Black Panther is the last movie before we reach Infinity War's game-changing battle between the Avengers and Thanos (Josh Brolin) on 27th April. Although the former is primarily focused on T'Challa's (Chadwick Boseman) rise to the Wakandan throne, it also sets us up for Infinity War in a number of ways. Here are five of them.
Warning: Black Panther spoilers lie ahead!
1. It sets up T'Challa as a key Infinity War player
Although we first met T'Challa in 2016's Captain America: Civil War, we only got a snapshot of his character. Back then, we watched as he teamed up with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) to hunt down the man responsible for his father T'Chaka's death.
In Black Panther, we got to see a whole lot more of T'Challa, from his personal struggles becoming king to righting the wrongs of his predecessors. Likewise, we witness his relationships with his sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), old flame Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o), and Dora Milaje warrior Okoye (Danai Gurira).
His character is now suitably fleshed out: we're aware of him both as a noble ruler and an inwardly tormented young man keen to do the right thing by his country. As the new king, he's therefore got everything to lose, which is bound to increase the sense of dramatic tension when Wakanda is invaded by Thanos in Infinity War.
2. It establishes Wakanda
In Black Panther, we also get to enter the stunning country of Wakanda properly for the first time. It's the elusive African nation that's harnessed vibranium (the metal Captain America's shield is made from) to create highly advanced technologies. From bustling metropolitan areas and rural countryside to sacred ritual grounds and snowy mountain peaks, Wakanda is a lot bigger and varied than you might think.
Moreover, the movie introduced us to the politics of the kingdom, where it's made clear just how important loyalty and tradition are to the Wakandans. Additionally, we gain valuable insight into the area's conflicting ideologies, including the rivalry between Jabari tribe leader M'Baku (Winston Duke) and T'Challa.
Why's this important for Infinity War? Well, that film's trailer shows a significant chunk of the action will be taking place in Wakanda itself. Knowing who the key players are and how things work there will be part of the foundation of Infinity War.
3. It sets up Wakanda's role in the battle to come
In-keeping with Marvel tradition, significant details were revealed during Black Panther's post-credit scenes. The first revealed a plot point that is sure to impact the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU): Wakanda will share its technology with the rest of the world.
After the events of the movie, T'Challa decides that it'd be better for Wakanda to abandon its isolationist philosophy and join the rest of the world in "this time of crisis", by sharing its secrets with the United Nations. With Thanos on his way to Earth, vibranium technology would definitely come in handy for everyone. The question is – will it be ready before he arrives?
4. Wakanda may be the location of the Soul Stone
Let's not forget that Thanos is on a mission to harness all six Infinity Stones, which will grant him power over the entire universe. Given it acts as Infinity War's predecessor, many were convinced that Black Panther would finally unveil the location of the elusive Soul Stone, the sixth and final of the group.
Some believed it would enable T'Challa to talk to the spirits of his ancestors. Others theorised it would be hidden in the vibranium mine, around which all of Wakandan society was built when the meteor containing the substance struck thousands of years ago.
In reality, the final gem was nowhere to be found. Director Ryan Coogler has even told IGN that the stone was never intended to be in Wakanda. Surely this means that Infinity War will reveal the Soul Stone at some point? After all, it's the only one left that stands between Thanos and his dreams of inter-galactic domination. And if the sixth Infinity Stone isn't in Wakanda, why would Thanos want to bring his army there? Unless he's had it all along...
5. It alludes to the White Wolf mythology from the comics
Of course, the biggest Infinity War set up came during Black Panther's second post-credit scene, in which we see a group of Wakandan children gazing at something in a hut they call "the White Wolf". It turns out this is Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), who was last seen being transferred to Wakanda at the end of Civil War to have the super soldier programme wiped form his mind.
Could Bucky be the reason Captain America (Chris Evans) finds his way to Wakanda in Infinity War? More importantly, White Wolf is the name given to T'Challa's adopted brother in the comics, who goes on to lead Wakanda's War Dogs. Is this hinting at Bucky's future role within the MCU? Only time will tell.
Andy Murray is an Unlimited card holder who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.