How can there be a Black Panther 2 without Chadwick Boseman? The actor captivated movie audiences in 2018's Black Panther playing T'Challa, the king and protector of the fictional nation of Wakanda, and many were looking forward to a 2022 sequel. But unbeknownst to fans, Boseman had been diagnosed with colon cancer even before that first film came out, and he at age 43.
"Chadwick's passing is absolutely devastating," Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, said in a statement. "He was our T'Challa, our Black Panther, and our dear friend. Each time he stepped on set, he radiated charisma and joy, and each time he appeared on screen, he created something truly indelible. He embodied a lot of amazing people in his work, and nobody was better at bringing great men to life."
For many, it seems wrong to even think about a second film under such shocking circumstances. While recasting is nothing new in superhero films, the death of a young, vibrant actor who embodied the role so perfectly isn't the same as other situations. Entertainment Weekly reported the obvious: Fans cannot imagine Boseman being replaced in the role. The loss is too enormous.
What we knew before Boseman's death
There wasn't a ton of information about the sequel available even before Boseman's death. Black Panther 2 wasn't scheduled for release until 2022, and filming isn't believed to have started yet.
Before the shocking news of Boseman's passing, the sequel seemed to be assembling a familiar group. Director Ryan Coogler, who also co-wrote the first film's screenplay, was returning. Observers were assuming most of the original cast would be back, with Martin Freeman, who plays CIA agent Everett Ross, and Danai Gurira, who plays Okoye, head of the Dora Milaje, Wakanda's all-female special forces, both confirming their return.
There were several rumors about the film's villains. Some buzzed that Michael B. Jordan would be somehow return as Erik Killmonger, even though that might take some doing, considering what happened to him in the first film. And We Got This Covered reported that Marvel Comics standby Namor the Sub-Mariner would show up and attempt to take over Wakanda. Namor is an underwater-dwelling mutant who's half-human, half-Atlantean (like Aquaman, but from Marvel).
Coogler told Yahoo Movies he had interest in another Panther villain, Kraven the Hunter, but it sounds as if the Sony series of movies has plans for Kraven, likely in a Spider-Man movie.
"I've always loved Kraven the Hunter in almost every iteration," Coogler said. "So there was a moment -- 'Can I grab Kraven?' -- and they were 'Nah, you don't have Kraven.' He was one where I thought 'Oh, man.' But I don't even know if he would have worked in the movie we ended up with, this was the early days."
As far as plot, Feige told Entertainment Weekly there was "a pretty solid direction on where we want to head with the second one." Black Panther has a rich history in the comics, and many of those stories would translate well to the big screen. He's fought the KKK, battled a coup from within Wakanda, dealt with a Skrull invasion and saved Queen Ramonda from a white supremacist.
The film's setting was obvious. By finally showing T'Challa's homeland of Wakanda on screen, Black Panther handed Marvel a new and creative setting not just for Black Panther solo movies, but for visits from his colleagues in the Avengers. Almost the entire third act of Avengers: Infinity War was set in the fictional African nation.
And the first Black Panther was such an enormous success there's no way it would've only had one sequel.
"Panther obviously is a big swing that we hope to continue through many sequels and take some of these characters and put them in other franchises because I do think there's a way to cross-pollinate in an interesting way," producer Nate Moore told Screen Rant in 2018.
Boseman's death is so devastating it feels like a betrayal of his memory to even consider a film without him. But eventually, as tough as it may seem to think about now, Marvel will want to revisit its top African superhero.
The Black Panther title could pass to another character, such as Letitia Wright's Shuri. It's always possible there's unused footage from the first film or from other Avengers movies that could be spliced in to set up T'Challa's departure, or it could be addressed verbally without new footage of Boseman.
There's precedent for honoring such a loss. Actress Carrie Fisher died in 2016, and yet her character, General Leia, appeared briefly in the 2019 film Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.used previous footage and treated the actress and beloved character respectfully.
For now, though, those are future discussions, as those who knew Boseman continue to reel from his loss.
"He was as smart and kind and powerful and strong as any person he portrayed," Feige said. "Now he takes his place alongside them as an icon for the ages."