Despite a number of headlines throughout its development – and the tragic death of Chadwick Boseman – Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was, until recently, one of the most secretive films Marvel Studios has ever produced. Although certain things, like the majority of the cast, were known via breaks and rumor, the studio was quiet (even by their standards) on specifics until July 23, 2022 when Marvel debuted the first Wakanda Forever trailer at Comic-Con International: San Diego. They also took the occasion to finally confirm the cast and pay tribute to Boseman.
But with the film due out next month and a second trailer now making it clear a Black Panther will be featured, let’s take a look at everything we know about the picture and try to guess at what it might add to the Marvel Cinematic Universe going forward.
(Photo by Annette Brown/©Marvel)
From the trailers, it is clear the film will be set after the death of King T’Challa (Boseman). In a clip screened at SDCC, it appears his passing is a fairly recently development as Queen Regent Ramonda (Angela Bassett) tells a UN body that the world stage presumes Wakanda is weakened by the death of its leader. Although the Dora Milaje quickly prove this is not the case to a group of French adventurers trying to score some vibranium, the perception of a leaderless Wakanda will inspire several nations to attempt an invasion.
Once such country appears to be Talokan, known in the Marvel Comics Universe as Atlantis. Its leader, Namor (Tenoch Huerta), has seemingly personal reasons to go to war with Wakanda, although the more recent trailer suggests he may be willing to be allies. As it happens, the Sub-Mariner (as he is also called) and T’Challa have beef in the comics and, presumably, this development honors that in some way. Also, as the trailer from July refers to Wakanda defending itself from nations, we expect at least one other, more land-based state to also attempt an invasion. Will it be Doctor Doom’s Latveria? It is a possibility, but that’s more speculation than anything else. More likely, the French adventurers in the SDCC clip may have government backing. Alternatively, CIA Agent Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) may try to use the situation to get a supply of vibranium for American interests.
(Photo by Matt Kennedy/©Marvel Studios)
But all the Marvel geopolitics will serve as a backdrop for the film’s true objective: dealing with a devastating loss. Boseman’s tragic death in 2020 from complications related to colon cancer is an unavoidable topic, and though it only delayed production by a handful of months, the trailers make it clear his absence will not be side-stepped. How could it? The actor was one of the key factors in the first film’s success and his continued presence in films like Avengers: Infinity War cemented T’Challa as one of the MCU’s key leadership figures. And though many have good arguments for recasting the part, his passing is an incalculable loss. That could not go without acknowledgement.
And thanks to the teases of a new Black Panther in the trailers, it is clear honoring Boseman also means keeping the heroic persona he helped usher onto screens alive. The identity of the next Black Panther remains a mystery, of course, and we imagine the unmasking will be a big moment in the film.
(Photo by ©Marvel Studios)
In terms of setting, we expect much of the film to take place in the Wakandan capital and a few other regions within the country and outside its borders. Talokan will certainly play a heavy role. But from the trailers and clips, we can also expect at least one visit to Europe – the aforementioned scene with Ramonda — and the US to introduce a new character we will discuss in a moment.
But as with all Phase 4 MCU films, the bigger setting issue is a question of when it takes place. Although the pandemic delays meant we viewers have caught up a little bit on the five year gap introduced in Avengers: Endgame, the Hawkeye television series and Spider-Man: No Way Home are said to occur in the holiday season of 2024, suggesting the events of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness happen sometime in 2025. Other Phase 4 projects like WandaVision and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings occur shortly after Endgame or in a more nebulous timeframe, like She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. But with Wakanda Forever serving as the close of Phase 4, we presume it will be the most “recent” story, occurring in late 2025. Or, perhaps, we’ll discover a more surprising time-frame for the film. After all, Ramonda’s proclamation in the October trailer that her entire family is gone makes more sense during the Blip, when both of her children were gone. But, perhaps, we’ll see some of that Blip time in addition to the “current” storyline.
