Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman can't be replaced, but the world of his character will live on. Director Ryan Coogler is returning to direct Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the sequel to 2018's blockbuster hit, and the film it scheduled to hit theaters on July 8, 2022. Disney has been careful to note all along that Boseman would be honored, and his role would not be recast.
Filming started June 29 at Pinewood Studios in Atlanta, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige told Variety.
"It's clearly very emotional without Chad," Variety quoted Feige as saying before a fan event. "But everyone is also very excited to bring the world of Wakanda back to the public and back to the fans. We're going to do it in a way that would make Chad proud."
Boseman captivated audiences in 2018's Black Panther playing T'Challa, king and protector of the fictional nation of Wakanda. But unbeknownst to fans, the actor had been diagnosed with colon cancer even before the first film came out, and tragically, he died on Aug. 28, 2020, at just 43. For a while after the news, sequel plans were understandably the last thing on the minds of fans.
The summer 2022 date seems like a respectful distance, and it's not yet known how Boseman's loss will be addressed, if at all.
Will the new film have a character who's called Black Panther? Even though T'Challa himself won't be recast, his Black Panther title can move on to others, including, possibly, Shuri, T'Challa's sister, played by Letitia Wright. And Feige said that the film won't include a computer-generated version of Boseman.
Before Boseman's death, the sequel seemed to be assembling a familiar group. Director 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. The Hollywood Reporter has suggested that Narcos: Mexico star Tenoch Huerta may join the cast.
Of course, the sequel cast will depend on the script -- when it takes place, which characters are spotlighted and more. But Feige said the second film would continue to explore the characters introduced in the first, so expect to see familiar faces.
There were several rumors about the film's possible villains. Some buzzed that Michael B. Jordan would 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."
Setting: Wakanda Forever
The film's setting was always 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.
The first Black Panther was such an enormous success there's no way it will have only one sequel -- assuming fans accept and appreciate the second film, even without Boseman.
"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.
Long live the king
Any new Black Panther films, however, will forever be touched by the memory of Boseman.
"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."