Creating the Mythic World of "Black Panther"
Within Marvel mythology, the seemingly impoverished African nation of Wakanda
fact, the cradle of the impervious metal vibranium. Probably best known as the
that provides the unimaginable strength to Captain America's shield and compels
Klaue's maniacal drive to prove its existence and harness its power, vibranium
incredible resource that has been a vital part of the Wakandan culture for
The impenetrable metal can take multiple forms, whether threaded through the
Panther suit, molded into Cap's shield or as an energy source that powers the
country, which sits on the endless supply that is mined as needed.
With it comes a bevy of technology, knowledge, wealth and power. It far
anything the modern world could ever imagine and establishes Wakanda as a
technological, albeit reclusive, giant.
A glimpse behind the shroud of the fictitious Wakanda reveals a futuristic
culture that is deeply rooted in the African tradition. This world held untapped
for the filmmakers and their production team as they prepared to bring it to the
Says executive-producer Nate Moore, "For Black Panther and the world of
about finding those real life touchstones that we think give the film an
integrity that it
otherwise might not have, yet still making it something exciting and something
you've never seen before."
"Black Panther" may be production designer Hannah Beachler's first foray into
comic realm, but the talented designer embraced the unique opportunity to
conceptualize and articulate the multifaceted vibraniumâ€“infused landscape that
the traditional African aesthetic with a highly evolved modernity.
What made the task a streamlined effort was the long-standing collaboration
Beachler has with the director. From the Sundance Film Festival prize-winning
Station," to the gritty box office hit "Creed," the pair have crafted a
often has the designer anticipating what Coogler will gravitate to.
The relationship is one that keeps the talented and meticulously prepared
continuously thinking outside the realm of what's she done. "Ryan is always
into places that perpetually challenge me and force me to push myself further,
Beachler. "Ryan is really collaborative, and we've gotten to the point where we
trust each other enough to challenge each other and go back and forth with our
This is our third project together and our most ambitious so it's been an
on so many levels."
Comics were a new medium for Beachler but after a tutorial from her teenage
comic book fan, she quickly realized she would need to delve deeper into the
Panther lexicon. From early Jack Kirby to Ta-Nehisi Coates' most recent
she discovered a rich history punctuated by a Super Hero amidst socially
"The heart of the 'Black Panther' series has always been about taking some
material and wrapping it up in something fun," comments Beachler. "To have a
character in a comic that's been around this long is amazing, so it was
important for me
to reference all the artists that worked on these comics over the years. So it
absolutely necessary for me to see that starting point and stay true to the
then bring it into 2017 for what Ryan wanted to do."
Armed with copious research, production designer Beachler had marathon
Coogler, in which they shared photos and inspirations from their visits to
Through this collaboration and utilizing a very fluid design language, Beachler
to articulate a sense of thoughtfulness to the canon of the Kirby comics while
contemporizing what the technologically advanced African nation would encompass.
Story-wise, Beachler's prime directive was to incorporate the Wakandan
vibranium everywhere. A stickler for detail, she spoke with mining and
experts to extrapolate what the potential phases of the powerful alien material
before she even began to incorporate it throughout the Wakandan milieu.
The majority of Wakanda sets that Beachler and her team designed were
sound stages in Atlanta, including the Tribal Council; the Wakandan Design
Shuri's hive of research and development of the vibranium-rich country; the
subterranean Hall of Kings; and most notably Warrior Falls, the ceremonial heart
Wakanda's revered traditions.
One of the most awe-inspiring sets is the exterior set for Warrior Falls
built on a back lot
north of Atlanta. It is the audience's first glimpse behind the curtain of
showcases their centuries-old heritage and the pageantry that surrounds their
Inspired by the majestic Oribi Gorge in
South Africa, the Warrior Falls set
would prove to be a mind-boggling
effort between the art department, the
special effects department, led by
veteran special effects producer Dan
Sudick, and Geoff Baumann's visual
The Warrior Falls set was 120' x 75' in size. The set was 36' tall, with the
pool being six
feet above ground level. That made the practical cliff faces 30' tall, which
and director of photography Rachel Morrison the ability to craft sweeping camera
from every conceivable angle, allowing for up close perspectives of fighting
within the Challenge Pool below or a birds-eye viewpoint from up above.
On screen, the cliff wall of the Warrior Falls will look like it is 100 feet
combination of CG enhancement and the practically built set. For the safety of
extras, the stunt team had to rig all of the cliff faces with mountain climbing
safely secure them on the 30-foot cliff faces.
Beachler's department of artisans provided the framework of the set by
industrial Styrofoam, which was then meticulously plastered and painted to
plateau of the ancient rock cliff wall. Over 25,000 cubic feet of foam was used
set, which was sculpted to match the rocks in Oribi Gorge in South Africa.
