Disney’s big investor meeting on Thursday had an overwhelming amount of news about the House of Mouse’s upcoming slate, featuring tons of new announcements from Pixar, Marvel, Hulu, FX and Disney’s other assorted pop culture tentacles. Among them came news from Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige about the fate of one of the MCU’s finest and most revolutionary properties. Black Panther II is moving ahead, but the role of T’Challa will not be recast.
In August, news that Chadwick Boseman passed away shocked the world. Marvel Studios was reportedly unaware of Boseman’s cancer and was just as surprised as everyone else by the news. Black Panther writer and director Ryan Coogler had started work on the script for the sequel to his groundbreaking film, so news of Boseman’s death presumably threw franchise plans for a loop. The question of whether or not to find a new actor for a role that Boseman inhabited so effortlessly and iconically seemed a bit foregone but Feige confirmed what many suspected: nobody could replace Boseman and nobody will. It’s the right move.
What does that mean for the sequel? Feige didn’t say. In the comics, T’Challa’s sister Shuri takes on the mantle when her big brother goes AWOL, and an actor of Letitia Wright’s caliber is certainly capable of shouldering the responsibility. But we don’t know what direction Coogler will go just yet, and that’s just as well. Unending speculation about how a billion-dollar franchise will handle the tragic death of one of its biggest stars can feel a bit crass, but Feige certainly appears to be handling it as delicately as possible.
Next up for Marvel is a round up TV shows for Disney+, including WandaVision, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, Hawkeye and Ms. Marvel. WandaVision, starring Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, will be the first of these, dropping on January 15, and the mindbending new trailer sure makes it look like one of the weirder, wilder entries in the MCU, borrowing liberally from Tom King’s iconic Vision comic series.