When star Chadwick Boseman unexpectedly passed after Black Panther was released, but before the sequel Black Panther: Wakanda Forever had even begun production, it left the makers with something of an issue. It would have been easier to re-cast.
However, the writer/director Ryan Coogler decided to create a story that worked around this and acknowledged Boseman’s passing. Brave move, and classier than a re-cast… if he can pull it off.
The plan was to bring more focus to Letitia Wright’s Shuri and Winston Duke’s M’Baku, with them both expected to be major players in the story going forward. Filming was delayed after Wright suffered injuries whilst performing a stunt. Filming has now resumed.
According to The Hollywood Reporter Duke negotiated a large payrise and a significantly “expanded role in the Panther mythos.” for M’Baku.
So what does this mean for the franchise? Will Winston Duke’s M’Baku be the new Black Panther? This would be a switch as the character is noted by fans as being based on the villain from the comics called Man-Ape.
In the comics, M’Baku plotted to usurp the throne of Wakanda with the help of the outlawed rival White Gorilla Cult and return Wakanda to a primitive state. M’Baku became a renegade and gained his powers by killing a white gorilla, bathing in its blood, and eating its flesh, taking the alias of Man-Ape. It appears to be a different M’Baku we see in Wakanda in Black Panther.
Producer Nate Moore had told Entertainment Weekly that this was a deliberate choice given the current climate:
“We don’t call him Man-Ape. We do call him M’Baku. Having a black character dress up as an ape, I think there’s a lot of racial implications that don’t sit well, if done wrong.
But the idea that they worship the gorilla gods is interesting because it’s a movie about the Black Panther who, himself, is a sort of deity in his own right.”
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is due out on November 11th of this year, just past the midway point of Marvel’s Phase 4.