When Chadwick Boseman died on August 28, 2020, the world was shocked. One of the most famous actors in the world, propelled to stardom by Marvel’s 2018 hit “Black Panther,” was dead. Further complicating matters, a sequel, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” was already in the works. A gigantic question mark now hung over the production: How could the movie continue without its central, title protagonist?
Two years on, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” has hit theaters. Although Boseman only makes an appearance at the very end for brief scenes of remembrance, his heavy legacy hangs over the entire movie.
From Oscar-winning costume designer Ruth E. Carter’s introductory remarks describing “Wakanda Forever” as one that “pays legacy to Chadwick Boseman” at the Nov. 9 cast and crew screening at the Fox Theatre to a silent Marvel intro full of scenes of Chadwick Boseman (instead of the usual cast of Marvel characters) in the film’s opening credits, Boseman is unseen but thoroughly ingrained into its fabric.
Just after the early screening of the movie at the Fox, moviegoer Nicholas Pappachristan, 25, told VOX ATL he felt the filmmakers “handled it perfectly… he plays a big part of it although he’s not there in the movie.” Added moviegoer Gabe Guerrero: “They handled it pretty well… the movie overall was pretty great.”
At the heart of “Wakanda Forever” is a central theme of grieving. Boseman’s death was undeniably tragic and Marvel essentially continued this movie as a tribute and an honor to him. Without Boseman to shoot new scenes, Marvel instead opted to omit him physically from most of the movie while also managing to keep him center stage.
Throughout the film, there are constant reminders of Boseman, from Shuri’s (Letitia Wright) frustration at not being able to save her loved ones, to the absence of a protector of Wakanda in the face of new challenges, to even a question that seems to hang over most of the movie: Would Wakanda be facing such a difficult challenge if it still had King T’Challa?
In” Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” Marvel manages a difficult balancing act of not having new footage of Chadwick Boseman to show while also honoring his legacy in his absence.