The big finale of Marvel’s three-year plan presentation was the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever panel and the teaser for the movie. The overwhelming sentiment after the first look landed on the internet was “already crying”, and there’s no doubt everything around and about this movie is going to be emotional come November. That’s why ending Phase 4 on this film is so smart—go out on a high note, go out on a collective moment of shared emotion and celebration, and no one is going to remember to complain that Loki and Doctor Strange 2 didn’t connect. And boy, does Wakanda Forever look good.
I’ve heard a persistent rumbling of doubt over the last two years that this movie would get released, given the untimely passing of Chadwick Boseman and how that forced plans for the storyline to change, not to mention mid-production upheaval ranging from an ever-evolving script to Letitia Wright’s anti-vax nonsense (and that’s just the drama that got publicized, folks!). But that rumbling was all outside the studio—Marvel was always 100% committed to making the film, even with the heartbreaking reality of going on without Boseman. And more, Ryan Coogler is a filmmaker who’s earned a little leeway. If anyone could pull this rabbit out of this particular hat, it’s him. He had to deal with a lot of bullsh-t on this production, but from what I’ve heard, he got through it.
But will Wakanda Forever top Black Panther? I don’t know if that’s even a fair question, because Wakanda Forever is forced to be such a different film than intended. For one thing, T’Challa’s story, as portrayed by Chadwick Boseman, is over, and the film is now about collective grief and healing and resilience and celebration. That comes through beautifully in the teaser. This is going to be a way for the world to say goodbye to a great artist who left us too soon, so even if the movie is bad, there will be something appealing about it beyond the normal “Marvel movie” bag. But it doesn’t look bad, it looks VERY good.
I love that Queen Ramonda calls Wakanda “the most powerful nation in the world”, and I wonder if there is some sense of how America is dealing with being dethroned (not well, I bet, which might have something to do with that UN meeting). I also love Shuri greeting Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne) in a Wakandan lab. In the comics, Tony Stark is Riri’s mentor, but it makes much more sense for her to be mentored in Wakanda, though it looks like there will still be plenty of nods to Iron Man.
iâ€™m passing away pic.twitter.com/12FTa0M2zq— alyssa (@theironwidow) July 24, 2022
We also get to see Tenoch Huerta as Namor the Sub-Mariner, the antagonist in this film. Namor just does not get along with other heroes, so it makes sense we meet him in conflict with Wakanda, because he is basically the “fight me” meme as a superhero. That’s also a key way to differentiate him from Aquaman—Namor is not a cool and groovy dude swimming with sharks and talking to fish, he’s a moody f-cking bitch, always mad at somebody. I also like the styling of Namor and the Atlanteans, who are linked to Mayan and Nahuatl culture in the film (Huerta learned a Mayan language for the role). And Huerta, who speaks often about colorism and racism in the Mexican and American film industries, spoke about this importance of this representation, and you can tell how excited he is to be playing Namor and bringing indigenous and Nahuatl representation to the screen.
This is the spirit of Chadwick Boseman, always working for more and better and truer representation, living on through Black Panther. Marvel would have gone ahead with this sequel regardless, but I truly do not think Ryan Coogler would have stuck it out if he didn’t think he could honor his friend the whole way through, from big elements like which new characters get introduced and how, to the smallest details like using Tems’ cover of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “No Woman, No Cry” to open the trailer. It’s not a funereal cover, but it is dirge-like, and the lyrics “Good friends we have and good friends we’ve lost along the way” hit harder given the loss of Boseman. And the way that song transitions to Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright”, the unofficial anthem of the Black Lives Matter movement, a fight song that declares defiant survival in the face of unimaginable pain. The music sets the tone. This isn’t going to be easy, reminders and reminisces of Chadwick Boseman will haunt this film, and that will hurt sometimes, but it can also be a moment for honour and celebration.