T'Challa (Marvel Cinematic Universe)
T'Challa is a fictional character portrayed by Chadwick Boseman in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film franchise, based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name and known commonly by his alter ego, Black Panther. In the films, he is depicted as king of the fictional nation of Wakanda. Boseman's performance as Black Panther is notable as one of the first black superheroes in a big-budget film and has received acclaim.
|Marvel Cinematic Universe character|
|First appearance||Captain America: Civil War (2016)|
|Adapted by||Christopher Markus|
|Portrayed by||Chadwick Boseman|
|Title||King of Wakanda|
|Weapon||Vibranium Black Panther suit and retractable claws|
Following Boseman's death at age 43 in late August 2020, after a four-year battle with colon cancer, there were reports that fans opposed the recasting of the role, and that it was unknown whether Boseman had already recorded his part in What If...? The head of production of Marvel Studios has also denied that the studio plans to create a digital double of Boseman for the upcoming sequel to the first Black Panther film and other future MCU media in which the character is scheduled to appear, stating that Marvel would "think about what we're going to do next and how" in order to "honor the franchise." Marvel Studios finally confirmed on December 10 that the part would not be recast, and therefore the character would not appear in future films, although the sequel would still be made, and would explore other characters introduced in Wakanda.
Concept, creation, and characterization
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created Black Panther due to Lee's desire in the mid-60s to include more African and African-American characters in Marvel Comics. In a 1998 interview, Lee explained his motivation: "I wasn't thinking of civil rights. I had a lot of friends who were black and we had artists who were black. So it occurred to me... why aren't there any black heroes?" The name, Black Panther, was inspired by a pulp adventure hero who has a black panther as a helper. Jack Kirby's original concept art for Black Panther used the concept name Coal Tiger. Influences on the character included historical figures such as 14th-century Mali Empire sultan Mansa Musa and 20th-century Jamaican activist Marcus Garvey, as well as Biblical figures such as Ham and Canaan.
There was some internal debate at Marvel about how far to go with the commercially risky introduction of a black superhero. In the first version of the cover for Fantastic Four #52, the Black Panther wore a cowl that exposed his face. In the published version, the cowl became a full face-mask. Previews in other comics didn't show the cover at all, indicating that Marvel was unsure how much to reveal. Following his debut in Fantastic Four #52–53 (July–Aug. 1966) and subsequent guest appearance in Fantastic Four Annual #5 (1967) and with Captain America in Tales of Suspense #97–100 (Jan.– April 1968), the Black Panther journeyed from the fictional African nation of Wakanda to New York City to join the titular American superhero team in The Avengers #52 (May 1968), appearing in that comic for the next few years.
Adaptation to film
In 2004, David Maisel was hired as chief operating officer of Marvel Studios as he had a plan for the studio to self-finance movies. Marvel entered into a non-recourse debt structure with Merrill Lynch, under which Marvel got $525 million to make a maximum of 10 movies based on the company's properties over eight years, collateralized by certain movie rights to a total of 10 characters, including Black Panther.
Casting and execution
Chadwick Boseman portrayed T'Challa within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, first appearing in Captain America: Civil War (2016). In the film, he is shown displaying enhanced speed, agility, strength, and durability, which he gains from ingesting the heart-shaped herb, as in the comics. His suit has retractable claws and is made of a vibranium weave, which can deflect heavy machine gun fire and withstand explosive attacks. As of the 2018 film Black Panther, he wears a new variant of the suit that can absorb kinetic energy (represented as purple highlights) and release it as a light purple shockwave after enough energy has been amassed. It can also fold into a silver necklace. Boseman had a five-picture deal with Marvel.
During the events of Civil War, motivated by revenge for his father's death during the UN signing of the Sokovia Accords in the aftermath of Avengers: Age of Ultron, T'Challa joins Tony Stark's faction to oppose Captain America as he is protecting the Winter Soldier who was implicated for the attack. However, T'Challa learns the bombing attack was actually arranged by Helmut Zemo to orchestrate his own revenge on the Avengers for inadvertently creating the Sokovia crisis which killed his family. After hearing Zemo's confession as he succeeded in turning Stark and Rogers against each other, T'Challa renounces his revenge while preventing Zemo's suicide and handing him over to Everett K. Ross. T'Challa grants Rogers and Barnes sanctuary in Wakanda while also aiding in the latter's recovery from his Hydra brainwashing.
