Going into Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Marvel wasn’t specifically saying who was going to become the Black Panther in the wake of T’Challa’s death—but a glance at the poster or commercials made it fairly clear. So the who, maybe, wasn’t a mystery. But the why and how? Much more so.
Speaking to io9 at last month’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever press day, producer Nate Moore explained why the character chosen to be the new Black Panther was the only person really considered. In addition, the film’s co-writer and director Ryan Coogler dove into what that person sees when they go into the ancestral plain. Which, for our money, is the biggest reveal and surprise in the film for a bunch of reasons.
Of course, if you’ve seen the movie you know that—as expected—it’s Shuri (Letitia Wright), sister of T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), who takes on the mantle of Black Panther, after she recreates the heart-shaped herb using the bracelet given to her by Namor (Tenoch Huerta). She takes the herb hoping to see her dead mother or brother on the ancestral plane only to see… her dead cousin, Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), instead. It’s a shocking moment, both for the audience and, more importantly, Shuri, who is confronted with an enemy as opposed to a loved one.
To dive into all of that, first of all, Marvel had to make the decision that it was Shuri who was going to be Black Panther. And, according to Nate Moore, she was really the only choice. “I think organically that felt narratively the most correct,” he told io9. “Shuri was the closest person to T’Challa, so his passing impacted her the most. Also, remember in the first film, Killmonger burned all the heart-shaped herb. There aren’t a lot of people with the abilities to bring even the potential for a Black Panther back. And as a purist in publishing, there aren’t a lot of people who’ve worn that mantle. Shuri is actually one of a handful. So it didn’t feel disingenuous for us to lean into that.”
Moore added that Marvel did see some of the chatter online about other options but it never came into play. “We are very conscious of online this and that,” he said. “Maybe it’s M’Baku, maybe it’s Nakia, maybe it’s Okoye. But none of that felt as right as Shuri. So we just drove in that direction.”
As for why Shuri even wants to be Black Panther, that’s where Killmonger comes in. Coogler told io9 the character felt like the right way to make her really question herself. “It was more of the why,” the director said. “Why was she taking the herb? What were her intentions? And that’s what [Killmonger] challenges. And that’s where we realize why she sees what she sees.” Is she taking the herb just to see a mother or brother? How does she want to use the powers of the Black Panther? So much was wrapped up in the reveal.
Coogler also said that the idea for Killmonger being the person Shuri saw came later in the process when he realized the journey the character was going on just wasn’t working. “I think it became clear for us once we made the pivot that the film would be about Shuri, her journey was kind of iterative while we were writing,” Coogler said. “And you realize that the film is asking questions about who is she going to be when she comes out of this thing. A different kind of coming of age.” And who better to break that repetitive cycle and challenge Shuri than cousin Erik. Plus, now Michael B. Jordan has been in all four of Ryan Coogler’s movies. And counting.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is now in theaters.
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