Warning: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever spoilers ahead. After Chadwick Boseman, who played the Black Panther King T’Challa, tragically died in 2020, many fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe were left wondering who would replace him as the new Black Panther in Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever.
Boseman passed away after a private battle with Stage 4 colon cancer. He was only 43. “A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much,” his family said in a statement at the time. “From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more, all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy.”
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In a story for Variety, the Wakanda Forever filmmaker Ryan Coogler said Boseman hadn’t read the script for the Black Panther sequel because his battle with cancer had exhausted him. “He hadn’t read it,” Coogler said. “I found out later he was … “I can write this,” he says finally. “It’s harder for me to say it.” The note, according to Variety, essentially said that Boseman was “too tired” to read the script. “That’s what was going on,” said Coogler. But the show, as they say, must go on. Continue reading to find out who has taken over as the new Black Panther after Boseman’s death.
Who is the new Black Panther?
Who is the new Black Panther? Fans of the books will already know that T’Challa’s genius half-sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) takes over the responsibility of Wakanda’s superpowered protector. If you saw the first Black Panther movie, though, you’ll know that Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) destroyed all the Heart-Shaped Herb in Wakanda that gave the power of the Black Panther to whoever drank the brew infused with the flower. Usually, the new Black Panther is chosen by a new challenger facing the existing hero in a gladiator-style face-off. In fact, in the comics, Shuri intended to compete herself on the day T’Challa took over the mantle from his uncle S’Yan, but she was taken out by an opponent.
There were questions as to whether the MCU should simply recast T’Challa following Boseman’s death. In an interview with Empire, Kevin Feige said it was “too soon” to simply swap out Boseman for another actor, as he’d been introduced in Captain America: Civil War, appearing through to the groundbreaking origins story Black Panther, and into Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame.
“It just felt like it was much too soon to recast,” he says, likening their approach to Marvel’s long-standing ethos in the comics. “Stan Lee always said that Marvel represents the world outside your window. And we had talked about how, as extraordinary and fantastical as our characters and stories are, there’s a relatable and human element to everything we do. The world is still processing the loss of Chad. And Ryan poured that into the story.”
Feige expanded on this point in an interview with Deadline in 2021, explaining that there would be no CGI T’Challa in the sequel to Black Panther either: “So much of the comics and that first movie is the world of Wakanda. Wakanda is a place to further explore with characters and different subcultures. This was always and initially the primary focus of the next story. We’re not going to have a CG Chadwick and we’re not recasting T’Challa.”
He continued: “Ryan Coogler is working very hard right now on the script with all the respect and love and genius that he has, which gives us great solace, so it was always about furthering the mythology and the inspiration of Wakanda. There’s also the task of honoring and respecting the ongoing learnings and teachings from Chad as well.”
Wakanda Forever opens with Shuri trying desperately to recreate the flower to heal her brother from an undisclosed illness, but she’s unsuccessful and T’Challa (who isn’t depicted in these scenes) dies. Much of Wakanda Forever focuses on a post-Black Panther Wakanda and how that time in the nation’s history has passed. There are flashbacks to Boseman’s scenes from the first movie towards the end of Wakanda Forever, as Shuri struggles, but eventually comes, to terms with her brother’s death.
“The challenge was just being vulnerable with what we were feeling and stepping into Wakanda without our King, which is one of the most difficult things we could’ve done,” Wright told Bet.com. “As I felt that difficulty, I allowed that to pour into Shuri—when you’re hit with losing someone, the inner circle feels it first before it starts to get to the outer circle. The people who love T’Challa the most would feel it, so I allowed what I felt to pour into Shuri and for us to follow her journey into womanhood.”
Initially, Shuri is not interested in taking over the Black Panther mantle, she doesn’t even really believe in the Ancestral Plane. But when her mother, Queen Ramonda, dies at the hands of Wakanda’s new enemy, Namor, (played by Tenoch Huerta), the African nation needs the power of the Black Panther to defend itself from this very formidable enemy. Little does Namor know, he gifts Shuri with the missing ingredient necessary to reinvigorate the Heart-Shaped Herb. Shuri undergoes the ritual to turn herself into the Black Panther—which involves going to the Ancestral Plane and consulting dead relatives in the afterlife.
Shuri is shocked to find Killmonger, the antagonist of the first Black Panther movie from 2018 there in the Ancestral Plane. He says T’Challa’s mercy made him “too noble” and therefore weak, so he tries to convince Shuri to do what needs to be done and destroy Namor. Returning to consciousness, Shuri tells Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) the brew didn’t work but it’s clear she’s got super strength and thus creates her Black Panther own suit. In the final showdown with Namor, Shuri nearly kills her enemy as Killmonger encourages, but instead shows mercy when a vision of her mother, Ramonda, convinces her to spare him.
“Letitia was hired because she, No. 1, was a great actor, but No. 2, she provided a levity to the film,” the president of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige told Variety. “Now the entire weight of the movie and of the kingdom of Wakanda was on her shoulders in the next movie in a way that obviously no one expected.”
What are Shuri’s Black Panther powers?
What are Shuri’s Black Panther powers? They’re similar to those that have come before her: super strength, stamina, power absorption, nanotechnology enhancements and other superpowered physical characteristics that make her comparable to T’Challa and Killmonger. This, of course, is paired with her existing genius-level intellect, so that’s an edge she has over both of them. She’s also upgraded the suit to include panther-shaped gauntlets that can fire sonic blasts, so Black Panther now has ranged attacks as well as being deadly in close quarters.
Will there be a Black Panther 3?
Will there be a Black Panther 3? Nothing finite has been announced but Wakanda Forever producer Nate Moore told Variety plenty of ideas were floating around as to where to take the Wakandan story next. “This world is expansive, and there are so many great characters,” Moore says. “Beyond what happens with this film, there are more opportunities to go back to Wakanda.”
Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige backed up this statement. “I go back to what I said when we decided to make Wakanda Forever after losing Chad,” Feige said. “This mythology and this ensemble and these characters deserve to continue and will continue after all of us are gone, I hope, and will continue forever in movies the way it has in comics for 50-plus years.”
For more about Black Panther and Chadwick Boseman, read Mia Johnson’s 2020 biography, Chadwick Boseman: Forever Our King. The book, which was published four months after Boseman’s death from colon cancer on August 28, 2020 at the age of 43, takes Marvel fans through Boseman’s career and life from how he was cast as King T’Challa in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Black Panther franchise to his secret diagnosis with colon cancer in 2016, two years before the premiere of the first Black Panther movie. The biography—which donates a portion of its proceeds to Fight Colorectal Cancer, an organization dedicated to researching and raising awareness around rectal cancer—also includes dozens of full-color photographs and details about Boseman’s childhood in South Carolina and his final days before his death. “If you love Chadwick Boseman, and who doesn’t, you need this book,” one reviewer wrote.
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