T'Challa is a prince of the African nation of Wakanda, who gains enhanced strength by ingesting the Heart-Shaped Herb, allied with Stark. Producer Kevin Feige explained that the character was included "because we needed a third party. We needed fresh eyes who wasn't embedded with the Avengers and who has a very different point of view than either Tony or Steve." T'Challa is in the "beginning phases of taking on" the Black Panther mantle, and appears in more than a cameo, with a full arc and character journey with "his own conflict and his own people that he's looking out for." Boseman did not audition for the role, instead having a "discussion about what [Marvel] wanted to do and how I saw it and what I wanted to do." T'Challa is torn between needing to live up to traditions and the legacy of his father and Wakanda, and how things need to happen in the present. Boseman developed the Wakandan accent himself, and used it during the entire production "whether he was on camera or not", while the Wakandan language was based on the Xhosa language, which Boseman was taught by John Kani (who played T'Challa's father T'Chaka). The Black Panther costume is a combination of a practical costume and visual effects, featuring a vibranium mesh weave similar to chainmail. Costume designer Judianna Makovsky called the Black Panther costume "difficult" since "you needed sort of a feline body, but it's hard and practical at the same time. You needed a feeling of some sort of ethnicity in there, but of a world [Wakanda] we weren't really creating yet, so you didn't want to go too far and say too much about that world." Additionally, Makovsky felt creating T'Challa's royal look was "a bit of a challenge", avoiding African robes after learning actual African royalty are generally "educated in the West [and] get dressed in Savile Row".
Boseman reprised the role in Black Panther (2018). By October 2015, Joe Robert Cole was in final negotiations to write the film's script. In January 2016, it was announced that Ryan Coogler had been hired to direct the film, and was later revealed to be co-writing the script with Cole. Filming began in January 2017 at Pinewood Studios in Atlanta, Georgia. The film was released on February 16, 2018. During the film's storyline, after completing the ritual of succession, T'Challa finds himself dealing with opposition to his new position from various fronts.
Boseman appeared as Black Panther again in Avengers: Infinity War (2018). and in Avengers: Endgame (2019). Boseman, along with the other Black Panther Wakandan actors, improvised their war chants on set ahead of the battle in Wakanda. Despite both Black Panther and Infinity War filming at the same time, the Russos were not aware of the chants, as they had not yet seen footage from Black Panther, and felt the moment was "incredibly cool".
Death of Chadwick Boseman
On August 28, 2020, Boseman died after a four-year battle with colon cancer. Marvel Studios have made no indication that they intend to cancel the release of the upcoming sequel to the original Black Panther film, so it is currently unknown what direction the film will take without the protagonist of its predecessor. Fans opposed the possibility of recasting another actor as the character for the Black Panther sequel and other future MCU media in which the character was scheduled to appear, a decision that Marvel Studios denied they would make. It is currently unknown how much, if any, unreleased material has been created with Boseman portraying the character. In November 2020, Marvel Studios' head of production Victoria Alonso denied that the studio plans to create a digital double of Boseman for the Black Panther sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and that Marvel would "think about what we're going to do next and how" in order to "honor the franchise." On December 10, Kevin Feige confirmed that the role would not be recast, feeling Boseman's portrayal "transcended any previous iteration of the character in Marvel's past."
Fictional character biography
Pursuit of Bucky Barnes
At a conference in Vienna where the Sokovia Accords governing superhero activity are to be ratified, a bomb kills T'Challa's father, King T'Chaka of Wakanda. Security footage indicates the bomber is Bucky Barnes, whom T'Challa vows to kill. Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson track Barnes to Bucharest and attempt to protect him from T'Challa and the authorities, but all four, including T'Challa, are apprehended by the Bucharest police and James Rhodes. Impersonating a psychiatrist sent to interview Barnes, Helmut Zemo recites the trigger words to activate Barnes' brainwashing, and sends Barnes on a rampage to cover his own escape. Barnes briefly fights T'Challa while fleeing the building, where Rogers stops Barnes and sneaks him away, recruiting several other Avengers to help him go after Zemo. Tony Stark assembles his own team composed of T'Challa, Natasha Romanoff, Rhodes, Vision, and Peter Parker to capture the renegades. Stark's team intercepts Rogers' group at Leipzig/Halle Airport, where they fight until Romanoff shocks T'Challa to allow Rogers and Barnes to escape. T'Challa tracks Rogers and Barnes to a Siberian Hydra facility, discovering that Zemo is the true perpetrator. Rogers and Barnes end up fighting Stark, and T'Challa stops Zemo from committing suicide and takes him to the authorities. T'Challa grants Barnes asylum in Wakanda, where Barnes chooses to return to cryogenic sleep until a cure for his brainwashing is found.
