Wakanda Forever: A Heartfelt Tribute to Chadwick Boseman (No Spoilers)

Jade Baxendale, Editor-in-Chief

On Friday, November 11, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was released in theaters missing its Black Panther. Chadwick Boseman, the actor who played the Black Panther also known as King T’challa, sadly passed away in 2020.

When Marvel Studios announced the new Black Panther movie, many fans questioned how the studio planned to continue the series without its main star. After watching the movie, I can guarantee there was no better way that Marvel could have handled this tragic situation.

The story of T’challa and Wakanda began in Captain America: Civil War when Baron Zemo framed Bucky Barnes for an attack that led to the death of T’challa’s father- the king of a fictional African country called Wakanda. T’challa spends the movie trying to avenge his father by killing Bucky before he learns better and arrests Zemo.

In his solo movie, Black Panther, T’challa officially becomes the Black Panther and ruler of Wakanda before the title is stolen from him by a man named Eric Killmonger who “kills” him. However, T’challa’s family is able to save him and he defeats Killmonger. At the end of the movie, T’challa decides to share Wakanda’s vast resources with the world. The Wakandans help in the fight against Thanos in both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: End Game, leading us to Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

Out of respect for Boseman, Marvel Studios did not recast T’challa, so the movie focuses on his friends and family after his untimely demise. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever follows returning characters Princess Shuri (Letitia Wright), a young tech genius and sister to T’challa; Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), a strong leader and T’challa’s mother; General Okoye (Danai Gurira), leader of the Dora Milaje- a female warrior group loyal to the Wakandan throne; and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), T’challa’s former love interest and Wakandan spy.

The movie also introduces a new antagonist named Namor (Tenoch Huerta) who is the ruler of an underwater nation and introduces Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne) also known as Ironheart. Riri is set to have a solo series entitled Ironheart that will come out in 2023, so it was exciting to have this small introduction to her as a character. The movie also saw the return of other MCU characters- some obvious, others as a surprise to viewers.

A promotional poster for the movie. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

As a long-time Marvel fan who has been fairly disappointed by phase four (starting with Wandavision), I went into this movie without high expectations. Black Panther was an amazing movie, but I didn’t know if this sequel would be able to succeed without T’challa. It not only succeeded in being an entertaining movie, but it also instilled hope in fans like me for a brighter future for the MCU in phase five.

One of the biggest issues for the MCU lately has been pacing. Movies like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Thor: Love and Thunder felt rushed. These movies didn’t give audiences a second to think because of fast-paced action and short run times (for a Marvel movie). Then movies like Eternals were very slow-paced with sparse amounts of action, failing to keep audiences engaged for their run time. Black Panther was actually longer than any of these movies with a runtime of 161 minutes. Still, by providing a great mix of fast-paced action and heartfelt emotional scenes, Black Panther was an emotional rollercoaster that also gave audiences a moment to breathe.

Wakanda Forever also found the balance of humor and seriousness that the MCU rarely executes. Many fans have been upset with the extreme amount of humor in phase four that can drain away any true emotion or humanity from these movies and T.V. series. The main offenders are Thor: Love and Thunder and She-Hulk. I like the comedic tone in this movie and series, but many don’t like the childlike humor and often cringe humor that comes out of the MCU. This kind of humor certainly had no place in an emotional movie like Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. 

While the movie had its comedic elements, specifically with the introduction of Riri Williams who spent most of the movie in a state of hilarious bewilderment, it definitely had one of the darker tones of phase four. Even though these characters endured the challenges of the movie, many did so while still in a state of mourning.

This also provided for some drastic character development for Shuri. In Black Panther, Shuri was very much the young comedic tech genius behind T’challa’s heroics. After the loss of her brother, Shuri is forced to grow up and mature into a more serious young woman. This movie brought out all the different sides of Shuri, creating a much more complex persona for her. It’s not often that we see characters rise so far above their comedic relief status.

Shuri didn’t lose her personality, but as an audience, we were exposed to the parts of her that we had never seen before. This was especially refreshing because I, for one, feared that by promoting Shuri to main character status, she would lose her personality and become the do-good hero we constantly see in the superhero genre. It was a pleasant surprise to learn that this movie didn’t replace her personality, but rather built upon who we’ve seen her become as a person.

This is the part where I usually start talking about the downsides of the movie. Please let me know if you find one because I have zero criticisms of this masterpiece. Marvel took the well-loved world of Wakanda and expanded on it as best they could without the universally-loved King T’challa. We may never know how the MCU would have looked with Chadwick Boseman still here, but at least Marvel is doing their very best in his absence.