Spoilers! How 'Wakanda Forever' sets up a new Black Panther for Marvel's present and future
Spoiler alert! The following post discusses important plot points and the ending of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” so beware if you haven’t seen it.
Marvel’s new “Black Panther” sequel honors an icon of the past, bestows the mantle on a new superhero for the present and also plants seeds for a namesake in the future.
Directed by Ryan Coogler, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (in theaters now) covers a lot of ground, paying tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman and his role of T’Challa, catching up with characters new and old, plus introducing a new foil in Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejía), a fan favorite from the comic books. However just as the original 2018 “Panther” offers an emotional path to understanding family legacy for T’Challa, the sequel puts a similar spotlight on his sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), while giving fans a chance to speculate where the new Black Panther might go next.
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Stop reading now if you don't want to know, because we're heading into spoiler territory
The movie opens with the scientifically gifted youngster trying to save her dying big bro’s life by creating a synthetic version of the heart-shaped herb that gave him extraordinary abilities as the Black Panther. (The antagonistic Erik Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan, burned the existing plants in the first film.) He passes before she perfects it, her mom Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) takes over as Wakanda's ruler, but a past political choice by T’Challa leads to a new enemy.
Shuri initially refuses to take on the Black Panther mantle, but after her mother is killed in an attack by Namor’s Talokan people, she changes her mind and creates an herb that works, giving her superheroic skills. When its otherworldly effects take Shuri to the Ancestral Plane, she's surprised to see her cousin Killmonger, who died at the end of the first “Panther.” He speaks to a vengeful side of her, the one that wants to see the world burn, and Shuri is ultimately forced to choose between bloody revenge or T’Challa’s penchant for goodness above all else.
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In final battle with Namor, wearing a high-tech supersuit of her own design, Shuri opts to follow in her brother’s footsteps, sparing her enemy’s life and taking on the Black Panther name.
Let's talk some truth: Marvel made the right call to not recast T’Challa after Boseman’s death from colon cancer in 2020 and instead expand Shuri’s role in the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. She was an electric, youthful presence in the first “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War,” and now making Shuri the new Panther follows her path in the comics, elevates a talented actress in whom the superhero studio seems to have a lot of faith, and reflects T’Challa’s own important cinematic arc. (Boseman’s character also had to choose between vengeance and empathy while in mourning during “Captain America: Civil War.”)
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As the MCU explores the multiverse, introduces a new big bad in Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors) and careens toward a pair of upcoming “Avengers” movies – “The Kang Dynasty” in 2025 and “Secret Wars” a year later – this new Black Panther can be deployed in a bunch of different situations. Sure, it makes sense to make her an Avenger in a lineup that could include women like Tatiana Maslany’s She-Hulk and Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel, but she’s more likely to play a part in an upcoming Disney+ series: “Ironheart” featuring Dominque Thorne’s teen inventor Riri Williams, who forms a sisterly bond with Shuri in her “Wakanda Forever” debut. A guest appearance from Marvel’s newest wonder woman would definitely raise the show’s profile.
But “Wakanda Forever” also sets up a Panther-in-training: In an end-credits scene, Shuri travels to Haiti to visit her friend Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), who introduces her 6-year-old son, Toussaint. That’s his Haitian name, though: The boy’s real name is Prince T’Challa, like his father. “It’s nice to meet you,” he tells his aunt with a sweet smile.
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Usually, Marvel’s post-credit stingers set up what’s to come in the MCU, though this scene is obviously meant to honor Boseman’s hero and remind that his presence will long be felt in this constantly expanding world. But it also offers a question to be answered probably in the future: Will this T’Challa take up the Panther mantle? Perhaps a dozen years from now, the teenager gets the call in whatever phase Marvel’s in at that point. Or, since Marvel films frequently toy with time jumps (see: "Avengers: Endgame") and alternate versions of heroes (“Spider-Man: No Way Home”), maybe the new kid is fast-tracked into that spot sooner rather than later.
It'd be nice to see Shuri have a nice run because she's such a dynamic personality and, thanks to "Wakanda Forever," fans have now shared quite an emotional journey by her side. But one way or another, the Black Panther will likely be a big-screen fixture for a while and continue a legacy founded by a beloved figure.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Wakanda Forever': How new Black Panther could play into Marvel future