The fact that Marvel Studios has decided to push ahead with plans for “Black Panther 2” is an enormously controversial topic. Many fans feel that it’s disrespectful to even try to make a sequel to the first film after the tragic death of star actor Chadwick Boseman and that the franchise should have been allowed to die with him. A few of those fans feel that, at the very least, Marvel should have waited for a few years and then rebooted the story with someone else in the lead role, allowing time for the audience to warm to the idea. At the same time, though, some feel that the best way to pay tribute to Boseman is to allow the world he helped to create to live on. That’s the way that Marvel has chosen to proceed, and we’re not going to try to tell them they’re wrong.
At this point, the debate is pointless. “Black Panther 2” is happening, and if Marvel sticks to its current schedule, it will arrive sooner than any of us imagine. The tentative release date for the film is July 8, 2022. That’s little more than a year away, and a year is the bare minimum amount of time you need to make a Hollywood blockbuster in the modern world. That means we’ll still start hearing rumors and scoops from filming locations, and we’ll also start to see and hear more casting news. In fact, we have a little bit of news on that front to share with you today. Apparently, Marvel is specifically looking for actors of Mayan descent to appear in the film.
The Mayan culture is one that we’ve all heard of, but few of us have taken the time to study. We know of the Mayans because of their infamous Doomsday prophecies and their incredible temples and buildings. All too often, though, their culture and civilization are confused with the Aztecs – and even the Aztecs sometimes get a raw deal. When the Aztec culture is represented in mainstream entertainment, it’s often done in a cartoonish fashion. Think of the “Aztec Gems” online slot, for example. It’s a cartoonish representation of a wise, ancient culture, and it plays on stereotypes. That’s not a slight against online slots, by the way. Some of our favorite movies of all time have been either reimagined or re-created as online slots, and we’ve had fun playing them. It’s just that when one of the only places you find one of the world’s great ancient civilizations within the sphere of entertainment is at an online slots website, there’s probably something to be said about under-representation. If that’s true of the Aztecs, it’s even more true of the Mayans.
Marvel is keeping tight-lipped about all casting rumors, plot rumors, and just about everything else when it comes to “Black Panther 2,” and understandably so. The last thing they want to do is spoil their own movie, and they’re aware that the production of this film is a rather more sensitive issue than anything they’ve worked on or released in the past two decades. That means they won’t officially confirm the stories that are currently circulating online until they’re good and ready. If you’ve missed them, though, here’s what’s being claimed. The movie will prominently feature two Mayan characters – one male and one female. The female character, described as a warrior, will be called “Zyanya.” The male has the decidedly un-Mayan name of “Cadmael” and will be “loyal” and “over six feet tall.” The somewhat scant news comes from people who claim to have seen casting calls and specification documents circulated internally at Marvel and sent out to casting agencies. Neither of the characters are “known names” when it comes to the Marvel comic universe, so they appear to be brand new creations for the movie.
The first “Black Panther” film was praised for (among many other things) its spirit of diversity. Marvel isn’t a company that likes to rest on its laurels when it’s making new films, so it would make sense for them to take the spirit of diversity even further by including cultures who, for whatever reason, don’t tend to get a lot of screen time when it comes to big Hollywood movies. Assuming that the roles are significant ones – which they appear to be, given the fact that the casting documents specify that actors will have to be physically fit and ideally fight-trained – this could both break boundaries and open doors. The fact that actors of Mayan heritage are being specifically requested doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll be asked to portray historically-accurate Mayan characters, but given the way “Black Panther” handled such matters, it seems likely.
One thing that we absolutely won’t be getting, in any form, is a new actor to fill Chadwick Boseman’s shoes. Out of respect for Boseman (and also to spare any actor the difficulty of undertaking a thankless task), the key role of T’Challa will not be re-cast. The character won’t be in the new movie, and all we’ve been told so far is that his absence will be explained by the plot. Kevin Fiege, the President of Marvel Studios, is on record as saying Boseman’s performance as T’Challa is “iconic” and so is considered definitive by everyone at the company. He has no desire to see anyone else play the part so long as he remains in his current position. It might be a decade or more before we see anyone else play the character – and that’s assuming it ever happens at all.
It’s clear that someone else is going to have to step up and carry the movie when we return to Wakanda. That might be one of our new Mayan characters, or it might be somebody we already know. Marvel has a huge task on its hands to make a success out of this film, but if anyone can do it, it’s Marvel. Hopefully, the movie will have the goodwill of comic book fans when it reaches us next year, and it will be a fitting tribute to everything that Boseman achieved in the original. Let’s wait and see.
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