The elevated set had multiple falls feeding water into a built-in pool below
eventually be the setting for several crucial scenes. Sudick's team engineered a
functional flowing waterfall and pool at the ledge of the cliff with six large
pumps feeding over 125,000 gallons of temperature-controlled water piping up
the set at a rate of 30,000 gallons per
minute before recirculating through the
The production designer even designed
an ingenious system of tunnels
concealed throughout the rear of set to
allow over 100 background extras,
festooned in elaborate tribal garb of
Wakanda's four tribes-Merchant, Border, Mining and River-access to different
elevations throughout the stunning backdrop.
When it was all said and done, the tremendous feat of engineering the
which took four months to build, was worth every frame of the set's two-week
The effort to create such a practical environment was not lost on the actors.
Warrior Falls," says Bassett. "The rush of water. We had the mountains. We had
throne room. So we could see the world. You could really get a sense of it; you
a sense of the scope and grandeur."
Letitia Wright agrees, "It was amazing. I've never been on a set like that
before. I already
miss the people and the drums playing. As a people, we were moving; we were
we were singing. It was brilliant for me to see, because it educated me to see
there's a root of where we come from. And that place and that motherland is
The Tribal Council set, the site of official state business, is a prime example
the old world with the new. The set was a combination of sleek, practically
built set with
visual effects enhancements, courtesy of visual effects supervisor Geoffrey
alumni of several Marvel Studios blockbusters, including, most recently, "Doctor
The Tribal Council set that involved much thought and design process.
Beginning with a
look at the design language of the film, which featured rounded shapes, Beachler
decided to go with the circle of life idea that exists in many cultures to
realize the room.
In addition, the production designer wanted to make it a mix of old and new. "We
wanted some sort of tech to enhance what is old," says Beachler. "A lot of what
to do is mix these two ideas together of our past and our present but never
of the past. It's always there."
In order to achieve that feel, Beachler's team decided to put a ruin in the
middle of the
room, under a high-tech-looking glass floor, so that the tribal council would
sitting on the ruin, a symbol of their ancient history. On metal columns in the
Beachler had script from an old Nigerian language written, which was not
one of the Nigerian extras. As Beachler explains, "She looked at the writing and
that she knew what it said. And she said that it was really beautiful. So this
is a text from
the 5th century in this high-tech setting. And it worked."
Lupita Nyong'o found the Tribal Council room inspiring. "The production value
movie is spellbinding," she says. "I remember once coming on set on a day that I
called and there was a tribal council scene being shot. It just gave me goose
because for me this was the image of what an African nation could have been if
development had been left to itself!"
One of Beachler's favorite sets was also one of the production's most
both in design and the scope of the action and filmmaking-the illegal casino
Concealed beneath the kinetic, densely packed activity of the Jagalchi Fish
Busan, South Korea, is a luxe, high-stakes casino. The contrast of texture and
heightened as one descends from the lights, noise and smells of the market to
The casino is the setting for the epic first meeting between T'Challa, Ross
which goes array and jumpstarts a heart-pounding action sequence replete with a
tightly choreographed fight scene and a white-knuckle car chase sequence
the streets of Busan.
The interior scenes were filmed in Atlanta with the highâ€“speed car action
location in the bustling coastal city of Busan. Coogler was drawn to the Busan
knew it was the perfect backdrop to
how he envisioned the sequence. "We
were beyond thrilled to be able to
shoot 'Black Panther' in Busan,"
enthuses Coogler. "The city has an
amazing energy, and provides a great
mix of modern architecture and
historical buildings all against this
beautiful coastal backdrop. It instantly
reminded me of my home in the Bay
For close to two weeks, "Black Panther's" action unit, led by second unit
Prescott and stunt coordinator R.A. Rondell, were based in Busan, which is
against the foothills of Geumjeong Mountain, to film the thrilling, mind-blowing
sequence through such iconic sites as Gwangalli Beach and Haeundae District.
For Andy Serkis, who plays Ulysses Klaue, sharing the screen with fellow
Martin Freeman in an epic showdown in a South Korean casino was rollicking fun.
was a great scene to shoot," remarks Serkis of the rousing action sequence.
enjoyed working with Martin again. We had an enormous amount of fun filming the
casino scene, which is a pretty spectacular affair with huge action and actually
the most brilliant physical stunts I've witnessed on camera. It was fantastic."
Perhaps Winston Duke sums up the production value of "Black Panther" best
says, "It's astounding, rendering you speechless and just leaving you with your
gaping open. Looking at the sets, looking at the costumes, the colors, the
going to be beautiful."
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