EPIC SPOILERS IN THIS COMMENTARY. DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE FILM
They wrote his death into the story!
Not a casual mention. Or a start with the all white funeral scene and tribute. Ryan Coogler added T’Challa/Chadwick’s Into. The. Movie – specifically stating that he died of a disease.
We theatre audiences walked into our seats with popcorn in hand and Chadwick in our hearts to the tune of $330 million worldwide and counting to watch a master class on GRIEF! Stunning! The impact of Thanos’s snap has NOTHING on this, IMO.
The ladies now at the helm of Wakanda all experience it in heavy duty ways:
Shuri lost her father AND her brother.
Queen Ramonda lost her husband and her beloved son. Halfway through this epic story, she would lose her life – propelling Shuri into ANOTHER wave of grief.
Fierce and mighty Dora Milaje General Okoye experiences it. She lost her king – and, eventually, her title as the result of the surface level attack by Namor’s army.
Nakia lost more than a king and ruler. She lost the love of her life. But instead of sitting in her grief and allowing it to consume her, she took that grief and moved forward. We discover in this story that she becomes headmistress of a Haitian school. We ALSO discover that King T’Challa had prepared her for what was to come…and left the ultimate gift to preserve his memory and legacy!
Grief is at the heart of Namor’s story, story. Witnessing the slaughter of his people on the surface land, his grief turns into fury. The fury consumed his heart and war ensues.
Shaking my head as I type this as I think about this narrative. What happens when grief consumes the heart of mankind. When you watch Shuri take center stage in this story, you’re watching that fight take place in her soul. The consummation reaches its apex when, in the worst kept secret in 2022 cinema, she takes her place as the new Black Panther by creating a synthetic version of The Heart Shaped Herb and journeys to the Ancestral Plane. But it’s not her newly deceased mom, dad or CGI holographic version of her brother who meets her there. It’s her cousin – THE COUSIN whose own consumed grief was the catalyst of the first adventure!
Killmonger offers her a choice: To be noble like her brother, or to handle business (TRANSLATION, give into the grief and burn the world down). To watch her in anguish make that choice left me utterly speechless.
Watching her in grief made me think of my own losses. Like her, I have lost a parent and a sibling in my own life. For years the anger consumed me. The smile I used to have as a little boy developed into a scowl by the time I was 40. I spent the last 10 years of my life walking my own journey away from grief and back to joy. God offers us beauty for ashes, joy for our pain and a garment of praise for our spirit of heaviness. But, to embrace the new garment that God offers us, we must do what Shuri is reluctant to do: Burn that old heavy garment of mourning in order to walk in that spirit of praise and new hope.
Those 2 hours 41 minutes are a lot. A whole lot. Ryan Coogler absolutely wrecks us in the best way possible. In terms of scope, depth, grandeur, performance and texture, it’s the biggest film a Black director has ever made. Hands down. I didn’t expect Coogler to make a movie at least 5 times bigger than the original. But he did it. And I’m still trying to pry my jaw off the floor!
It’s cliche to claim a film to be critic proof. But, for the target audience, in which I absolutely declare that I and my African/African American kinsmen were INDEED the target audience, this film absolutely is critic proof. As I said up top, we carried Chadwick in our hearts. He is ours. That movie was for us. As the dedication card declares, he was and is our friend.
And our friend is smiling from the heavenlies as his legacy lives on.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is now available in theatres.