Marvel Studio’s plans for the sequel to Black Panther are starting to come into focus.
The sequel was sidelined after the sudden and unexpected death of star Chadwick Boseman and a planned March 2021 production start was waylaid as filmmaker Ryan Coogler and Marvel tried to navigate grief and the need to move forward. It was the nadir of a year that saw no Marvel movies released for the first time since 2009.
However, even as the continuing novel coronavirus upends theatrical distribution and plays havoc with its Phase 4 rollout, Marvel is about to enter 2021 the busiest it has ever been as it juggles not only multiple movies but a major push into TV.
Multiple sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Marvel is now readying Black Panther 2 for a shoot that will start in Atlanta in July and last for upwards of six months.
Mexican actor Tenoch Huerta, who was one of the stars of Netflix’s Narcos: Mexico, is in talks to play one of the antagonists, sources tell THR. Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke and Angela Bassett are expected to return for the new feature, with some saying Wright’s character Shuri may take on a more prominent role.
Marvel, which had no comment on this story, has not revealed its plans on how it plans to proceed without Boseman, although it has indicated that it will not use CGI to include the late star in the film.
While Black Panther 2 is receiving special attention, it is the many Disney+ series that are under heavy scrutiny from Kevin Feige and his executives.
“The series are the priority,” says one source with knowledge of the company’s strategy. “Ramping them up takes a lot of focus. The movie machinery is well established.”
In March, the Feige-run studio begins production on both She-Hulk, starring Tatiana Maslany, and Oscar Isaac’s Moon Knight. All will debut on Disney+ as Marvel’s parent leans on the studio to deliver, in the words of Disney CEO Bob Chapek, “world-class, franchise-based content” to its 73 million global subscribers. The shows are launching hopeful franchises that are to tie to the movie side of Marvel and, with merchandising, comics and more, across the Disney brand.
WandaVision, starring Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, debuts on Disney+ on Jan. 15, and the studio is working to complete the first seasons of Loki and Falcon and the Winter Soldier, both of which were partially shot before COVID-19 shuttered production. The studio also recently began the Atlanta shoot of Ms. Marvel, starring newcomer Iman Vellani.
On the film side, the next chapter is being carefully planned for a cinematic universe that has spanned 23 movies and grossed $22.55 billion globally. Spider-Man 3 and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness are already filming with experienced Marvel hands, Jon Watts and Sam Raimi, respectively.
In January, Taika Waititi’s sequel Thor: Love and Thunder is starting its Australian shoot with a sprawling cast assembling for what one insider is likening to “an Avengers 5 feel,” thanks to its ensemble. The studio will have Peyton Reed back for a new Ant-Man movie in 2021 and is ending the year with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, shooting with a returning James Gunn.
With four movies and two or three series going, Marvel will be acting akin to a full-fledged studio and not an arm of a larger company. That does not include the development of new movie franchises or sequels. Marvel is also meeting with writers on its Blade reboot, which has Mahershala Ali attached, and this week hired Wendy Molyneux and Lizzie Molyneux-Loeglin of Bob’s Burgers fame to pen Deadpool 3.
And, if the pandemic does become contained thanks to vaccines, Marvel will release three films due out in 2021: Black Widow (May 7), Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (July 9) and Eternals (Nov. 11), with four more theatrical titles slated for 2022. Several observers believe that the unexpected break could prove to be a boon for the company.
“You now have this extra hunger after people have been used to seeing at least a couple of Marvel stories every year," notes Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice Pro, adding of the franchise's return: "It will be something that signals, 'OK, moviegoers are coming back now. Let's reboot this industry properly.'"