Carrying his legacy. After Chadwick Boseman‘s 2020 death, Black Panther director Ryan Coogler decided that his Marvel character would also die and a new Black Panther would be born in Wakanda Forever. (WARNING: Spoilers ahead.)
“You consider everything, when something like that happens, it’s like ‘I don’t think I can come back and make another one, I don’t think I can do this. I don’t think there should be another one.’ You go through all of the extremes,” Coogler said on the November 4 episode of “Wakanda Forever: The Official Black Panther Podcast.”
The director considered recasting T’Challa briefly, but he knew it would be unfair to any actor joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe and having to follow Boseman, who died of colon cancer at age 43 in August 2020.
“For somebody else to be him, for us in the world that we created, we wouldn’t have believed it. No matter how good the actor was, it would’ve been lacking the necessary truth for us to do a good job,” he explained.
Thus, it was decided that T’Challa would die offscreen in very similar way to Boseman. In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, audiences learn that the king didn’t tell his family he was terminally ill until it was too late. His sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright) was in the lab trying to recreate the heart-shaped herb, which gave him the superhuman powers of the Black Panther in the 2018 film. However, she didn’t have enough time to figure out the right chemical composition and her brother died.
T’Challa’s younger sister is the true star of the film. “Where we started was this idea of who would be the most affected by his loss,” Coogler told Variety in the Wednesday, November 9, cover story. “Shuri had never known a day without him. He’d always been there, so she would be the most unmoored by him passing away.”
She isn’t just the leading lady — Shuri is the new Black Panther. However, it took the scientist a little while to accept that she was meant to take over her brother’s mantle.
After T’Challa’s funeral, the film skipped ahead one year. Shuri still refused to acknowledge her grief. She was determined to break tradition, refusing to become the Black Panther. She wasn’t even sure she believed in all of Wakanda’s spiritual tales about the ancestors and the afterlife.
Her beliefs were tested when her mother, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) was killed by Namor (Tenoch Huerta). Overwhelmed by grief and determined to avenge her mom’s death, Shuri went back to recreating the heart-shaped herb and finally makes it work. She refused to be buried in sand as is traditional, instead opting to stay in the lab just in case she needed a defibrillator. She allowed Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) to make the mixture and keep watch over her as she went through the transformation.
After drinking the purple liquid, she passed out and went to see the ancestors. This was where T’Challa visited his late father in the 2018 film. Shuri believed she’d see her mother — but Ramonda wasn’t the last one to take the herb. That was Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), who makes a surprise appearance to test the new hero. She wanted to avenge her loved ones, much like him. Was she just like the villain?
Shuri came out of her dream-like state shaken and angry, believing the herb didn’t work. When she lashed out and pushed over a mannequin, it went flying with strength far beyond what she expected. She is the Black Panther now.
She built a new suit and led the Wakandans into battle at sea with Namor and his people. Shuri wrangled Namor away from water and into a desert to dry out the villain, who lives in the ocean. However, while flashing back to Killmonger’s confrontation, she also remembered her mother telling her to show the world who she really is. She decided not to kill Namor, instead showing him mercy and allowing him to yield.
It seemed like Shuri was the only one left to become the Black Panther, but the end of the movie revealed that she has another living family member — T’Challa’s son.
He and Nakia had a child in secret, and he is the reason the spy has stayed in Haiti since Thanos’ attack. Nakia didn’t want to raise him in the spotlight of the royal Wakandan family. The little boy is called Toussaint in Haiti, but he revealed a secret to Shuri: His real name is Prince T’Challa, son of King T’Challa of Wakanda.
Shuri didn’t seem angry that she was left in the dark (even Ramonda knew of the child before her death). Instead, she seemed overjoyed that her brother’s legacy would live on.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is in theaters now.
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