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With about a year to go until its wide theatrical release next summer, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has officially kicked off production at Pinewood Studios in Atlanta, Georgia. Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige confirmed the news to Variety during a special fan screening of Black Widow (out next Friday) that was held in Los Angeles Tuesday evening.
“It’s clearly very emotional without Chad,” Feige said, referring to original Panther star Chadwick Boseman, who unexpectedly passed away last August at the age of 43 following a secret battle with colon cancer. "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."
Ryan Coogler is back as writer and director for the sequel, which will see the return of major characters like Shuri (Letitia Wright), Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o), Angela Bassett (Queen Ramonda), Okoye (Danai Gurira), W'Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya), M'Baku (Winston Duke), Ayo (Florence Kasumba), and Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman).
With no plans to bring King T'Challa back via recasting or digital trickery, the general consensus among fans is that Shuri may take over the mantle of Wakanda's protector, just as she does in the comics. There's also widespread speculation that Namor the Sub-Mariner could make his MCU debut in the sequel, owing to the fact that the underwater royal is known for his belligerent relationship with Wakanda over the years.
"Obviously, it's a very strange thing," Freeman said in May. "When Chadwick passed last year, after the initial shock of that — and it was just an appalling thing to find out — the next thing was, 'Ok, I guess we're not doing that film.' So, Marvel came to us reasonably shortly afterwards and said, 'Look, obviously, this is a dreadful thing, but we're gonna go on. That was the plan from a while ago. Obviously, the hope is that we do the first film justice and we do Chadwick's legacy on it justice and make it another good film."
Released in the winter of 2018, several months before Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther was a massive box office and cultural phenomenon. In addition to representing a major step forward in comic book diversity on the big screen, the film made over $1 billion globally and took home three Oscars at the 91st Academy Awards ceremony.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever claws its way into theaters everywhere July 8, 2022.