The beauty and the curse of the MCU lie in the interconnected nature of the films. When it works, the films are so much richer and deeper because they can draw from hours and hours of films and character development. When it doesn’t then films can feel like two-hour commercials for the next one coming out down the road. (Fair or not, Iron Man 2 has a bit of a reputation for being that kind of movie.) As such, Marvel Studios has to decide with each film how tightly to connect to other films. This can be a more acute problem with the introduction of a new franchise. How is Marvel looking at Black Panther?
According to Nate Moore, a producer on Black Panther and Captain America: Civil War:
We wanted to give Ryan the freedom to tell a story that wasn’t relying on other things that were happening in the MCU. Now that doesn’t mean what happens in the film won’t have ripples in the MCU, but the film itself isn’t relying on other plot points in the MCU.
These comments are a bit difficult to compute. On the face of things, this approach seems to be consistent with the way Doctor Strange was dealt with about eighteen months ago. It was an origin film with some minimal connection to the MCU. Allowing the franchise of Black Panther to develop its own mythology without the weight of Avengers: Infinity War continues the patterns which have served the universe well. Allowing solo movies to stand on their own is a way that the MCU has succeeded where other cinematic universe fail.
On the other hand, the Soul Stone has to be somewhere. While an Infinity Stone doesn’t have to be a central piece of a plot to be introduced (again note Doctor Strange), it would seem that Black Panther is the most sensible place for the Soul Stone to appear. With the Necropolis appearing in Black Panther (a place in Wakanda where the souls of dead kings and queens speak to the current monarch) the Soul Stone would be the perfect plot device for that part of the story. Also, one might note that they have spread the introduction of the Stones across the franchises (see list below). While this might not be a major plot device in Moore’s mind, fans have spent a lot of time hypothesizing about where the stone is. (Heimdall truthers are still thinking the Soul Stone is in Idris Elba‘s eyes!)
One small additional note should be made about the prevalence of Black Panther and Wakanda in the Avengers: Infinity War trailer. Much of the action takes place in the African nation and includes a major battle scene, on the scale the MCU has not seen before. While it may be that the Russos are taking cues from Coogler and not vice versa, it still seems like there would have been a ton of script conversations back and forth between the two. It is a bit hard to believe that Coogler was not constantly tweaking and reporting and working with the Russo Brothers.
What level of connection do you want to see in Black Panther? Given the proximity to Avengers: Infinity War, coming out a mere three months later, does it help or hurt the film to loosely connected? Do you think the Soul Stone is sitting in Wakanda? Share your thoughts in the comments below.