By Linda Cheung
In phase four’s latest installment, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” Wakanda learned to manage its grief amid the death of Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa, the nation’s king and sole protector known as the Black Panther. While healing from the trauma of the blip and the death of their king, Wakanda fought against foreign nations vying for vibranium: the world’s most powerful metal that can manipulate kinetic energy. Many fans argue that the decision to avoid recasting T’Challa was a tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman, whose performance defined a new era for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
“I thought the beginning of the movie was a beautiful tribute to him,” social studies teacher Dr. D’Orsogna said. “For the actors, it was important for them to have that closure too, because he was such a central part of the film and such a good human being.”
Artwork by Guneet Hanjra
"Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" provides an in-depth exploration of grief amidst a fight against the developed world.
T’Challa’s death resulted in a stark shift within Wakandan society, causing Queen Ramonda to become sovereign ruler. Since Shuri was left as heiress to the throne, an interpersonal struggle began with Ramonda and Shuri as Wakanda grappled between tradition and modernity. Ramonda used her regal diplomatic skills to defend Wakanda’s vibranium against the developed world, while Shuri became absorbed in her research as chief science officer, a position she valued more than her royal status.
After Queen Ramonda’s death during Namor’s attack on Wakanda, the nation completely embarked on a journey toward modernity under Shuri’s leadership. The death of Shuri’s closest family members causes Shuri to become vengeful, and she uses her research to escape her deep-seated grief. Eventually, Shuri uses this research to synthesize the heart-shaped herb, a medicinal plant that transformed her into the Black Panther.
“She was obviously one of the few that I would have chosen to take over,” social studies teacher Mr. Chuba said. “I mean being kind of related from the first movies, she was related to him, she fit the mold. I liked her character as a side character, but she did a really good job in the movie.”
“Ramonda used her regal diplomatic skills to defend Wakanda's vibranium against the developed world, while Shuri became absorbed in her research as chief science officer...”
Director Ryan Coogler crafts a compelling villain and morally gray character in the film. Namor, played by Tenoch Huerta, is the ruler of a kingdom of water-breathing beings known as Talokanil. Motivated by a coherent political argument and anti-colonialist agenda, Namor sought revenge against the developed world for colonization of his people during the age of the Mayan empire. Similar to Killmonger, Namor believes his intentions are morally correct and justifiable.
“I enjoyed him,” Mr. Chuba said. “I was a fan of Namor before the movie because I had the comic book adaptation, and he’s fought Hulk before; he’s mutant in some instances.”
The movie retelling of Namor is interpreted through a Mesoamerican lens, which provides logical reasoning behind the villain’s actions.
“I was concerned because I thought ‘how are they going to twist this to Mesoamerican colonial perspective as the villain when it’s supposed to be from Atlantis, and Roman backwards?’” Dr. D’Orsogna said. “I liked the linguistic twist of ‘no love,’ and what I like about Black Panther is this interrogation of anti-colonial themes in pop culture that you don’t always see, so it’s more thought provoking.”
Huerta’s anti-hero role also plays a crucial function regarding Indigenous representation in Hollywood and popular culture.
“More people can identify with the character now than just having it as some kind of vague made up civilization,” Mr. Chuba said. “Just like what Black Panther and Chadwick Boseman did for African American kids to have someone to look up to as a hero instead of somebody else, it is giving a whole bunch of diversity which is kind of like this inclusive nature that we’re in, and I think it’s really good.”