Back in Black: 12 things we know about Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

There’ll be a sense of closure in the sequel to 2018’s wildly popular Black Panther, and not just because it’s the final film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase Four. Fans are clamouring to see just how director Ryan Coogler and his cast of Black heroes will return to action after the loss of their King T’Challa, Chadwick Boseman, to stomach cancer at age 43.

But life goes on in the afrofuturist utopia of Wakanda, as the title Black Panther: Wakanda Forever reminds us. So here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming superhero sequel, from cast members familiar and new to the rumours swirling about that anticipated soundtrack.

1. We’ll return to a grieving Wakanda one year after T’Challa’s passing

While the canonical explanation of Black Panther’s death is still under wraps, Marvel has confirmed they won’t recast the part, or worse, mock up a digital recreation of Boseman. Coogler revealed to IGN that Black Panther II will reintroduce us to T’Challa’s family one year after his death, with sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) and his mother Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) “stepping away from the city, from the technology—to sit with no distractions and perform what is essentially a grief ritual.”

The actress behind T’Challa’s love interest Nakia, Lupita Nyong’o, has applauded her director for his sensitivity to Boseman’s absence: “the way which he has reshaped the second movie is so respectful of the loss we’ve all experienced as a cast and as a world.”

2. Letitia Wright is taking over, after some serious physical and political obstacles

Wright was just one mischievous part of a larger ensemble in the 2018 film, but now her tech savvy character Shuri has been called up to the big leagues—and some IRL drama caused conflict with her responsibilities on set.

In November of 2021, production went on hiatus due to a serious shoulder injury Wright sustained on set, with her movie mum Bassett calming Entertainment Tonight by explaining “she had a little bit of a fall, but it’s not too bad.” Then Wright’s return to filming in Atlanta was challenged: the UK actress is not a US citizen, and new COVID measures required proof of vaccination for foreigners to enter the country.

Wright’s alleged anti-vaccination views and inability to return to production caused widespread controversy, but once the hiatus was over in January 2022, Marvel’s execs confirmed that her character Shuri was the film’s new lead. So it seems Disney and Marvel have left the drama in the past, even if commenters won’t.

3. Here’s your look at the new Black Panther suit, with snazzy yellow accents

With T’Challa’s classic, silver-accented suit seemingly out of commission, the new Panther needs their own distinctive look. The spiked collar is gone and the eyes are a bit more friendly, with weenier feline ears and pale cat-like markings on the forehead and collarbone. The trailer above only gives us a short glimpse of the full costume: you can sneakily get a better look via the official Funko Pop that’s already on sale.

4. …but we aren’t 100% sure who’s wearing it yet!

So Shuri has been singled out by Marvel executives as the new Black Panther, and we can certainly picture Letitia Wright behind that steely black-and-yellow glare. But hold up: the trailer never confirms that it’s actually her in there, leading to fan speculation that the entire female cast of the film could end up sporting Black Panther suits.

Or maybe just Nakia. Or, as the excited Tweet below predicts, Angela Bassett’s Queen.

5. Tenoch Huerta is Namor, the King of Atlantis, aka the guy with ankle wings

One of those versatile comic book characters who can serve as a hero or villain depending on the story’s needs, Namor the Submariner is kinda Marvel’s Aquaman: the mutant son of a human sea captain and a princess of Atlantis, he has mermaid super-strength and the ability to fly.

Mostly known for his Latin-American TV appearances, MCU newcomer Tenoch Huerta said to Black Girl Nerds that he shares his character’s respect for T’Challa. “My character has a deep appreciation for Black Panther and T’Challa”, he explained: “and me as an actor, as a single human being, what Chadwick means…is a big inspiration. In fiction and in real life, to be a part of this and feel his presence and his legacy is fantastic.”

6. The Oscar-winning team headed under the sea for visual inspiration

Production designer Hannah Beachler noted some of the unusual influences behind the new film’s look, describing her “deep dive” into the worlds of Spielberg’s Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Marvel legend Jack Kirby’s comic imagery of Atlantis proved handy, too, and costume designer Ruth E. Carter drew inspiration from lionfish and sharks for the feathery and jade elements in new character’s costumes. Both women earned Marvel their first Oscars with their Best Costume Design and Best Production Design wins for the first film, but more significantly they were the first Black women to be acknowledged in either category.

7. Dominique Thorne is Riri Williams, who’ll get her own MCU show next year

If you’re unfamiliar with Riri/Ironheart, you won’t be for much longer. The MIT student is a mini Tony Stark, creating a new generation of superpowered suits that will certainly come in handy once Namor and his vengeful Atlantis merfolk rise up for a fight.

Dominique Thorne will be introduced in this film and go on to lead Marvel’s 11th TV series next year. Filming hasn’t begun yet but the six-part show promises to bring Iron Man’s powers to a whole new league of heroes.

8. Brilliantly bald Brit Michaela Coel is perfectly cast as a Wakandan warrior

If you haven’t seen Coel’s searing limited series I May Destroy You, do yourself a favour and check it out. Then get hyped for her to join the fearsome female warriors of the Dora Milaje as Aneka, a character portrayed in the Marvel comics as rebellious and queer. Coel has been rocking a shaved head for quite some time, so copying Danai Gurire’s look as Okoye comes kinda naturally.

9. M’Baku is back, but Daniel Kaluuya said Nope to playing W’kabi again

The Black Panther cast has a significant overlap with Jordan Peele’s filmography: Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke, the burly dude playing mountain tribe leader M’Baku, starred in Us and Get Out‘s lead Daniel Kaluuya appeared as T’Challa’s bestie W’kabi. Turns out he’s pretty loyal to Peele, too, choosing to star in the director’s latest horror spectacle rather than shooting Wakanda Forever. The man only has so much time!

10. At 2 hours and 41 minutes, it’s the second-longest film in the MCU

Avengers: Endgame managed to explode the international box office despite running a leisurely 181 minutes. Whilst newer Marvel films might worry more about their audience’s attention spans (or the size of their bladders), the studio has correctly guessed that we’ll sit still for almost three hours for the next Black Panther adventure.

11. The new soundtrack will be full of bops again, with rumours of 2 Rihanna songs

The Black Panther concept album, released alongside the film’s Oscar-winning score, was a movie mixtape for the ages, standing on its own merits with songs from Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Vince Staples, Travis Scott, The Weeknd, Two Chainz and much more. So the sequel’s own tunes have a lot to live up to.

While we’ve only heard that clever mashup of Bob Marley and Kendrick in the film’s teaser trailer, one additional bit of gossip has stans riled up: the news that Rihanna has apparently contributed not one but two songs to the Wakanda Forever soundtrack. We bet she’ll slay the soundtrack and the 2023 SuperBowl, and then still cruelly deny us a new album :(

12. Our Queen Ramonda Angela Bassett reckons the sequel is even better than the OG

Whether she does end up in that kitty suit or not, the iconic Bassett still has a lot of faith and enthusiasm going into Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. In an appearance on Ellen Degeneres’ talk show in March of this year, the star called the new film “amazing”, and said that it was “going to top the first one.” A big claim, but if there’s anyone in this world we can trust, it’s she who got her groove back.