NOTE: It’s been a week since Chadwick Boseman’s death. I wanted to allow sufficient time to pass for the Marvel fanbase to grieve before I ask (and answer) an uncomfortable question:
“What is the future of the Black Panther franchise?”
I apologize if this blog comes across as insensitive, and will accept any and all criticism pertaining to that. Thank you.
As if this year couldn’t get any stranger, sadder, and more unpredictable: Chadwick Boseman of the Black Panther movie franchise passed away after a then-unannounced bout with colon cancer. To the African-American community, this is symbolically devastating during a year of urban riots in Minneapolis and elsewhere.
In my view, the Black community didn’t lose anything with Boseman’s death because he showed them the value of devoting yourself to your passion. He showed them that not even cancer can stop you from achieving your dreams. His life and death taught many of us a lesson. He was an icon in life and can be one in death, too.
Different lives. Different deaths. Different stories. Different lessons.
As we move forward, Disney/Marvel find themselves in a pickle: How will they continue the franchise (if at all)? Many fans are already rebuking the idea of replacement for Chadwick. Hey, that’s understandable. To hire a stand-in for Chadwick would be disrespectful to his memory. It’d be as if the actor’s real-life death never happened, nor did said death even matter.
There was a reason Christopher Nolan didn’t give the Joker duties to someone else in The Dark Knight Rises: Heath Ledger poured his soul into the role. Recasting him would’ve been a slap in the face to the actor’s work and legacy. Sure, money talks in corporate boardrooms but there are some lines you can’t breach. (Okay, maybe it’s all done in the name of goodwill. In that case…money still talks)
One proposal is that T’Challa (Black Panther) should be written out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe entirely. Basically, just act like he never existed. Act like Thanos made one last snap that deprived Wakanda of its beloved King.
Another suggestion is that Shuri (T’Challa’s sister) should take up the reins and don the Black Panther suit (there was a storyline in the comics where she did just that after T’Challa was injured). In my opinion, she’s more like the Alfred Pennyworth to T’Challa’s Batman, not necessarily his Robin. I’m not sure the actress (Letitia Wright) can adequately headline her own movie either (name recognition counts in this business, unfortunately).
So how about this? Here’s my take on what Marvel should do:
Remember Erik Killmonger? The villain from the first movie played by Michael B. Jordan? Remember how he temporarily dethroned T’Challa as King of Wakanda and sought to exploit their sophisticated weaponry to aid Blacks languishing in America? As any comic book movie would go, the villain dies in the end and the hero emerges victorious.
How about this? How about the Marvel writers devise a way to bring the Killmonger character back to life? Trust me, Hollywood writers can do whatever the hell they want. Bring Killmonger back to life and tell the audience that something happened to T’Challa and he was killed.
Now, stick with me. Marvel potentially has a VERY interesting character arc on their hands. The first movie’s main conflict stemmed from Killmonger’s desire to utilize Wakanda’s tech to benefit the downtrodden urbanites in America. T’Challa, on the other hand, insisted on keeping Wakanda secluded so as not to make their tech known to the rest of the world.
In other words, Killmonger was a benevolent imperialist. T’Challa was an apathetic isolationist. After Killmonger’s death, T’Challa realized that maybe his adversary was onto something. The strong must look out for the weak. The movie closed out with the King of Wakanda revealing his country’s true nature to the entire world for the first time.
Boseman’s death, while tragic, opens the door to a potentially interesting opportunity. They could have Killmonger develop from being a Black nationalist in the Malcolm X mold, to the King of Wakanda who has a genuine admiration for the traditions of Africa. T’Challa actually met Killmonger’s philosophy halfway at the end of the first movie. Maybe it’s Killmonger’s turn to do the same?
For both men…for both characters to ultimately soften their initial stances and essentially become each other…hey, that makes for some pretty darn good storytelling.
Michael B. Jordan has already headlined the Creed series (spin-off of Rocky). He has the work ethic and necessary star power to take on a major Marvel franchise, I can already see it.
What do you guys think? Should Marvel bring back Killmonger to become the new (and noble) King of Wakanda? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