Black Panther 2: Why Marvel Needs to Nail The Balance Between Blockbuster and Cinema With This Pivotal Sequel

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever closed out Marvel's Comic-Con 2022 panel with a trailer that was an emotional gut-punch for fans around the world. The first footage from Black Panther 2 showed Wakanda in mourning over the loss of King T'Challa – a dark mirror of the real-life tragedy of actor Chadwick Boseman's death in 2020. Marvel has made the decision to move ahead with the Black Panther franchise without re-casting T'Challa – and after the first trailer, fans overwhelmingly agree that what we've seen of the film is truly beautiful. 

...Now it just needs to stay that way. When it comes to Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Marvel absolutely needs to nail the balance between cinema and blockbuster franchise moviemaking, as few films have before. 

(Photo: Marvel Studios)

The choice not to recast T'Challa for Black Panther 2 has been a "damned if you do..." situation for Marvel Studios and director Ryan Coogler, without a doubt. Fans have been split over the idea of whether keeping the presence and legacy of T'Challa alive onscreen honors what Chadwick Boseman and others hoped for from the role. T'Challa is one of the few truly world-famous black heroes currently on the big screen, creating a whole new level of debate about whether a comic book character's iconography outweighs an individual actor's importance – a debate people clearly feel passionately about, no matter what side they take.

However, Marvel Studios did have to make a choice and chose to (at least for the moment) say goodbye to T'Challa. As stated, the footage we saw in the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Comic-Con Trailer consisted of some of the most gorgeous shots we've seen from Ryan Coogler (working with cinematographers Autumn Durald and Arkapaw). But therein lies the rub: we also saw some spectacular footage from Coogler (and cinematographer Rachel Morrison) when the first Black Panther movie marketing was released; it's been an infamous topic of discussion regarding just how different the Black Panther footage looked when it finally got to theaters after all the visual effects and post-production work was done. Not only were fans critical of the lack of quality VFX work in many shots, they also were critical of how Marvel altered shots of the mostly black cast of actors in some questionable ways: 

This brings us to the point at hand: the kind of visual shortcuts Marvel took with Black Panther is not something that can be repeated for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. A high standard has been set with the level of visual work in this first trailer and it's exactly the standard that must be maintained in the film – at least when it comes to the scenes of Wakanda's various heroes (Okoye, Nakia, M'Baku, Queen Ramonda) dealing with the grief and tragedy of T'Challa (and subsequently Chadwick Boseman's) death. Speaking in the Martin Scorsese parlance of our times: these key scenes of Black Panther 2 dealing with T'Challa/Boseman's death needs to be "cinema" of the highest form. There's a thin line between honoring the loss of a major black hero icon and exploiting that loss as a box office draw: it's a lien that Disney-Marvel needs to walk like an expert acrobat. 

...And it won't be easy. 

(Photo: Marvel Studios)

Aside from mourning loss, Black Panther 2 will also be taking on the new story of a major Marvel character (Namor) making his MCU debut. Namor (Tenoch Huerta) and his undersea kingdom of Talocan (not Atlantis) will be in direct conflict with Wakanda, which automatically means fans getting the big green screen VFX-heavy sequences of battle between fantastical warriors – not to mention that undersea kingdom and its people to create on the big screen. The dichotomy between intimate emotional drama and blockbuster-sized Marvel fantasy entertainment is a daunting thing to balance. 

While Ryan Coogler and the cast of Black Panther 2 clearly put their collective heart and soul into shooting the film from an honorable and respectful place, it remains to be seen if the larger franchise and studio product demands keep that heart and soul alive in the film. We're hopeful they did, and Wakanda Forever will truly live up to its titular implications.  

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will be in theaters on November 11th.