I’d be lying if I didn’t start this off by saying, I walked out of “Black Panther 2” a tad disappointed by Ryan Coogler a few days ago when I watched the new film for the very first time. I couldn’t get the disappointment of Wanda’s incredibly brief and quick grief progression from the Doctor Strange sequel out of my head.
So when I walked out of the screening room after the film ended, amongst a few other fellow critics, and thought to myself “damn, Marvel done did it again” … I was hurt. Why would Ryan Coogler — a director and writer we’ve all grown to love and respect, thanks to his amazing work on the original Black Panther film, along with Creed, and Fruitvale Station — choose to write Shuri’s grief oh so similar to Wanda’s?
From my own experience, grief isn’t one dimensional. And while I get that there’s more to grief than just anger or immense sadness, after watching Black Panther 2, I almost felt like Shuri’s lack of emotions was a disservice to her character.
As T’Challa’s little sister, I couldn’t understand why Shuri would only be seen buried beneath her work to cover up her emotions, and then have her flip the script only a few scenes after into complete outrage. Where were the tears? The cold shoulders? The locking one’s self in a dark room to ignore everyone as one attempts to understand why the world would be so cruel as to take away someone you loved?
Maybe it’s my flair for the theatre that had hoped Shuri’s grief process would have been a tad bit more … dramatic, in it’s delivery?
But after attending the Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever press conference last week, and hearing Ryan Coogler himself speak on using the entire cast — not just Shuri, to show what grief was like after T’Challa’s passing, I get it.
Oddly enough, Coogler’s words comforted me enough to allow me to be able to open up to the idea of channeling the grief one has when a loved one passes away through the entire ensemble. When explaining how his decision to put women front and center in “Wakanda Forever” had absolutely nothing to do with gender, Coogler said that grief is “like a bomb that goes off” and “you know, when you lose somebody, there’s, like, a blast radius”. So those that are the closest to the bomb when it goes off, gets hurt the most!
But after learning that Coogler hates bragging on himself, thanks to the “Wakanda Forever” press conference moderator Jacqueline Coley (who I actually got to meet a few years ago in LA thanks to The Geekly Retreat). It’s producer Nate Moore, who goes on to say that “as storytellers, you just wanna be as honest as possible with what the characters would experience in the film after they experience the loss of T’Challa”.
And sometimes that’s not just grief … “It’s also sometimes joy, sometimes humor. It is all of the emotions anyone feels with any profound loss”, Moore continues. “But we had such a collection of talent and such a collection of characters, who all have a different point of view with that loss, that I think Ryan found ways to express all the different colors of grief through the ensemble. And that’s not just the Wakandans, by the way, who definitely feel it, but it’s the loss that Namor and the Talokan feel because of the loss of their homeland [as well].”
So when you watch “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” this month, pay attention not just to how T’Challa’s mother or sister reacts to his passing, but also his love Nakia, M’Baku, and even the Talokans.
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” opens in U.S. theaters Nov. 11, 2022.