It was always going to be difficult to pull off, no matter what Marvel did with the role of Black Panther after Chadwick Boseman’s death. Recasting à la Bruce Banner—you forgot Edward Norton originated the role in the MCU, didn’t you?—was a no go after Boseman became so closely associated with the role of T’Challa. Retiring the hero’s mantle proved a controversial idea also. Many asked why such an iconic black superhero shouldn’t be bigger than one actor. In the end, Marvel made the choice that would be the least offensive to the most people: Keep the title in the family and have T’Challa’s sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) become the new Black Panther. This decision sums up Black Panther: Wakanda Forever as a whole—unlikely to anger anyone, but equally unlikely to excite them.
The film is set in the aftermath of T’Challa’s death, following his struggle with an unnamed illness—one that Shuri believed could be cured by the mystical heart-shaped herb that gave the Black Panther his powers. All of the herbs were destroyed in the first Black Panther, and Shuri’s attempts to synthetically recreate it fail. Now, everyone in the world is trying to get ahold of vibranium, the powerful and magical metal found only in Wakanda, and searches for other sources of the metal lead to the accidental uncovering of an ancient underwater Mayan empire ruled by Namor (Tenoch Huerta). Namor proposes an alliance with Wakanda to take over the world, and Wakanda declines, sparking conflict between the two nations.