Last year, the entire Marvel fandom was hit with a tragedy as Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman unexpectedly passed away after a long battle with cancer. As the world mourned the loss of a talented actor, questions were raised surrounding the future of the highly successful Black Panther film franchise.
The long-awaited sequel was officially confirmed over a year prior to Boseman's passing, with the actor originally planned to lead the film. Naturally, this left Marvel Studios in a tough position to either recast the T'Challa, cancel the sequel altogether, or move forward with the focus shifted to the other heroes of Wakanda.
Almost a year later, the sequel is pushing ahead under the title of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Much of the cast are set to reprise their roles for the film including Letitia Wright's Shuri, Danai Gurira's Dora Milaje warrior Okoye, and Martin Freeman's Everett Ross.
With some fans' concerns surrounding the direction of the Ryan Coogler-directed sequel persisting, shooting is preparing to commence in Atlanta. As is always the case with Marvel Studios productions, people have turned to studio head Kevin Feige for answers, who has addressed the tragic passing, and the plans for the sequel.
WAKANDA WITHOUT CHADWICK
Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige recently sat down with Rotten Tomatoes to discuss Phase 4 of the MCU, during which the topic of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever arose.
The Marvel veteran commented on the passing of Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman, saying that it hit “extremely hard” at “the same time as it hit the world” as the studio was equally unaware of the actor's illness. Additionally, the producer went on to say that the tragic death raised “all sorts of questions,” with the studio's initial thoughts having “nothing to do with the movie” but everything to do with “him and his family and his wife and his legacy:”
“The death of Chad [Boseman] had hit all of us extremely hard — and at the same time as it hit the world, because we didn’t know either. And there were all sorts of questions, and our first thought for many weeks afterwards had nothing to do with the movie, it had to do with him and his family and his wife and his legacy.”
With so much uncertainty, Feige confirmed he was “looking to Ryan Coogler for guidance” as they discussed “continuing the legacy of Wakanda and continuing with that storyline.” While the story they told had to be done so “in a very meaningful [and] respectful” way, it still had to remain “hopeful and fun and exciting,” something that certainly posed its challenges after the loss of a dear friend:
“And really we were looking to Ryan Coogler for guidance — as one frankly always should about almost everything in life, I’d recommend following Ryan Coogler for guidance. The discussions essentially came down to continuing the legacy of Wakanda and continuing with that storyline in a very meaningful, respectful, and yet still hopeful and fun and exciting way, which was difficult after losing Chad.”
Kevin Feige went on to discuss Wakanda Forever, saying that the entire cast and crew have “done some remarkable things in the story,” as the team “[assembles] once again” to begin filming in the “not-too-distant future.” Obviously, the production will be “extremely emotional across the board,” but the producer is convinced “they have something very special in mind:”
“And I will say that Ryan and our producer, Nate Moore, and the entire cast, and our co-writer Joe Robert Cole, have done some remarkable things in the story and the draft. The team is assembling once again and cameras roll in the not-too-distant future on that. And it will be extremely emotional across the board, but I think they have something very special in mind.”
WHAT WILL THE SEQUEL LOOK LIKE?
Even in all the smoke and mirrors that shroud Phase 4 of the MCU, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever may be one of the most mysterious projects of the bunch. The Wakandan franchise has been left needing a new lead hero with the strength and charisma to bring the film success in the way Boseman previously did.
Naturally, the most common theory is that Letitia Wright's tech genius Shuri will don the iconic suit to become the next protector of Wakanda. Beyond just the mantle of Black Panther, the throne of the secretive African nation is now vacant, with the princess of Wakanda being next in line to the throne, she may be crowned within the sequel.
Another issue remains in how to address the absence of T'Challa going forward. The most simple solutions would be to either kill the character off-screen or have another actor briefly wear the suit for a death sequence. However, out of respect, Marvel may opt to allow the character to live on in the MCU and offer an alternate explanation for why the Wakandan king isn't around.
Whatever the future of the franchise will be, it will likely be clarified in the first act of the film to allow the story to push forward in its new direction without dwelling on the past. Atlantean king Namor has been rumored to serve as the main villain of the film, so the Wakandans are sure to have their hands full with the risk of war between the two nations on the line.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will hit theaters on July 8, 2022.