‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ – The Mantle Lives On
By Anthony Canton
When the first teaser for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever dropped back in July, an overwhelming sense of emotion hit us all. Seeing the world of Wakanda once again felt hopeful, vibrant, and enriching. However, the loss of Chadwick Boseman, hand in hand with T’Challa, was a stark reminder of the film’s story.
One of the most beautiful parts of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) Phase 4 has been the exploration of different cultures and the storytelling within those cultures. We’ve been educated and enlightened from Shang-Chi to Moon Knight to Ms. Marvel. It’s not just the harrowing stories of oppression but the beauty within these cultures that Phase 4 consistently showed audiences.
In the fourth episode of Ms. Marvel, Kamala feels lost. She doesn’t know how to deal with all the pieces of her life around her. Her grandmother Sana says one of the most powerful things we’ve ever heard in MCU content: “If you’ve learned what I have, lost what I have, you’ll learn to find beauty in the pieces.” Sana seemed ever so hopeful when she said that; the same could be said for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
It’s difficult not to get emotional thinking about Boseman’s impact. Yes, we celebrate his life and everything that came with that. The loss is real. It will always feel like something is missing, and this is just a fan talking here. What about the cast? What about Ryan Coogler, the director?
It was an unenviable task for Coogler, as he stated in Variety last month, “I didn’t know if I could make another movie, period, [let alone] another Black Panther movie, because it hurt a lot. I was like, ‘Man, how could I open myself up to feeling like this again?’” The fact that he could go back to Wakanda Forever showed strength and resolve. One can only hope that making this movie was more helpful than anything else.
[Please note: There are spoilers below for Wakanda Forever, specifically the mid-credits scene.]
Then there’s the film itself. As Wakanda Forever premiered last weekend to audiences, it was time to see what came from this pain. The best way to describe Wakanda Forever is an emotional experience, unlike anything we’ve witnessed. What Coogler was able to accomplish was extraordinary. Firstly, the tribute to Boseman throughout the film–from the opening credits to the memories through Shuri’s eyes–was touching and heartbreaking. From Angela Bassett’s Oscar-worthy performance to Letitia Wright’s emotional tidal wave, we felt the grief throughout the movie.
There’s a moment when Shuri leaves the ancestral plane and cannot find her family, a moment of raw frustration and hurt paralleled what the cast must’ve felt after losing their friend. Coogler left no stone unturned in making us see that, understand it, and sit in it. This movie was a message to the “Recast T’Challa” crowd about why it wasn’t that simple. At the movie’s soul, the message is we are human, and we feel. When we feel loss, we must face it even though we may not want to. There was also one more lesson.
There was the lesson of moving forward. There is a mid-credits stinger where the audience learns that T’Challa and Nakia had a son. They had agreed to keep him hidden until the right time. Even in the film, they subtly hinted at him. The reveal of the new T’Challa symbolized hope, renewal, and moving forward. Coogler had talked about it. There’s sadness, but there is hope.
Boseman’s absence was felt, and it’s not a denigration of the film. It’s a shining example of what he meant to the people he worked with, his family, and his fans. He is the definition of a hero, and this was the celebration.
Putting Wakanda Forever together took something bigger than just a cast, crew, and director. It took love. As Lupita Nyong’o said at San Diego Comic-Con, making the movie was therapeutic. The mourning doesn’t stop, but the living doesn’t either. It’s why, in a world where we are so focused on what goes wrong, we need kindness at a time like this. This cast should be protected and loved.
T’Challa’s spirit is still a part of us as fans and all the people who love this culture. Let’s live. Let’s give these men and women the grace they so easily deserve. Wakanda still lives. Shuri, Nakia, Okoye, Queen Ramonda, and M’Baku had a story to tell us, and it was beautiful. They celebrate a real hero, and we should let them live and tell that story. The mantle of the Black Panther lives, and it, as Boseman does, will live in our hearts.