Written by Nynoshka Vazquez-Suazo
MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD
After the sudden passing of Chadwick Boseman, there was no telling what would happen to the beloved Black Panther character and story. Many speculated who would replace him, how his death would be carried into the film, and whether it would live up to everything 2018’s Black Panther claimed and stood for. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever feels revolutionary, as it creates an epic pathway for a retelling of the first film’s origin story while simultaneously honoring Boseman’s legacy.
The film begins with the death of King T’Challa (Boseman) by a mystery illness, and rather than it feeling rushed or randomly placed, it is done in a tasteful way that makes sense as the story progresses. The scene of his funeral procession is one of celebration, the kingdom all wearing white, playing music and dancing. At the end of the procession, the music cuts, and the silence is powerful as his coffin is revealed and Shuri (Letitia Wright) places his panther mask beneath it. Then all you hear are Shuri’s cries as her brother’s coffin is taken, the silence then continues as the Marvel opening credits play, but this time, it’s a tribute to Chadwick and the Black Panther.
The film then jumps to a year later, when Wakanda faces new threats from both known and unknown entities. Despite their King and protector being dead, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) makes it known that Wakanda is still the most powerful country in the world. However, the world’s greed for vibranium brings unwanted issues for the Wakandans. The Talokan, an undersea empire that has lived undetected for centuries. The heart of their kingdom is made of vibranium and when those in the “surface world” get their hands on a vibranium detector, the risk of exposure leads the Talokan to take drastic measures.
One of the most important and impactful elements in Wakanda Forever is the Hispanic and Indigenous representation. The leader of the Talokan, Namor (Tenoch Huerta), tells the story of their existence, which brings together Mexican and Indigenous cultures through legends, costume, location, and language. The Talokan are based on Mayan culture, including its architecture and the language spoken within the film. Namor is also seen as KuKulkan, an ancient Mayan god. To add to the pride, a majority of the film was filmed in Puerto Rico.
Co-written and directed by Ryan Coogler, the integrity of the first film remains through the second. However, what makes Wakanda Forever a worthy sequel is the story’s shocking turns. At the beginning of the film, you see Shuri as a young girl who fails to save her brother. She struggles with grief and as someone who doesn’t believe in tradition, she refuses to act like T’Challa is still with her. So, after the death of her mother, she becomes desperate and locks herself in her lab, trying to recreate the heart-shaped herb to bring back Wakanda’s protector. After succeeding and taking the herb, she is visited by an ancestor, her cousin, Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). This is a young woman full of anger, sadness, and vengeance. A young woman who never thought she’d be in this position, who relied on her brother, and now it is all on her shoulders. Instead of being given time to grieve, she was needed to rule. Which I think is a perfectly realistic expression of grief—especially at a young age.
Seeing that it took Rihanna out of retirement, the soundtrack is one to be highlighted, as it plays with the rollercoaster of emotions the audience experiences, while also highlighting all the cultures and languages put on display. Wakanda Forever was created in a way that doesn’t risk or compromise the foundation Black Panther and Chadwick Boseman created. It highlights his legacy, honors different cultures, and creates a new foundation for a new story.