‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ brings emotional weight back to the MCU

The film offers themes of loss, cultural representation, and female empowerment

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman.

After releases like Thor: Love and Thunder and Eternals, fans like me have been worried about the direction—or lack thereof—the MCU is taking for future films. That was until I watched Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

Wakanda Forever joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) this past week as the 30th film since the debut of Iron Man in 2008. Marvel is known for making high-quality, emotional movies, but Phase Four of Marvel’s films has made me and many others question this reputation.

When Marvel fans watched Tony Stark’s story come to a close in Avengers: Endgame, it was emotionally crushing. For those of us who’d watched Tony grow for the previous twelve years, it felt like we’d lost a friend—a real hero.

In movies like Thor: Love and Thunder, that emotional resonance disappeared, replaced by cheap humour and a lazy script. Wakanda Forever reinvents this emotional resonance.

The original Black Panther hit theatres in 2019 with a massive punch, quickly becoming culturally iconic.

It saw the debut of Wakanda, a secret, technologically supreme country in Africa; a Black superhero as the titular character; a Black director (Ryan Coogler); and a nearly all-Black cast. It diversified Marvel's predominantly white universe and popularized a superhero whom black children could look up to.

When Chadwick Boseman—who played Black Panther in the original film—passed away in 2020, fans wondered how the franchise would go on. In the end, the filmmakers used these raw emotions to construct a powerful film about grief. It works so well because the characters and fans are not only mourning the death of T’Challa, but Boseman, too.

The performances by Letitia Wright (Shuri) and Angela Bassett (Ramonda) in mourning their family felt so real because, in a way, they were. Such performances are a rare occurrence in film; they could never be matched by someone who’s never experienced grief.

Coogler stays true to the excellent characters and defining world of the first film while incorporating the deep emotions the cast felt when Boseman passed away.

Wakanda Forever ignites the emotional connection to characters Marvel has been deeply missing as of late. Presenting characters you empathize with, relate to, or even idolize is what makes movies so powerful. Feeling true grief watching Wakanda Forever connected me to one of the most defining actors of our time and gave me hope that Marvel is back on its high-quality track.

Not only is Marvel back to developing inspiring characters, but its further diversifying its portfolio with more female-led superheroes. Who’s better to take on the role of Black Panther than Shuri, T’Challa’s younger sister? 

Watching Shuri battle through her grief and guilt throughout the film was beautiful to watch. With her as Black Panther, Wakanda Forever gives us a promising, three-dimensional heroine for the future of the MCU.

With Shuri as Black Panther, her mother Ramonda as queen of Wakanda, and the Dora Milaje warriors, it’s women who lead Wakanda to victory against Namor and his army, giving Marvel fans the female empowerment and strength they deserve to see. 

Given its emotional resonance, cultural engagement, and female representation, Wakanda Forever rises above the rest of Phase Four’s boring characters, childish plotlines, and poor scriptwriting.

Together, Boseman and Wright have created the legacy of the Black Panther which will go down as one of the best and most empowering comic book characters of all time. They brought back characters that can be and should be idolized—characters that diversify Marvel productions and put the studio back on its emotion-evoking track.

If Marvel was looking for a redemption arc, this is it. 

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.