Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is easily one of the most anticipated Marvel sequels of all time. The project is not only following up a bonafide hit in Ryan Coogler's first Wakandan epic but will do so without the first film's main character after the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman.
Wakanda Forever will continue the trend of the first movie, weaving a deep and politically charged tale, telling the story of a country and a people that have "lost their protectors."
Coogler's work has always gone in this deeper, more thought-provoking direction, and many would agree that in recent years the rest of the MCU has followed suit. This elevation of subject matter was something that was directly addressed by one of Wakanda Forever's stars, along with where he sees his character going.
No More Villains for Marvel, According to Winston Duke
In an interview with Collider, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever actor Winston Duke said that he thinks Marvel has moved past villains in its films.
The M'Baku actor said he disagrees with the notion that "Marvel villains [are] villains," noting these characters are "all so complex that [he] always just [calls] them antagonists."
He remarked that Marvel really nails "making their antagonists so palatable and worthy of redemption:"
"I never think of Marvel villains as villains. They’re all so complex that I always just call them antagonists. They just want different stuff, and they’ll go head-to-head with our “heroes” to get what they want. And Marvel does such a good job of making their antagonists so palatable and worthy of redemption. M’Baku understands the complexity of the situation. In that way, his mind is always open, and it’s always working. I’m really excited for people to see the complexity inside this movie."
Duke also pointed out that he would love for his character to have a potential Disney+ spin-off or movie, emphasizing "the Jabari-Lands are such a rich space of culture" that would be "really cool to explore:"
"Say that again, so that everyone can hear it. Say that again, for the people in the back. The Jabari-Lands are such a rich space of culture within Wakanda that it would be really cool to explore that. We’re speaking purely hypothetically here. We’re just spit-balling and dreaming. You’re dreaming with me, my tall friend. I like the idea of what M’Baku would be like, out in the world. That would be pretty cool because he’s not a character that we usually see exploring. I think his type of code of honor would be pretty cool to see interact with so many other things."
Speaking with ComicBook.com, the actor addressed where his Black Panther character is when fans first see him in Wakanda Forever, saying that "M’Baku is forced to really catch up with the times."
He mentions that his "role has changed" and fans "get to see a whole new dynamic including [M'Baku]."
When asked if his character would ever want to be an Avenger, Duke responded by asking, "Does it mean I get a pay raise?”
Comicbook: “Now, Wakanda has opened its shield for the world a little bit. They’re kinda on the radar now. What does a guy like M’Baku think of that?”
Duke: “Ah man, you know, I think M’Baku is forced to really catch up with the times. His role has changed. He survived the Snap. He is now part of their tribal council, so he’s more forward-facing and less insular, so he’s been forced to really be a part of the collective transparency. So I think that’s a really cool thing for him and you get to see a whole new dynamic including him.”
Comicbook: “You think he’d ever wanna be an Avenger?”
Duke: “I mean, hypothetically?”
Comicbook: “Between you and me, just fantasy.”
Duke: “Does it mean I get a pay raise?”
Comicbook: “We’ll talk to Kevin [Feige] about that.”
Have MCU 'Villains' Really Become That Complex?
Some may read these villain comments from Winston Duke and roll their eyes, but he is kind of right. Marvel has evolved from simple hero vs villain stories, and it seems as though the days of a traditional comic book movie may be done.
A perfect example of this can be found in Duke's debut in the franchise in Black Panther. Michael B. Jordan's Killmonger was so much more than just a villain. If he were the main character instead of Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa, a case could have been that he was actually the hero.
And that is exactly the point that Duke is making here. No longer do Marvel movies tell these black-and-white stories. Characters like Thanos, Vulture, Loki, and Wanda are all peppered with that thought of, "Well, they do have a point."
While it is still instantly evident who is good vs bad, the franchise has started to play way more in the gray, telling more nuanced tales than those that got the MCU ball rolling back in 2008.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever comes to theaters on November 11.