A huge holiday weekend at the box office ($242 million over four days) more or less guarantees “Black Panther” is on its way to becoming a multi-film franchise for Marvel Studios.
But will there also be more than one Black Panther?
Perhaps there was no bigger Easter egg in “Black Panther” than the presence of princess Shuri, a tech-genius and little sister to the titular hero. She was perhaps “Black Panther’s” biggest scene-stealer, with Guyanese-born British actress Letitia Wright delivering a performance that was both hilarious (her cry of “What are those?” to Chadwick Boseman’s sandal-wearing T’Challa/Black Panther may have been one of the funniest lines ever said in a Marvel Studios film) and heroic (when it came time for the final battle, she strapped on panther gauntlets and bravely took on Michael B. Jordan’s villain Erik Killmonger head on.)
Wright, a “Black Mirror” vet who will next be seen in Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” in March and “Avengers: Infinity War” in May, has said in interviews that she hopes the character will inspire more young girls to pursue STEM subjects.
But those familiar with Shuri’s comic book origins know that she’s more than a brilliant mind and a supportive and competitive sister. She’s a Black Panther herself.
Created during the acclaimed “Black Panther” comic book run of writer Reginald Hudlin and artist John Romita Jr. in 2005, Shuri’s biggest comic book moment was when she became the Black Panther after T’Challa was feared dead from injuries that kept him in a coma. T’Challa would eventually return (hey, it’s a comic book) but not before Shuri proved herself to be just as worthy of the mantle of Wakanda’s greatest champion.
When Hudlin spoke to The Washington Post recently, he said he was happy to see his co-creation make it to the big screen and envisioned just as many adventures for her in future films.
“I certainly presume that she will don the habit, as well,” Hudlin told The Post. “That’s the whole point. Everyone should be a Black Panther. It’s not just for boys. I’ve got a son and a daughter, and they should both have cool … Black Panther costumes on Halloween.”
A decision on Shuri as a future Black Panther on film now falls on “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler and producer Nate Moore (both of whom we can assume will return for a sequel). Coogler and Moore had no problem giving “Black Panther” multiple female heroes, with strong performances from Lupita Nyong’o (Nakia) and Danai Gurira (Okoye).
First they would have to decide if Shuri suiting up would be a team-up of sorts with her big brother or the result of T’Challa suffering grave injuries and Wakanda needing a Black Panther in that moment. If T’Challa does temporarily go down, then there has to be a strong-enough villain to achieve such a task now that Killmonger is gone.
Or perhaps the next “Black Panther” film wouldn’t be the right time to bring in a new Panther-hero, since Boseman, finally, after years of waiting from the character’s fans, just delivered a highly anticipated cinematic moment. Maybe Boseman shines on screen one more time and Shuri possibly suits up in a third “Black Panther” movie.
Whatever happens, few would argue Wright’s Shuri is ready for the task. We know she’s a big part of this franchise’s future. We’ll have to wait to see if she gets a mask, as well.