Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman cannot be replaced, but the world of his character will live on. The sequel to 2018's blockbuster hit now has a title. Marvel announced this week that the 2022 film will be called Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. The movie, with director Ryan Coogler returning, will come to theaters on July 8, 2022, Disney announced in 2020, when it was careful to note that Boseman would be honored, and his role would not be recast.
The release date was already known from prior announcements, but the title is new.
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 , at 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. It's possible, of course, that the Wakanda stories the studio's tweet mentions come well before T'Challa's time, and thus his absence wouldn't need to be directly confronted.
Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige didn't say when filming would begin, but an earlier report by The Hollywood Reporter said work on the film is tentatively scheduled to begin in July 2021 in Atlanta and will continue for upwards of six months.
Before Boseman's death, 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. 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. News will surely trickle out as the filming schedule gets closer. 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
Will the new film have a character who's called Black Panther? There are plenty of rumors. T'Challa himself won't be recast, but his title can move on to others, including Shuri, T'Challa's sister, played by Letitia Wright.
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."