Right after the release of the first Black Panther movie and, of course, its huge box office success, Marvel Studios started preparing the sequel. After a few months of negotiations, director Ryan Coogler had been signed on for the second instalment, which was set to begin production in mid-2019. However, the plans were disrupted by the death of lead actor Chadwick Boseman. So, the biggest question was which direction to take to completely rework the script. The filmmakers had made it clear from the start that no other actor would play Boseman’s character, and they would not bring the actor to life digitally, so they had to come up with something completely different.
First, let’s look at what made the film such a surprise success in 2018. Let’s not forget that the movie was released during the Trump years, a time when black lives felt more precarious than usual and the need for black superheroes even more pressing. It was a triple phenomenon – not just commercial and critical, but a genuine and unparalleled cultural triumph. King T’Challa thus became a modern-day hero during this uncertain era, in an industry that was starved for nuance and deeper, more intelligent meanings. But his reign was not to last: Boseman died of colon cancer two years after the film’s release. Franchises are always built on star power, so the noble task of how to go on was set… Without Boseman, of course, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is haunted by his absence, and shrouded in a sadness that cannot be ignored. The film’s native language is a kind of mourning that is unique and new in the Marvel world.
So, the King is dead, and the eyes of the world are once again on Wakanda. Queen Ramonda takes the throne, and in the year since her son’s death, she has done her utmost to maintain the African country’s authority as a sovereign power. Wakanda remains rich in vibranium and refuses to share its resources with allies. As we see every day, greed is the spark of all conflicts in history, and this is no different in Wakanda. The US government embarks on a vibranium exploration mission, but it is thwarted by an unknown power – the Talokan people, an underwater empire that is home to the only other vibranium well on Earth. Their leader Namor is determined to keep Talokan’s existence a secret. The mining operation threatens to expose his oceanic utopia, so he hatches a plan to stop it: kill the scientist building the device to track the vibranium and ally with Wakanda against the surface world. But Wakanda refuses, and the two nations face certain war.
Audiences seem to have been receptive to this new kind of adventure, and in only its third weekend, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever continues its reign at the global and international box office. The theatrical total currently stands at 675.6 million USD worldwide.