2022 has been a busy year for Marvel, but the studio’s most important release is still on the horizon. With a new trailer out today, we have our best look yet at Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (which opens on Nov. 11), and how the franchise’s characters mourn the loss of Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa and carry on his legacy.
The trailer opens with a poignant shot from what appears to be T’Challa’s funeral, with his mother, Ramonda (Angela Bassett), and sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), carrying his helmet. In the final shot before the title card, we see a new character wearing a suit of Black Panther armor, which is presumably Shuri: As keen-eyed social media users noted, the new mask bears the same dot pattern as her face does earlier in the trailer. (Shuri has taken on the role of Black Panther in the comic books before, most notably in the late ‘00s when the wife of a badly wounded T’Challa named her to the role, and in several issues thereafter.) In an EMPIRE interview, Wright did not confirm Shuri’s destiny, but said that playing her gave her the space to mourn the tragic death of her friend and colleague Boseman. “Shuri’s journey has allowed me to grieve, to cry, to laugh, and to gain strength that I never thought I could ever have,” she said.
Among the other returning characters featured in the trailer are Dora Milaje leader Okoye (Danai Gurira), Jabari tribe leader M’Baku (Winston Duke), and renowned spy Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), who was previously in a relationship with T’Challa. The new teaser also establishes Wakanda Forever’s primary antagonist, Namor (Tenoch Huerta). Namor (also known as the Sub-Mariner in the comics) is the leader of the underwater civilization Talocan, and Huerta told EMPIRE that his people “take action to protect themselves” in the wake of T’Challa ending the veil of secrecy around Wakanda’s futuristic true identity. Namor has been the planned villain for a Black Panther sequel since the first film came out, and there were initial plans to tease him at the end of the 2018 movie. Wakanda Forever makes some changes to the origins and aesthetic of Namor’s kingdom, having it be more inspired by Mayan culture than ancient Greek history, as it was in the books. (Two huge behind-the-scenes returners are veteran costume designer Ruth E. Carter and production designer Hannah Beachler, both of whom won Oscars for their work on the first Panther; the trailer highlights their incredible attention to detail and intricate world-building through the funeral scene and the establishing shots of Talocan.
In a new Entertainment Weekly cover story, writer-director Ryan Coogler said that following Boseman’s death in August 2020, “I didn’t know if I could make another movie period, [let alone] another Black Panther movie, because it hurt a lot.” However, after reflecting on conversations he and Boseman had late in his life, that he realized he wanted to keep working. “I dreaded the start of this shoot because I could not imagine how we would proceed without Chadwick,” Nyong’o told EW. “It was unfathomable to me. But Ryan managed to honor his life and his role in both the film and our lives with his moving, truthful, and clear vision.”
In the EMPIRE feature, Kevin Feige spoke about the decision not to recast the role of T’Challa. “It just felt like it was much too soon to recast,” he explained. “Stan Lee always said that Marvel represents the world outside your window. And we had talked about how, as extraordinary and fantastical as our characters and stories are, there’s a relatable and human element to everything we do. The world is still processing the loss of Chad. And Ryan [Coogler] poured that into the story.”
Advanced tickets are already on sale for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’s November 11 opening, and it is set to be the MCU’s longest film to date, second only to Endgame, with a runtime of 2 hours 42 minutes.