(Photo by Marvel Entertainment)
The loss of Boseman means returning actors Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, and Danai Gurira will step up alongside Bassett as the Wakanda leadership group. Although, as we already mentioned, Bassett’s Ramonda is acting as Queen Regent, it automatically sets up a puzzle: is Shuri (Wright) not next in line to sit on the throne? Presumably, this question will occupy the greater amount of the character’s arc as she struggles with wanting that power (or abdicating it to remain a scientist) or if a full, ruling queen is even allowed in Wakanda society. Even if that scene takes place during the Blip, Shuri’s succession will still be something she and the country will have to confront.
Meanwhile, all four characters make good candidates for the next Black Panther. Although, we’re partial to Gurira’s Okoye as the person best suited to be the nation’s protector. But can that role be handed to someone not in the line of succession?
Additionally, we expect Nyong’o’s Nakia also to be dealing with a lot of grief. Although, as many noted around the first film’s release, the character is often an antagonist in the comics (going by the name Malice) and could break bad during the film. But this is merely speculation based on the character’s exploits in the comics.
(Photo by Eli Adé/©Marvel)
Also returning are Martin as Agent Ross, Winston Duke as M’Baku (another good Panther candidate, even if the glimpses so far suggest a woman will assume the role) and Florence Kasumba as Ayo. Surprisingly, Daniel Kaluuya revealed in July that he would not be returning as W’Kabi due to scheduling conflicts with his often-hectic calendar. Unless, of course, that is all a smokescreen to hide that W’Kabi as the next Black Panther…
Meanwhile, the film will introduce a surprising roster of characters we expect will enjoy a long stay in the MCU. First and foremost of these is Huerta’s Namor. Created by Bill Everett and introduced in 1939, the Sub-Mariner (as he is also known) is one of the oldest Marvel characters – he predates the comic company’s decision to go by the Marvel name, but first appeared alongside the Human Torch in Marvel Comics #1. In the ’60s, he was retconned to be the first Marvel Mutant (flight and strength are his added abilities) among the likes of Magneto, Wolverine, and the X-Men. And thanks to Huerta, we know this will be the case in the film. Presumably, this means Mutants will become better known in the years ahead. Beyond that, Namor has long-standing tensions with members of the Fantastic Four, so we’ll be quite surprised if he doesn’t show up in that film, too.
(Photo by ©Marvel Studios)
Also debuting in the film are Mabel Cadena as Namora — a member of the Namor cast introduced in 1947 — Michaela Coel as a member of the Dora Milaje known as Aneka, Alex Livinalli as Attuma (often an adversary of Namor), Richard Schiff in an unconfirmed role, and Dominque Thorne as Riri Williams – aka Ironheart. From the trailer, we know she will succeed in building a suit of armor to rival Iron Man’s, which will be the jumping off point for her own Disney+ series, due to premiere next year. We’ve long suspected Riri may have participated in one of the programs T’Challa promised to open at the end of the first Black Panther – presuming, of course, that Ramonda still went through with that plan during her son’s absences in Endgame‘s five-year time gap. If this is the case, it may explain how a young woman from the US ends up in Wakanda working with Shuri, as glimpsed in the October trailer.
(Photo by Karwai Tang/Getty Images)
Ryan Coogler returns again as director with Joe Robert Cole also returning as co-writer. Coogler was committed to a sequel early on and, as we mentioned, only took a handful of months to realign the script following Boseman’s death. Nevertheless, he was still emotional when discussing the actor’s absence at SDCC.
Other returning crew include Coogler’s producing partner Nate Moore and Marvel veterans like Victoria Alonso, Kevin Feige, and Louis D’Esposito. Composer Ludwig Göransson, production designer Hannah Beachler, costume designer Ruth Carter, and editor Michael P. Shawver also return, while Kelly Dixon and Jennifer Lame join up as editors and Autumn Durald Arkapaw takes over as Director of Photography from Black Panther‘s Rachel Morrison.
(Photo by ©Marvel Studios)
After a handful of release date changes to accommodate the ever-shifting theatrical landscape and a few other delays, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will debut on November 11. As previously noted, the film will mark the end of Phase 4. That said, there will be an epilogue of sorts with Disney+’s The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special and then a short pause until February 2023 when Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania ushers in Phase 5.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever opens everywhere on November 11, 2022.