‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ is a touching tribute full of emotion


Connor Youngberg

Illustration by

Connor Youngberg, Staff Writer

On Aug. 28, 2020, Chadwick Boseman lost a long battle with cancer. Boseman, who portrayed Marvel’s Black Panther on-screen from 2016 to 2019, was mourned by his family, peers and fans. Ryan Coogler, the director of both “Black Panther” films, decided not to recast him or include any computer-generated imagery with his likeness. Instead, Coogler created a touching tribute to Boseman, along with a beautiful story about loss.

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” begins with the country of Wakanda mourning the death of Boseman’s King T’Challa. Wakanda is now without a king, putting a target on the country’s back for the rest of the world to take advantage of.

At the same time, we are introduced to another secret civilization, Talokan, ruled by Namor, played by Tenoch Huerta. Shuri, played by Letitia Wright moves into the spotlight in T’Challa’s absence and is forced to decide whether to team up with Talokan against the surface world or stand their ground on behalf of Wakanda.

The way the movie handles Boseman’s death is respectful and necessary. The loss of T’Challa is properly referenced, but never overwhelming. It’s clear that the country Wakanda must move onward from his death the same way we as viewers must move on from Boseman’s death, which creates incredibly emotional performances.

Angela Bassett plays T’Challa’s mother, Queen Ramonda, who delivers one of the most emotional performances of any Marvel film. You can see the pain in her eyes and feel the agony in her voice as she delivers words on the loss of her on-screen son. As a viewer, you can tell that all the actors, including Bassett, were feeling their real-life anguish while acting in these scenes.

The tone of agony is very present throughout the movie, which is a drastic change from its predecessor. The first “Black Panther” movie is notorious for its music, combining west-coast hip-hop with traditional African instruments to create beautiful sounds that set the upbeat tone of the film. However, “Wakanda Forever” is grounded in silence with many of the emotional sequences delivered with no music at all. This makes for some somber but beautiful scenes that had the audience close to tears.

“Wakanda Forever” contains parallels to the iconic Marvel character, Iron Man. Ironheart, also known as Riri Williams, serves as the direct correlation to Iron Man. Williams, played by Dominique Thorne, is a gifted college student and engineer and follows in the footsteps of Tony Stark by creating her own metal suit.

However, Shuri is also an Iron Man-like figure. In “Iron Man 3,” Stark suffered from anxiety following the events in 2012’s “The Avengers” and used technology to keep creating suits in order to maintain some sort of stability. In “Wakanda Forever,” Shuri is mourning the death of her brother by drowning herself in her lab, making new inventions to keep her mind off of the pain she is concealing. It’s a beautiful way of showing how people deal with loss in similar ways.

Namor serves as a perfect antagonist in this film. “Black Panther” gave us one of the best villains in Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan, in part because we can empathize with him. Namor is just trying to protect his people, and after seeing his civilization and the people he stands for, it’s difficult to call him a villain, but rather a man who is willing to do anything to protect his home.

Talokan is a beautiful civilization and a place Marvel will hopefully explore more of in the future. One of the best things Coogler did in the first film was create the civilization we know as Wakanda from scratch. In this film, he does the same things, this time creating a beautiful new utopia that is incredibly unique. The world-building is nothing short of phenomenal and Coogler does a great job introducing another culture into the Marvel world.

In the comics, Namor is the ruler of the famous Atlantis, but Coogler decided to go in a different direction. While Talokan still is a secret underwater civilization, it is heavily inspired by Mesoamerican Indigenous groups, such as the Mayans and the Aztecs. Modern-day Mesoamerica includes Mexico, which is where Huerta is from. Coogler did a fantastic job taking Atlantis and turning it into something fresh while implementing it with culture.

“Wakanda Forever” is spectacular. It’s an emotional tribute to Boseman and a continuation of the legacy he left behind. The film is entertaining but also makes you feel something on a deeper level. The pacing is perfectly balanced for a longer film. Although it is almost three hours long, it was never uninteresting. The action is unique for a Marvel film, including a few slow-motion sequences that slow down the intensity of the fight. The performances are fantastic and the legacy that Boseman left behind has been continued.

When Boseman passed it was unknown how the Black Panther symbol would move on. Coogler made a brilliant film that passes the torch onward. The Black Panther lives on and will continue to be an icon to people around the world, exactly how Boseman would have wanted.