King of Wakanda
With T'Chaka having died, T'Challa assumes the throne. He and Okoye, the leader of the Dora Milaje regiment, extract T'Challa's ex-lover Nakia from an undercover assignment so she can attend his coronation ceremony with his mother Ramonda and younger sister Shuri. At the ceremony, the Jabari Tribe's leader M'Baku challenges T'Challa for the crown in ritual combat. Although M'Baku initially has the upper hand, T'Challa defeats M'Baku and persuades him to yield rather than die.
When Ulysses Klaue and his accomplice Erik Stevens steal a Wakandan artifact from a London museum, T'Challa's friend and Okoye's lover W'Kabi urges him to bring Klaue back alive. T'Challa, Okoye, and Nakia travel to Busan, South Korea, where Klaue plans to sell the artifact to CIA agent Everett K. Ross. A firefight erupts and Klaue attempts to flee but is caught by T'Challa, who reluctantly releases him to Ross' custody. Erik attacks and extracts Klaue as Ross is gravely injured protecting Nakia. Rather than pursue Klaue, T'Challa takes Ross to Wakanda, where their technology can save him. While Shuri heals Ross, T'Challa confronts Zuri about N'Jobu. Zuri explains that N'Jobu planned to share Wakanda's technology with people of African descent around the world to help them conquer their oppressors. As T'Chaka arrested N'Jobu, the latter attacked Zuri and forced T'Chaka to kill him. T'Chaka ordered Zuri to lie that N'Jobu had disappeared and left behind N'Jobu's American son in order to maintain the lie. This boy grew up to be Stevens, a U.S. black ops soldier who adopted the name "Killmonger". Meanwhile, Killmonger kills Klaue and takes his body to Wakanda. He is brought before the tribal elders, revealing his identity to be N'Jadaka and claim to the throne. Killmonger challenges T'Challa to ritual combat, where he kills Zuri, defeats T'Challa, and hurls him over a waterfall to his presumed death. Killmonger ingests the heart-shaped herb and orders the rest incinerated, but Nakia extracts one first.
Nakia, Shuri, Ramonda, and Ross flee to the Jabari Tribe for aid. They find a comatose T'Challa, rescued by the Jabari in repayment for sparing M'Baku's life. Healed by Nakia's herb, T'Challa returns to fight Killmonger, who dons his own Black Panther suit. Fighting in Wakanda's vibranium mine, T'Challa disrupts Killmonger's suit and stabs him. Killmonger refuses to be healed, choosing to die a free man rather than be incarcerated. T'Challa establishes an outreach center at the building where N'Jobu died, to be run by Nakia and Shuri. In a mid-credits scene, T'Challa appears before the United Nations to reveal Wakanda's true nature to the world.
Infinity War and resurrection
In 2018, T'Challa brings a new robotic arm to Barnes. He then welcomes Rogers, Romanoff, Wilson, Rhodes, Bruce Banner, Maximoff, and Vision when they arrive in Wakanda, so Shuri can work on Vision. He along with the Wakandan army, Barnes, Rogers, Romanoff, Wilson, Rhodes, and Banner fight off the oncoming onslaught of Outriders and witnesses the arrival of Thor, Rocket, and Groot. However, Thanos arrives in Wakanda and completes and activates the Infinity Gauntlet, killing half of all life in the universe. As a result, T’Challa disintegrates.
In 2023, T'Challa is restored to life when the surviving Avengers recreate the Infinity Gauntlet, and is the first of the disappeared Avengers to be seen, having been brought to the destroyed Avengers Compound, along with the Wakandan army, to join in the final battle against a past version of Thanos. Afterwards, he attends Tony Stark's funeral and returns home.
Boseman's performance as T'Challa / Black Panther has not only received critical acclaim from critics and audiences, but has become significant as one of the first superheroes of African descent to gain a leading role in a big-budget film. With T'Challa's MCU debut in Captain America: Civil War, Eliana Dockterman, writing for Time, described the character's significance and wrote that he intrigued audiences in a supporting role. Two years later, Jamil Smith, also of Time, wrote that T'Challa's character and the Black Panther film in general were significant as they showed "what it means to be black in both America and Africa—and, more broadly, in the world." He describes T'Challa as a "fictional African King with the technological war power to destroy you—or, worse, the wealth to buy your land" and argued that the film embodied "the most productive responses to bigotry" by showing the potential of minorities, especially those of black descent. Likewise, Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter praised Boseman's performance, stating that he "certainly holds his own" among strong performances from other actors in the film.
Awards and nominations
Awards and nominations received by Boseman for his performance as T'Challa include:
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