Wakanda Forever

Geek Interview: Ironheart, Namor, Grief And The New Black Panther, ‘Wakanda Forever’s Producer Wraps Up Marvel Phase 4 With A Roar

In the grandest of Marvel Studios’ What If…?, where audiences are asked to consider alternative outcomes on familiar events, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was never intended to close out Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

But the sudden death of series lead Chadwick Boseman, who played T’Challa aka Black Panther, due to cancer, and the raging pandemic when the movie went into production, among other changes and events that interfered with the movie’s release, meant that the sequel to 2018’s blockbuster, Black Panther, is now in a unique position to wrap up the current chapter in a billion dollar franchise, while also simultaneously addressing the real-life and reel-life trauma experience by the actors and characters they inhibit.

Wakanda Forever

In the larger narrative, little has been shown to highlight what our heroes went through and experienced in the post-Snap environment, where the dead returned to a world that has moved on without them. And in this film, producer Nate Moore is taking fans back to the nation of Wakanda post-Snap, where fan-favourite characters are not only back in action, but also mourning the loss of their King T’Challa and Black Panther. After the death of Boseman, Marvel Studios opted not to recast the role of T’Challa.

For all that Wakanda has given, sacrificed and helped during the battle against Thanos in Avengers: Endgame, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a statement that no matter the adversities, Wakanda will not fall.

“We talked a lot about titles and the more specific we got about the plot, the less it made sense. The thing about Wakanda Forever, that resonated for us, was this idea that it’s not the end, that Wakanda remains, that regardless of the tragedy Wakanda stands,” explained Moore in an interview with Geek Culture.

Wakanda Forever

Much of the nation’s endurance and perseverance lies in grief and heartache, something that Moore worked closely with director Ryan Coogler to portray, in the 2 hours and 41 minutes film.

Truthfully, reaching for that emotion and theme was not hard for the producer and director. After all, everyone involved had to deal with the loss of Boseman in 2020.

“Ryan has been an incredible partner and we were in pre-production when Chadwick passed so the conversation was really how do we move forward and bring people back to a world that I think they really loved, but also be honest and truthful about the loss we experience off-screen and on screen,” shared Moore. 

“As much as you don’t always want art to imitate life, there seemed like if there was ever a time, this was it because the movie was being built on the foundation of real loss. The cast and the crew, who by the way, all knew Chadwick from the first film, were dealing with that loss so to build it into the tapestry of the movie just made sense. Ryan is such an intuitive filmmaker and storyteller, that he figured out a way, narratively, to make that all feel organic and still build an entertaining film that is as much about overcoming loss as it is about the loss itself.” 

While there was actual trauma, what about the narrative equivalent? That’s where Namor, king of the underwater city of Talocan comes in. Heavily rumoured from the start of the MCU, Marvel Comics’ first mutant is ready to make his live action debut as the movie’s antagonist, with hidden kingdom rises to battle another hidden kingdom, especially now that one of the kings has gone.

“We thought that was also a fitting tribute in a weird way. I could show you lists and lists of hundreds of titles [like] Empire the Deep like all the things you might think of Namor, but thematically the movie is about what Wakanda can endure. Wakanda will endure as a global society no matter what, and that was important.” 

Wakanda Forever promises an emotional tale that will honour the legacy of Boseman and what he represented during a time when no other studio has released an all-Black cast in a superhero movie, and a Black male lead as the titular hero. 

“It really is about the stages of grief and Shuri is the access point character for fans. And I do think because of the suddenness of his passing, a lot of fans still haven’t really had a chance to grieve and to get past the grief. It was important to tell the story because I think we have a shot at giving people a cathartic moment in theatres, where they can kind of process that grief again, if it hasn’t been processed, but also come out the other side, feeling good about the promise of tomorrow,” said Moore.

“[Wakanda Forever] is meant to be hopeful and joyful, and not melancholy. I would say collectively, we’ve all gone through a pretty traumatic moment in history with COVID but that doesn’t mean that’s the end. There’s a period of growth and renewal again that hopefully we can all get to and hopefully this movie celebrates that a little bit.”

