Black Panther: Wakanda Forever -A story with motherhood as a motif

Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever welcomes back to the big screen many of the characters audiences connected with when Black Panther hit the big screen in 2018. The new story returns to Wakanda following the death of the king, reuniting with beloved characters as they grieve his loss while imagining a future without him.

‘First appearing as the Sub-Mariner in Marvel Comics #1 in 1939, Namor is among Marvel’s oldest characters, acting both as hero and villain in the years to follow.

Says director Ryan Coogler (Black Panther, Creed), who directs Black Panther: Wakanda Forever from a screenplay he wrote with Joe Robert Cole (Black Panther, All Day and a Night, The People v.O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story).

(L-R): Alex Livinalli as Attuma and Mabel Cadena as Namora in Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

“In our story, he represents Talokan, a hidden underwater civilization that is our reimagined version of the comic book realm of Atlantis. His appearance there shows that Wakanda is not as safe as they thought, and he presents Ramonda and Shuri with a proposition.”

In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Queen Ramonda, Shuri, M’Baku (Letitia Wright), Okoye (Danai Gurira) and the Dora Milaje fight to protect their nation from intervening world powers in the wake of King T’Challa’s death. When Namor (Huerta Mejía), king of a hidden undersea nation, alerts them to a global threat and his disturbing plan to thwart it, the Wakandans band together with the help of War Dog Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) and forge a new path for the kingdom of Wakanda.

When Chadwick Boseman passed away in 2020, the filmmakers had to take a big step back and really consider what this next story could be.

King T’Challa was the heart of Black Panther—and Boseman remains in the hearts of everyone who worked alongside him. “Chad’s passing affected filmmakers and the actors in a way that was
incredibly profound,” says Coogler. “Chad was very much our artistic partner in this project, in this franchise and in this storytelling. We realized that it would only be right for us to continue the story.”

Adds producer Nate Moore, “We didn’t think Chad would have wanted the world of Wakanda—and the
effect that movie had on kids—to go away. Emotionally, it felt like letting it go would be the easier thing to do, but I don’t think it would’ve been the right thing to do. I think to do right by the legacy of the man, you have to continue to do right by the legacy of the movie.”

Danai Gurira as Okoye in Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

As filmmakers thought about the story, a new theme arose: How does one cope with grief and overcome loss? This theme, and how it affects each character, ended up being the driving force of the narrative.

“For the story of Wakanda to move forward in a world where T’Challa is now no longer with us, it only made sense to investigate what that loss meant for all of the people that he touched,” says Moore. “And there’s no one who’s going to feel that effect more than his little sister, Shuri.”

Despite state-of-the-art technology and hypervigilance, the Wakandans were completely unaware of Namor and his kingdom. “The notion of a society that was forced into hiding because of the events of the outside world is very much germane to the world of ‘Black Panther’ in the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” says producer Nate Moore. “Ryan [Coogler] is a very savvy filmmaker in putting these things together. Namor’s concerns resonate with Ramonda (Angela Bassett)and Shuri—their nations have some things in common. But they may not agree with his solution.”

Angela Bassett as Ramonda in Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

The encounter with Namor sets into motion Wakandan efforts to mitigate the situation in their own way—although Ramonda can’t help but worry about her daughter’s safety.

“Ramonda is such an important character,” says Moore. “Here’s a mother who’s lost her husband and now her son. She has been ruling Wakanda in the absence of the king. It’s an interesting dichotomy seeing these two women as leaders, as the queen and the princess, and as mother and daughter.”

According to screenwriter Joe Robert Cole, Ramonda’s depth of emotion is a cornerstone for the
story. “She comes to the table having dealt with grief before—with her husband, having lost Shuri and T’Challa in the blip, then having them come back only to lose her son. She has a unique point of view.”

Says Coogler, “We were really excited to explore the relationship between Ramonda and Shuri. The first film has a lot of father-son dynamics—both the protagonist and antagonist had to deal with moving on after his father passed away. This film very much became a story with motherhood as a motif. So often moms have to continue to mother through difficult situations.”

According to director Ryan Coogler, the storytelling came to life because of Shuri.

“It was important for us to start with Shuri because, in many ways, she’s the audience surrogate of the movie,” he says. “She’s our protagonist, and I think it’s through her eyes that we go on the journey of the film.

Letitia Wright as Suri in Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

“So, it made a lot of sense that she would be the window into the emotional journey of the film,” adds Coogler. “And as fantastical as Shuri’s journey is, it is very real. It is very relatable to see someone who was young and bright-eyed and optimistic mature into adulthood, and wrestle with things that I think all adults wrestle with—like the idea of the mortality of loved ones that you believed were invincible, the idea of having to live with your own failures, and also learning to appreciate relationships maybe you took for granted. So, I think she became a character who we could explore all of these things through.”

RYAN COOGLER (Director/Screenplay by) is a writer, director and producer known for his inaugural feature film, “Fruitvale Station,” which won the top audience and grand jury awards in the U.S. dramatic competition at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. He has since co-written and directed the seventh film in the “Rocky” series, “Creed,” was the executive producer for “Creed II,” and has returned to produce “Creed III. He also co-wrote and directed Marvel’s critically acclaimed Black Panther, which became the most successful domestic release of 2018.

Last year, Coogler founded Proximity Media, alongside Zinzi Coogler, Sev Ohanian, Ludwig Göransson, Archie Davis and Peter Nicks, with a mission to create event-driven feature films, television, soundtracks and podcasts that look to bring audiences closer together through stories involving often-overlooked subject matters. Proximity’s Space Jam: A New Legacy, the 2021 sequel to the hit 1996 film, was released by Warner Bros. in theaters and on HBO Max. In the same year, Coogler was also the executive producer for Hulu’s Homeroom.

Proximity is in production on Marvel Studios’ “Ironheart” and is developing a television series for the
studio — a drama based in the Kingdom of Wakanda for Disney+. Proximity’s first film, Shaka King’s Judas and the Black Messiah won two Academy Awards® and was nominated for six, including best picture.

JOE ROBERT COLE (Screenplay by) is a filmmaker committed to crafting smart, rich, character-driven journeys as well as creating tent-pole, world-renowned projects. Along with Ryan Coogler, Cole co-wrote the Academy Award-nominated Black Panther, for which he received an NAACP Award®. His critically acclaimed feature directorial debut for Netflix All Day and a Night was released May 1, 2020. Cole produced the Emmy®-winning FX series American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson. He is attached to write, direct and executive produce a new series adaptation of In the Heat of the Nigh” for
MGM. Cole co-directed the pilot and directed the final two episodes of the new series Class of ‘09 for FX, for which he was also an executive producer.