Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” deftly completes the difficult task of continuing the franchise without its star, Chadwick Boseman, sensitively acknowledging his death by killing off the character of King T’Challa.
In the process, the Marvel blockbuster also warrants revision when an actor dies or chooses to move on, a once-standard practice that has been avoided and increasingly circumvented by filling roles with digital wizardry or rewriting awkward storylines.
If the desire is to soften the blow for audiences, to spare them the mental leap required to accept a new performer over a loved one or family member, the change has done them a disservice. In fact, there’s something almost insulting about treating fans like they can’t handle the fictional aspects of their favorite stories and adapt to embrace (or at least accept) new faces who, after all, act.
Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige addressed the dilemma, saying it was “too soon” to replace Boseman. Writing about his absence isn’t the first time a fantasy story has been altered to accommodate a tragic loss. In the case of the most recent “Star Wars” trilogy, producers pieced together the part of Princess Leia using a mix of unused footage and digital tricks, trying to avoid replacing Carrie Fisher given her 40-year tenure in the role. .
Noting that the filmmakers were only faced with bad choices, director JJ Abrams described the process involving Leia as “figuring out how to build the puzzle out of the pieces that we had” when the final sequel, “The Rise of Skywalker “, hit theaters in 2019.
Since then, Mark Hamill was magically removed to make a cameo in “The Mandalorian,” and other minor “Star Wars” players, such as Grand Moff Tarkin (played by Peter Cushing, who died in 1994), have been revived in a similar way for different projects. Harold Ramis, meanwhile, joined “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” posthumously, albeit in a slightly more organic way, as a ghost.
As common as the practice has become, it’s worth noting that it hasn’t always been this way. When Richard Harris died after “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”, Michael Gambon easily took Dumbledore’s wand. And of course, characters like James Bond and Doctor Who regularly make way for new incarnations, with varying degrees of success, without derailing these decades-old franchises.
To be fair, “Wakanda Forever” does as well and probably better than should be expected under such difficult circumstances. Still, there’s no denying that T’Challa’s death, and its reminder of Boseman’s, strikes a dark chord in this superhero fantasy, and that no one would have chosen to continue without him if the real world hadn’t intervened .
Arguably, the puzzle analogy regarding Leia deprived the character of the enhanced part she should have played in “The Rise of Skywalker,” based on Harrison Ford and Hamill’s contributions to “The Force Awakens ” and “The Last Jedi,” respectively.
Despite improvements in digital technology, there’s also often a lack of soul in these computer-generated replicants relative to what a flesh-and-blood performer can bring to the role.
Building elements of the film around existing material was clearly limiting, which points to what should be the underlying consideration: whether the creators are forced to take narrative and plot directions that are markedly different from they would have otherwise, then reformulation is the most logical thing. alternative
That doesn’t mean any resolution is perfect when faced with what Abrams called “the impossible question.” But the benefits of establishing a new actor in a pivotal role outweigh any awkwardness that comes with introducing a new T’Challa, just like the new Bonds and Whos and Dumbledores that came before it, and it does nothing to undermine the memories of honor of them.
The question might be impossible, but the answer is right there and rooted in screen history. You just have to trust the public enough to choose it.