When Chadwick Boseman died at the end of summer 2020, shock and sadness among his fans are almost universal. His battle with cancer was largely private, and even the people he worked with on his final projects were unaware of his diagnosis. Wrapped in surprise and grief is an absurd question: How will the Marvel Cinematic Universe deal with his absence?
That question may have a hint of mercantilism – or at least a reminder of the unstoppable diabolical dynamics of the Marvel corporate machine – but for many, it’s loved. pray for love. His role as King T’Challa in 2018 Black Panther inspired so much, immediately, and how he worked to develop that role indispensable in the movie. It’s as hard to imagine moving forward without him as it is to imagine giving up on his character’s legacy and potential.
That’s what produces Wakanda Forever must navigate – the question of how to move forward in grief for their friends, colleagues and mentors, while maintaining the symbol he brought to life.
But Wakanda Forever no tribute to Boseman’s passing. It’s simple To be Commemorating Boseman’s death, from the first shot to the last. And in the way that director Ryan Coogler and co-writer Joe Robert Cole navigate their loss, they made the film the first installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that truly succeeds in addressing the theme of trauma. .
[Ed. note: This piece contains significant spoilers for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.]
Hollywood blockbuster franchises have previously navigated the waters of cultural grief and more recently: the Fast and Furious series with Paul Walker, Harry Potter with Richard Harris, Star Trek with Anton Yelchin. But the only truly commensurate challenge might be the modern Star Wars trilogy dealing with the death of Carrie Fisher. She’s not the face of the franchise, but like Boseman, she’s a beloved character with a particularly iconic role, and she’s said to be meant to be. Fort a central pillar of the third part of the trilogy.
Despite promises to the contrary, Fisher appeared in The Rise of Skywalkerthrough the use of footage that doesn’t use the word Divine Power Awakens awkwardly integrated into new scenes with different actors, different settings, and improved CGI. Many viewers complained that her role feels more like summoning than resurrecting. Audiences have every reason to worry about how Lucasfilm’s brother, Marvel Studios, might handle a similar situation.
But as if Coogler and the rest of the Wakanda Forever The crew realized that if they tried to eulogize Boseman and simply move on, they would tone down both the eulogy and any disconnected events that make up the rest of the movie. Instead, King T’Challa of the Marvel Cinematic Universe died with Chadwick Boseman – he died like Chadwick Boseman.
No one in Wakanda Forever Says the word “cancer” out loud, but when T’Challa’s death appears only a few minutes into the film, it bears the stamp of the public story of Boseman’s passing. Very few spectators go to see Wakanda Forever in its first weekend will not feel a glimmer of recognition at the sudden revelation of an incurable illness, a mourning outbreak that has broken out across an entire culture, and a family – to some extent. bound by blood, others by loyalty and love – left wishing they could do more, maybe have more time.
The scene is told through Letitia Wright’s Shuri and Angela Bassett’s Queen Ramonda, without the presence of Boseman. (In fact, throughout the film, he only appears in short clips taken from previous MCU movies, representing memories, not presented as current events.) It can be a logistical option, but it’s also a quick, instant way to locate. the Black Panther series will now not be able to revolve around T’Challa on its own: for his sister Shuri.
Shuri is not alone in her death. All Wakanda mourn. Dora Milaje lamented. Bassett’s turn as a steadfast leader in the face of the death of her husband and son is electrifying. Even the film’s villain, Namor (Tenoch Huerta), grief in Wakanda Forever, inheriting his mother’s suffering over a culture ravaged by an invader. The real difference between Wakanda and Namor’s home city is that Talokan, Coogler told Polygon via Zoom, is that Talokan was born into loss.
“The Wakandan people never have to leave,” said the director and co-writer. “They don’t know what it’s like. Namor’s character looks at them through that lens. There’s jealousy there, but he also feels that Talokanil understands better how evil the rest of the world is and how destructive it is, because of what it forces them to do and what they have to do. give up. ”
But Shuri’s pain – lingering, divided and compounded by subsequent events – forms the film’s backbone. It’s the platform that allows Wakanda Forever Draw the line between superheroes in superhero games slash each other with fists and meditate on real human loss, without falling over.
The MCU has been trying to talk about superhero trauma in one way or another since 2013. Iron Man 3. Starting in Phase 4, the scene has been quite explosive with trauma, especially in the Disney Plus shows, as creators seek to fill their longer time with characters that were previously limited. plays a secondary role, in stories that are more about world-shaking than closed love.
In WandaVision, Scarlet Witch magically enslaved an entire town to express her disapproval. In The Falcon and the Winter Soldierwe’ve seen Bucky in a series of increasingly unprofessional therapy sessions, ordered by the court to atone for crimes he had no agency to commit. Moonlight Knight tries to tackle the squabbles, Egyptian cosmology, Jewish heritage, and dissociative identity disorder simultaneously, and each has to endure competition.
What all these stories have in common is a view of trauma-induced behavior, with an emphasis on how it affects those around the traumatized person, not on how it tears the actual victim apart. inside. Few of these stories feel as if they came from a place where the creators were once themselves – perhaps just what they observed when interacting with a friend or loved one. have the lowest mental health of all time.
But even if you don’t know that Chadwick Boseman’s secret four-year battle with colon cancer has shaken not only the world, but many of his closest colleagues, Wakanda Forever it’s clear that the story and its performance come from people who, if you ignore the phrase, pass it.
When Shuri told her mother that whenever she thought of her late brother it just made her want to burn the world down, I immediately recalled a moment when I felt the same way. . The year after my mother passed away from an unforeseen battle with colon cancer, I saw a stranger on the street who looked a little like her, but a decade older, and was immediately overwhelmed. grief rage.
It doesn’t make sense, and it’s not something anyone other than my therapist would have to deal with, much less a town of innocents, a military court, or a magistrate. moon god. It is simply a cry of grief about the randomness of death: How dare that woman grow old when my mother never will?
“Loss is an interesting thing,” Coogler said in our conversation, “because it’s not something that is going to go away. It’s profound that way, because we’re so used to things on the body, or in the physical, healing. If you get cut, you get shot, you get stabbed, sometimes the wound can heal. But emotional wounds don’t heal – I don’t even know if that’s the right term. [laughs] Because it implies that it can; usually not. It’s something that you have to learn to live with, more than anything. ”
Wakanda Forever doesn’t end when Shuri decides not to throw her people into a possible endless war of existence for the sake of grief-motivated revenge. It doesn’t end when her pain is no longer a danger to those around her. The screen doesn’t go dark until she finally sits down to admit that her losses belong to her and not the other way around – when the pain no longer makes her a danger to herself. .
Coogler and his team deal with Chadwick Boseman’s death by filming Wakanda Forever in a beautiful eulogy. And they handle Shuri’s ascent to the role he portrays by modeling how everyone else can find their own peace after a loss, even if they do it their own way. their own and in their own time.