Speaking of renewal, the sequel will also see several other new characters make their debut, aside from Namor, the Sub-mariner, including Riri Williams aka Ironheart, a teen who, in the comics,  refurbishes one of Tony’s old Iron Man armours for herself. With T’Challa gone, a new protector is required and the film will also introduce a new, though this time, female, Black Panther who will fiercely serve and protect Wakanda, while continuing the legacy of the Black Panther in future MCU projects.

Without revealing who it might be, Moore shared that appointing the new Black Panther was rather easy because it was always in their plans, at least, eventually. Nonetheless, the producer is excited to create more stories with the new Black Panther and hopes that fans would enjoy the newly appointed hero too. 

“It was a shorter process than you think. I think the person who becomes the Black Panther was always intended to become the Black Panther, for reasons that make sense when people see the movie, but there’s a thematic reason and a narrative reason why that makes sense,” revealed the producer. 

“I think the new Black Panther is incredibly exciting and without leaning too heavily into it, much of this movie is about why that mantle is necessary. And if it’s necessary, why the person who takes the mantle is really the only right answer, so we’re excited! Excited for people to see the movie, and excited for people to embrace this new Black Panther because we can’t wait to tell more stories about them.” 

Whilst picking their Black Panther seemed like a simple task, much of the team’s resources went to the debut of Namor and the underwater kingdom of Talocan. Just like how the 2018 Black Panther film brought Black representation to the big screen, the sequel attempts to do the same for indigenous communities, particularly, the Mayans.

“Once we decided that we wanted to anchor Namor in a real civilization, we did a ton of research in Mesoamerica and really fell in love with the idea of anchoring him in Mayan culture, both in past and present. Experientially obviously, they had gone through a period of colonization that we felt thematically was really interesting to explore, especially as it’s juxtaposed with Wakanda, which has never been colonized and also graphically, there’s so much great beauty in the art and architecture and technology of the Mayan people, that it really made Talocan feel alive and rich and interesting,” said Moore. 

“And the other thing I think was important was also the sound of the people, of the language of Yucatec Mayan that is spoken by Namor, Attuma and Namora, and getting that right because much like Xhosa is the sound of Wakanda hopefully, Yucatec Mayan can become the sound of Talocan.” 

The last and final new character introduced in Wakanda Forever is Riri Williams, aka Ironheart. Much like the new Black Panther aims to continue the legacy of T’Challa and many of the new heroes introduced in Marvel Phase 4 – Hawkeye and Kate Bishop, Captain Marvel and Miss Marvel, Doctor Strange and America Chavez to name a few – Riri continues the legacy of Iron Man/Tony Stark who died in Endgame. 

“We’re really excited to introduce her, she’s an incredibly smart and bright and young African American student at MIT who has been tinkering with technology that is a legacy of another Marvel hero, Iron Man and is sort of inspired by Tony Stark and what he was building – I think it’s really fun to see her spin on what that looks like,” smiled Moore. 

Aside from being framed as Tony Stark’s successor, Riri also continues the empowerment of young Black girls that Shuri gave in the first Black Panther film. Otherwise known as ‘The Shuri Effect’, Riri is yet another young and bright Black girl who further bridges the gap and further advocates for more Black women in STEM. 

“The other thing we thought was really interesting was having Riri, who is brilliant, meet Shuri, who is brilliant, and have these two women who have a similar interest in science and technology bond over that because that’s not a relationship you get to see all the time,” explained Moore. 

“Brilliance at a young age as Shuri would say in the film is not always celebrated by the elders. These women who are trying to break through their own glass ceilings in a way find sisterhood together and I think that was really powerful!” 

With three new characters, Wakanda Forever has just enough on their plate and this is where fans might walk away disappointed, because while Wakanda Forever does have an extra scene at the end of the movie, Moore admits that there are no cameos from the greater MCU making an appearance. 

“I love a cameo! But it didn’t feel like the movie to have a bunch of cameos, to be honest. Even in the screening last night, we premiered it here in Los Angeles, I had friends in the audience and they go ‘What about the tag?’ and I thought ‘Well, what do you want to see?  We just showed you maybe one of the more emotional scenes we have in the MCU!’”, confessed Moore. 

“It felt weird to be like, ‘Oh, also this guy!’, you know what I mean? It didn’t feel appropriate. But look, I’m the first in line for a good easter egg or a good cameo, but this just doesn’t feel like the movie to do that.”

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever releases on 11 November 2022.