The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
*Slight spoiler warning for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (just basic plot points)*
Released on November 11, 2022, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever served as a sequel to the movie that revolutionized what superheroes can look like. Black Panther is sixth on the list of top grossing box office films domestically, while its sequel is currently at 56th. The sequel has the second longest run time of any Marvel movie (beat only by Avengers: Endgame). It tells the story of Queen Ramonda, Shuri, M’Baku, Okoye, and the Dora Milaje fighting for Wakanda with their primary protector, the Black Panther, dead. The mourning for King T’Challa is visceral throughout the movie, making each scene powerful. Watching a mantle be passed on too soon, seeing every character go through so much loss, and having them fight to keep their nation safe, are what make this movie a cinematic feat.
This movie serves as a poignant tribute to Chadwick Boseman who passed in August of 2020. Boseman, a South Carolina native, had a long acting career in movies and television with his most prominent role being T’Challa in Black Panther. When he passed two years after its release, the Marvel community, and the communities he impacted by giving representation to those long overlooked, were left devastated. I remember my confusion thinking, “What will happen next? Will there be another Black Panther?” and not knowing what answers I wanted. What this movie provided was a visual processing of the grief we were all feeling. The funeral of King T’Challa is a long scene where we see intricate outfits, see dancing, and hear drums. Viewers are pulled into the grieving that the Wakandans are doing for their fallen king as we feel it for the actor we love. The movie that follows shows the different processes Queen Ramonda and Shuri go through with one leaning into the spiritual and one leaning into the scientific. They fight and it is messy and while all of this is happening, an outside force is attacking them. They are forced to move forward and fight on and Shuri becomes the new Black Panther, the title that belonged to her older brother just a year ago. Watching the women in this movie be resilient as they face blow after blow is powerful. I have always admired the Dora Milaje and Okoye as fierce female warriors and their strength is highlighted in this film. They must grieve and protect at the same time.
Watching this movie was unlike any movie experience I have previously had. You could feel the emotions of the actors and fellow audience members at every turn. From dynamic fight scenes that are Marvel’s signature, to funerals and talks of death and grief that viewers have not gotten from Marvel in the past, this movie delivers. One of my favorite outright tributes to Chadwick Boseman came from Riri Williams when she says the line “To be young, gifted, and black…” which is what Boseman said in his speech for the 2019 SAG Awards’ Top Film prize. Hearing those words echoed by the next generation of Marvel heroes gives viewers hope that lessons imparted by predecessors will not be forgotten and their legacies will live on. Watching Shuri on the beach as the sun sets in the credits scene with her remembering her brother, feels like watching the actress Letitia Wright remember Chadwick Boseman and it is a definite tear-jerker. Processing the loss of characters and actors at once through a film seems odd and even unattainable, but director Ryan Coogler (having written the screenplay in collaboration with Joe Robert Cole) accomplishes it. This film has all of the action, humor, jabs at current events/issues, and seriousness that Marvel fans expect. It also continued the legacy of the Black Panther franchise of giving Black voices prominence and showing Black resilience even in the face of great loss.