Movie: “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”
Director: Ryan Coogler
Starring: Letita Wright, Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira and Tenoch Huerta
What is the right way to mourn the loss of a loved one, sibling, son, partner or a king?
For the Avengers, the answer was clear-cut: avenge them.
But for the people of Wakanda and the cast of “Black Panther,” that answer was not as clear after the loss of T’Challa and Chadwick Boseman.
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” takes audiences through a heartfelt journey filled with hopeless grieving, laugh-worthy comedy, engaging battles and relentless characters. It models the struggles of being a leader in a world where love seems near impossible and thrones do not guarantee safety.
Wakanda Forever makes it hard to hold back tears and smiles through its screen time.
*Movie spoilers after this point*
Director Ryan Coogler wastes no time throughout the movie.
Silence is weaponized as audiences tear up from the first minutes of the movie that showcase the funeral of T’Challa and remix the Marvel fanfare to showcase heartwarming throwback moments of Boseman as T’Challa. It is clear that Marvel was not just saying goodbye to T’Challa, but to the beloved Boseman.
But even in times of despair, Wakandans still have some of the best fashion pieces in the MCU, from the vibrant white dresses worn during the Wakandans’ dance to celebrate T’Challa to Queen Ramonda’s dark red dress entwined with green and gold jewelry when she addresses the U.N.
Shuri takes the lead throughout the movie and struggles immensely without her big brother T’Challa. Shuri’s development throughout the movie is a story of resilience and the struggles of maintaining courage even when it seems that her family, morals and country are near collapse.
With the loss of three consecutive leaders — T’Chaka, Killmonger and T’Challa — the men of Wakanda have persistently fallen in a short time frame, leaving women to take charge of the great nation. This puts the power of women on display and showcases some of the strongest women in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far with Shuri, Nakia, Okoye and Ramonda.
Like its prequel, ‘Wakanda Forever’ is not afraid to take audiences back to the classroom. The U. S. — the once-believed superior nation in the MCU prior to Wakanda revealing their nation’s true power in “Black Panther” — starts to plot against Wakanda for its vibranium, similar to European nations during the Berlin Conference of the 1880s, when European powers plotted how they would colonize Africa.
The new character Namor and his underwater society, Talokan, take on Shuri and Wakanda. This makes a worthy dynamic of two deeply-traumatized and scarred communities that are unsure of how to move on after the abuse the world has inflicted on them and their people. While wanting to find a way they can prosper together, they come to the realization that the world is a much darker place than they once thought, making for a great character dynamic between Talokan and Shuri.
The biggest shock of the movie comes with the reveal that after taking the sacred flower to become the Black Panther, Shuri meets her dead cousin, Killmonger.
“Are you going to be noble like your brother or take care of business like me?” asks Killmonger. This leaves Shuri conflicted between taking the high road like her brother, T’Challa, or taking her anger out on the world like Killmonger.
Shuri’s development in this movie showcases the struggles of mourning a dear loved one, being a leader in a society where love seems scarce and being strong when the world as you knew it is near non-existent.
The main flaw in this movie stems from the main antagonist of the film, Namor, somehow having wings comparable to a pigeon, with speed comparable to Thor’s hammer when he goes against the Wakandans in battle.
But the few negatives do not take away from the beauty and power of the film for audiences. The film is heavily focused on empowering its viewers — from finding out what a Black young woman Iron Man would look like with the introduction of RiRi, a MIT student who engineers cutting-edge technology, to Rihanna’s “Lift Me Up” ending off the movie.
The symbolism of naming T’Challa’s son Toussaint, likely after Toussaint Louverture, the Haitian general who successfully led the Haitian Revolution, symbolizes that the future looks bright for Wakanda, for now. But with the U.S. plotting against the Wakandans, safety is not guaranteed.
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” like few blockbuster films, is made to display the power of Black women despite the most unfortunate of circumstances, which makes it a unique and standout modern masterpiece.
A.J. Franklin is an assistant features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org