“Black Panther,” based on the pioneering Marvel Comics character that first appeared in 1966, generated $1.35 billion in box-office sales, three Academy Awards and a best picture Oscar nomination, and acclaim for its titular star, who died on Aug. 28. Marvel was planning to begin production of “Black Panther 2” in March, according to the Hollywood Reporter, for a scheduled May 6, 2022, release.
Although other studios have experienced the sudden deaths of franchise stars - and have recast, for other reasons, titular roles like Batman and Spider-Man - Marvel’s decision holds more weight because "Black Panther" was a much-celebrated Black superhero movie, starring an actor beloved by fans for the dignity he brought to the role.
The 2018 film broke new ground with its predominantly Black cast, helmed by a Black director. Boseman played the character of King T’Challa, who presides over the futuristic African nation of Wakanda. Produced with a $200 million budget, it was praised for its diversity, after years of criticism about the lack of actors and filmmakers of color in Hollywood.
“It shattered at that time for Disney just the myth that you cannot package and distribute feature films with Black people as the starring roles,” said Lee. “For me, ‘Black Panther’ represents the fact that inclusivity sells.”
“Black Panther” also hit theaters at a time of rising U.S. racial tension. President Donald Trump had recently questioned why the United States would want to have immigrants from Haiti and African nations, referring to some as “shithole countries.” The previous August, he had said "both sides" were to blame for violence between white nationalists and counterprotesters at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Then came Wakanda.
“'Black Panther' the film was a huge cultural landmark,” said Alan Jenkins, a professor of practice at Harvard Law School. “One part of what made the film so important was the world of Wakanda and the idea of an African nation unchained by colonialism, slave trade, exploitation. It had dignity, brilliance and technology.”
Today “Black Panther” is even more relevant, as Black Americans disproportionately suffer from COVID-19 and die at the hands of police, cultural experts say. The aspirational Wakanda provides an antidote to that suffering.
“The film certainly didn’t cause the activism of today - that was from the tragic killing of George Floyd and others,” said Jenkins. “But it contributed to an environment where we can see new realities and imagine a world that is more just and equitable than the one in which we live.”