If we judge superhero movies by their trailers alone, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is shaping up to be one of the best in years. But as good as the trailers we’ve seen so far have been, there’s a lot they don’t tell us about the plot of Marvel’s long-awaited sequel. It’s a big change from the time Marvel botched Patrick Stewart’s Professor Xavier appearance in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
As the release date draws closer, let’s take a look at The biggest unknowns that still surround Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and how this saga progresses after the death of its main actor.
What causes T’Challa’s death?
The sequel faces the daunting challenge of moving the franchise forward after the tragic and untimely death of its star Chadwick Boseman. Marvel has made it clear that T’Challa will not be re-elected and that the film will focus on the duel of Wakanda for the loss of their king as the real world mourns Boseman’s death.
Both trailers center much of his attention at T’Challa’s funeral. We see Letitia Wright’s Shuri and Angela Bassett’s Ramonda wearing ceremonial white robes and walking the streets as dancers celebrate T’Challa’s life and legacy. And it’s clear that the film will explore the difficult aftermath as the kingdom tries to regain its footing without its king to light the way.
That said, we still don’t know exactly how T’Challa’s death will be treated in the movie. It appears that Wakanda is devastated by a flood at some point in history, probably as part of an Atlantean attack. Is T’Challa one of the victims of that flood? He is killed? Or will the movie reflect reality and reveal that T’Challa succumbed to cancer? This last option might be the most respectful way to deal with T’Challa’s death. And, as Marvel comics have established, cancer is the one disease that even advanced science and magical spells have trouble combating.
Is Wakanda facing civil war?
Regardless of how T’Challa’s death is explained in the movie, presumably the consequences will be chaotic for Shuri and her family. As far as we know, T’Challa did not leave any heirs, which could complicate the question of succession. Unlike the first film, there is no chance of someone challenging the current king to a ritual duel for the right to rule Wakanda.
Based on the footage revealed so far, it appears that Ramonda is now the ruler of Wakanda as its Queen Regent. But what about Wakanda’s long-term future? Will the five tribes of Wakanda accept Ramonda as their queen? And assuming Shuri has a claim to the throne, does she even want that responsibility?
We could easily see that the infighting they are as great a threat to Wakanda’s future as external enemies, such as Atlantis. What if M’Baku and the Jabari renounce unity and vie for the throne? What if Okoye, who led Wakanda in the dark days after the Click, feels she deserves to be crowned queen? Could the rest of the Wakanda army hope to take on a rogue Dora Milaje squad? And what if the citizens of Wakanda decide that maybe it’s time to abolish the monarchy and give democracy a chance? Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther comics could give us a glimpse of what’s in store for Wakanda in the MCU.
Why is Atlantis attacking Wakanda?
Marvel has kept the plot of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever fairly under wraps, but at this point it’s clear that the film focuses on a war between Wakanda and Atlantis (or Talokan, as it is known in the MCU). The two nations are clear parallels to each other, as they are both advanced civilizations ruled by superhuman kings, who have spent centuries hiding from the outside world. But why are they in conflict now?
Actor Tenoch Huerta, who plays Namor, has hinted that this war is the result of the ending of the first film. T’Challa made the controversial decision to reveal the truth about the power of Wakanda to the outside world. In a way, that puts not only Wakanda itself, but also its underwater neighbor, in the spotlight.
The biggest question here is if Talokan is the aggressor in this conflict, or if Wakanda is in any way responsible for the inciting incident. We can’t help but think of Avengers: Endgame and Okoye’s reference to a mysterious underwater earthquake. That was probably setting up the events of Wakanda Forever.
How is the US Government involved?
Both trailers suggest that the US government is taking a more active role in the political turmoil surrounding Wakanda this time. We can see what appears to be a CIA or military task force raiding an ocean facility and threatening a group of scientists.
How involved is the West in this deadly conflict between Wakanda and Talokan? Is the US government trying to keep the peace, or does it see an opportunity to neutralize multiple threats and acquire Wakanda’s vibranium for itself? Whatever it is, we expect Martin Freeman’s Everett K. Ross to play a key role in this part of the story. More than ever, Ross may be torn between his loyalty to his country and his attachment to T’Challa’s family. Will this also have to do with Ross’s role in the upcoming Secret Invasion series?
What powers does the new Black Panther have?
It’s clear that Marvel is trying to show as little of the new Black Panther as possible before the film’s release. Still, between the source material and some surprisingly spoiled LEGO sets, we have a pretty good idea of which character will wear the suit.
A better question is what powers this new Black Panther will have. The new suit appears to have vibranium claws and the power to absorb vibrations, much like T’Challa’s upgraded suit from the first film. But T’Challa also had the heart-shaped herb, a mystical flower grown in a sacred temple that grants enhanced strength, agility, and senses. Killmonger torched that temple when he briefly usurped the throne, which could make things very difficult for T’Challa’s replacement.
Will we discover that the kingdom has a reserve supply of the herb? Or will the new Black Panther have to turn to even better technology to make up for his lack of superhuman powers? All we know is that Namor seems to be quite a formidable opponenteven for someone with super strength.
Is Namor really the villain?
In this sense, Is Namor the villain of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever in the first place? As we’ve already discussed, it’s unclear if Talokan is the aggressor in this war or just defending against a perceived threat. And that’s not to mention the fact that the trailers go to great lengths to paint Namor as a sympathetic figure who feels the weight of his crown of feathers.
If Namor is presented as the main antagonist of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, it is almost certain that He will go on to be one of the most nuanced villains in the MCU so far.. This saga already has a solid track record in that regard thanks to Killmonger. But is he really a villain, or will Wakanda Forever do the old superhero movie shift and introduce the real villain in the third act? Namor may end up giving up the Talokan war against Wakanda. Perhaps his lieutenant Attuma (a character with a long history as a villain in the comics) is the real baddie of the sequel. Or maybe there’s another villain entirely, one who’s manipulating the two realms from behind the scenes.
What role does Riri Williams play?
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever not only finally introduces Namor to the MCU, but also marks the debut of Dominique Thorne’s Riri Williams, better known as the armored heroine Ironheart. Both trailers give us a few glimpses of Riri. The first shows her relationship with Shuri in her high-tech lab in Wakanda, and the second reveals the Ironheart armor in action.
The big question here is why Riri debuts in a Black Panther sequel, of all places. Riri doesn’t have any deep connection to Wakanda in the comics. A Chicago native who overcomes a childhood plagued by gun violence, she is expelled from MIT after reverse-engineering the Iron Man armor in her bedroom and ultimately becomes a superhero. Has she changed her history in the MCU so that she has more ties to Wakanda?
Our best guess is that Riri is recruited by one of the outreach centers that T’Challa created at the end of the first film. He may have spent the last few years learning from the best minds in Wakanda, and now it’s time for him to put his skills to use when his new home faces an existential threat.
Be sure to tell us your theories about Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Is there a mysterious villain at play? Will Wakanda be ravaged by civil war?
Here you can read the full story of Namor and all the confirmed mutants in the MCU so far, which is more than you probably think.