by Tessa Thompson's Valkyrie. If Tony Stark gets wrecked by Thanos, Don Cheadle's War Machine may be a good replacement. Better yet, they could follow Twitter user BossLogic's advice:

The tech-savvy Shuri makes a lot more sense as a new Iron Man (Ironheart!), and it'd fit in with the Marvel Studios' playbook of loosely adapting elements from the comics.

What Will Phase Four Look Like?

Assuming Cap, Stark, and Thor all die in Infinity War or Avengers 4 (since those actors' contracts are all expiring), Marvel's Phase Four should look very different than what's come before. They'd be crazy not to give Chadwick Boseman's Black Panther an increased role in the years to come, and it seems as if women will finally factor into the MCU more as well. Not only did Ryan Coogler knock it out of the park with his depiction of the women of Wakanda in Black Panther, but we'll soon see Brie Larson suited up in Captain Marvel and Evangeline Lilly rise to full superhero status in Ant-Man and the Wasp. Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow is finally on her way to getting her own movie, too.

Marvel Studios has now crossed a point of no return. Without the interference of the old guard led by Marvel Entertainment president Ike Perlmutter, the studio is free to make diverse casting decisions and put women and actors of color in major positions moving forward. Now that they've reaped the benefits of Black Panther's success, it would be a PR disaster for them to drag their feet in that area over the next few years.

(And don't forget about Blade. Wesley Snipes has been waiting for years to be brought back into the fold, and that'd be a cool "full circle" decision for Marvel to make. Blade may work better leading a TV show, though.)

How Black Panther Changes the Game

In the film's first credits scene, we learn the Wakandans have decided to share their Vibranium-enhanced technology with the rest of the world. That could prove to be the single biggest world-altering event in human history (yes, even more than alien invasions). But in our podcast discussion about this, /Film's Peter Sciretta raised a good point: if the world has access to Wakandan technology that can save lives (as seen when Letitia Wright's Shuri saves Martin Freeman's Agent Ross), what does that do for the stakes of the MCU in future films?

Peter's worry is that it will decrease dramatic tension – if anyone can be easily saved, why should the audience care about anyone getting hurt? I'm sure Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and his team have given this a lot of thought, and I'm hoping it will be directly addressed, maybe even as soon as in Infinity War. I'd like to see Wakanda ease into sharing that tech with the world, and if Vibranium is deliberately doled out at a slower pace, maybe that technology won't be so prevalent that it will deflate the stakes from every potentially dangerous situation.

Is the Final Infinity Stone in Wakanda?

In that aforementioned podcast episode, our own Ethan Anderton relayed a theory about Infinity War: maybe the reason we see a huge fight break out in Wakanda in the trailer is because Thanos knows the final Infinity Stone is there. That could very well be the case, but we didn't see any Infinity Stones in Black Panther (read more about why that decision was made), and Ryan Coogler has said Marvel never wanted to have one appear in his movie. That might mean they're saving the reveal for Infinity War and that the last Stone really is in Wakanda, but it's still too early to know for sure.

More Lingering Questions

Black Panther leaves us with plenty more questions to ask. Does Everett K. Ross's past as an Armed Forces pilot indicate that we'll see a flashback of him meeting up with Carol Danvers in the 1990s-set Captain Marvel? Has Ross become the equivalent of the new Agent Coulson throughout the MCU? Did Howard Stark make Captain America's shield out of illegally purchased or stolen Vibranium? And who might be the villain of Black Panther 2? We talk about all of this and more on yesterday's episode of /Film Daily, so be sure to give that a listen if you're looking for even more Black Panther chatter.