Wakanda Forever fosters strength through diversity

Sequel pays tribute to Chadwick Boseman and follows the powerful people of Wakanda as they face a new villain without the Black Panther


Paying Tribute: Shuri (Letitia Wright) salutes center stage in front of the main cast of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever which premiered Nov 11. Marvel fans worldwide flocked to theaters to watch the sequel. “I’m a huge Marvel fan, and I watched [the film] the day it came out,” sophomore Samuel Orduna said.

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”, directed by American producer Ryan Coogler, was released to theaters on Nov. 11, 2022, as a sequel to “Black Panther” (2018). Much has changed since the first movie, both in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the universe of the audience. 


The sequel opens with a funeral for the late King T’Challa. Princess Shuri (Letitia Wright) and Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) follow his decorated casket during the somber procession. The mourning family marches through the kingdom of Wakanda as performers dance in memory of their recently deceased king. As the casket reaches a clearing, where it rises into a skyship, the opening scene cuts to a solemn montage of Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther. The collage of clips forms the classic “Marvel Studios” logo. 


It has been two years since the passing of Boseman, who played T’Challa in the original Black Panther and in subsequent movies. His charming demeanor marked the birth of a new-age hero within a cast of A-list names like Lupita Nyong’o (Nakia) and Michael B. Jordan (T’Chaka/Killmonger). His death looms over the sequel as the characters learn to live without their king. 

“You could feel [Boseman] wasn’t there… and it made the characters seem more vulnerable,” sophomore Saihaj Boparai said. 


Boseman’s co-stars like Danai Gurira (General Okoye) and Winston Duke (M’Baku) had personal connections with him, allowing them to tap into their own grief as their characters mourned the Black Panther. 

“[Boseman] was a really big part in the first movie, so his death seriously affected the actors and their emotions,” sophomore Hannah Avent said.

Coogler subtly honors Boseman by having Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne) reference his speech in which he says, “To be young, gifted, and Black.”


While Wakanda Forever pays tribute to Boseman, it is still a piece of the biggest cinematic universe of all time. Marvel Studios seemingly pried itself its way into the film, as the moments that build on the MCU felt unnatural and paused the narrative. This is a story about politics, tradition and grief that every so often gets interrupted for a little world-building, slowing the pacing and breaking the immersion. 


After the passing of King T’Challa, Wakanda has become a matriarchy under the rule of Queen Ramonda and later, Princess Shuri. The diplomatic, combative and intellectual abilities of Wakandan women are highlighted within the film, evident in Queen Ramonda’s tact in the conference room, General Okoye’s prowess on the battlefield, and Williams’ genius in the lab. 


Shuri plays a commanding role in Wakanda Forever, as she takes a dynamic journey when dealing with her grief. She surrounds herself in her work in order to avoid addressing her suffering. She is only able to bottle her feelings in for so long, as the death of Queen Ramonda sets off the anger and pain that was rotting inside her. She goes down a path of war against Talocan, similar to that of her cousin, T’Chaka. 


Talocan, an underwater nation inspired by Aztec and Mayan cultures, is a new power in the MCU. It’s easy to understand why its mutant leader Namor (Tenoch Huerta) wanted to go to war with the air breathers that threatened his home. 

“He had a very compelling case as to why he wanted to do what he wanted to do… I thought he was a very sympathetic villain,” Boparai said. 

Namor simply wished to protect his people as he knew what land-dwellers could do to others in the name of greed. The people of Talocan, representative of the indigenous people of Mexico, are portrayed as strong, loyal warriors instead of as subhuman barbarians, typical of most entertainment media. 


In Marvel Comics No. 1 (1939), Namor was half-human, half-Atlantean, and presented as white. Coogler’s idea to shift the narrative to make him an anti-colonialist Indigenous demigod of the Mesoamerican-inspired Talocan was brilliant. Talocan was given the same treatment as Wakanda: to reimagine a nation unspoiled by colonization. It is momentous to have an American movie bring Indigenous Mexican characters to the spotlight, an action that will not soon go forgotten. 


Wakanda Forever boasts a diverse cast and plot in which many of its audience can see themselves within.

 “Wakanda Forever did a great job representing so many different kinds of people which isn’t seen in many movies,” sophomore Sam Orduna said. 

From the indigenous people of Mexico and Africa to women of all ages, this sequel raises the bar for representation in film. 


Overall, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was an incredibly executed film. Although slightly overstuffed with plot, Wakanda Forever flaunts strong performances, outstanding action, and a realistic exploration of grief. When the MCU takes a backseat, Coogler’s brilliance is allowed to shine through his modern and emotional storytelling. This sequel is unapologetically Black, Brown and beautiful.