The sudden and tragic death of Chadwick Boseman in August 2020 sent shockwaves through Hollywood as people around the world mourned the loss of one of the industry’s most talented and kindhearted souls. He was an actor in his prime, and one who propelled the Marvel Cinematic Universe to new heights through his performance as the rising Black Panther T’Challa. The original Black Panther dealt with T’Challa rising up and taking over the mantel of King following the death of King T’Chaka in Captain America: Civil War. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever deals with the real loss of Chadwick Boseman and the death of his character, T’Challa. It’s a heartfelt film about love, loss, and legacy; one that honors Boseman in the best way possible and pulls off the impossible as it pivots the future of the franchise in his absence. Not only is Wakanda Forever the best film of Phase 4, it’s also one of the best entries in the entire MCU.
The entire country of Wakanda is in a state of mourning after the tragic death of Black Panther and King T’Challa due to a sudden illness. Shuri feels guilty for not being able to synthetically recreate the heart-shaped herb and save her brothers life and struggles to move on in the wake of his death. Meanwhile, tensions remain high as the rest of the world pressures Wakanda and now leader Queen Ramonda into sharing vibranium with them. In their attempts to locate vibranium outstide of Wakanda, the CIA attracts the attention of the underwater nation of Talokan, led by their king, Namor, who they too possess vibranium and will go to whatever lengths to remain hidden and shut off from the rest of the world. Namor initially offers up an alliance with Wakanda but turns his back on them when Ramonda and everyone else won’t take drastic enough measures to prevent vibranium from getting into the wrong hands. A potential war brews betweeen Wakanda and Talokan; one that threatens to leave each civilization in ruins.
It’s difficult to imagine the Black Panther franchise without its star in Chadwick Boseman, but like like the the theme of the film the world continues to move forward in a person’s absence whether we like it or not. The pain of Boseman’s loss is immediately addressed. His death occurs within the opening minutes, with the film focusing on Shuri’s fruitless efforts to save him before displaying a special Marvel Studios logo that replaces all other superheroes with shots of T’Challa. The scene hits hard. It’s impossible to separate the character of T’Challa from Boseman. Like the King of Wakanda, there’s no denying the impact Boseman left on the world. And yet things have to move on.
Time does not heal all wounds, especially for Shuri. Without the heart-shaped herb, there is no one who can take up the mantle of Black Panther and so the position goes unfulfilled and she buries herself in her technology. She forms a connection with Namor, who himself has suffered great familial loses. Namor believes that vengeance is the only way to deal with his internal pain and is intent on making Shuri see eye to eye with him. Wakanda Forever dives deep into trauma and loss and how we deal with our emotions as we attempt to move on from the changes it causes. It’s synonymous with the making of the film, which had to drastically change its story in the wake of Boseman’s passing. How can you have a Black Panther sequel without the Black Panther?
One of the best aspects of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is the introduction of Namor, whose origin takes inspiration from Aztec and Mayan culture rather than Atlantis like in the comics. The result is a gorgeous cultural tapestry that rivals Wakanda. The costumes in the film are absolutely stunning, and the underwater work is breathtaking, no pun intended. Tenoch Huerta Mejía is an absolute force to be reckoned with and brilliantly straddles the definition of antihero. His motivations are clear although his methods are exceptionally brutal at times. Huerta’s performance is ferocious and powerful. I kept wanting to root for him despite the awful things his character does. Wakanda Forever isn’t afraid of taking some big swings with the story and delivers plenty of gut-punches that will ravage your emotions. And not once does it ever feel like its taking advantage of a situation or Boseman’s death. Every moment has impact.
Black Panther is a fitting farewell to Chadwick Boseman and T’Challa. It’s sad and unfortunate we’ll never see him in the role again, but it’s both heartwarming and heartbreaking to see the story that Ryan Coogler has crafted in his passing. And while our hearts may never fully heal from the loss, Boseman’s legacy will forever live on. Wakanda Forever in our hearts.
It is a heartfelt film about love, loss, and legacy; one that honors Boseman in the best way possible and pulls off the impossible as it pivots the future of the franchise in his absence. Not only is Wakanda Forever the best film of Phase 4, it’s also one of the best entries in the entire MCU.