Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is finally out and has received generally widespread acclaim. The latest Marvel Cinematic Universe entry manages to impressively navigate the numerous hurdles tossed its way. Director Ryan Coogler and company deliver the goods with primary villain Namor and contend admirably with the central themes of grief and loss, both in-world and regarding the metatextual element of original Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman’s death.
In a recent interview, Coogler broke down some similarities and differences between the original script and the one that made it to the silver screen, and many are surprising. The Black Panther: Wakanda Forever screenplay was well into development when news of Boseman’s shocking and heartbreaking passing broke, and naturally, some overhauls had to be made as a result. Interestingly, though, many of the key elements of the original script remained in place.
Black Panther 2’s First Script and Final Film Share Similar Themes
According to Ryan Coogler, grief was always intended to be the thematic focus of the film. In the theatrical Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, that grief is due to the offscreen departure of T’Challa at the hands of an unnamed illness. But originally, T’Challa was the one battling the overwhelming feelings of grief and loss. Rather than mourning a singular entity or person, T’Challa’s pain centered on the five-year existence gap, thanks to Thanos’ instantaneous eradication of half the universe in Avengers: Infinity War.
Relatedly, Namor was intended to be the chief antagonist in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever from day one. The finished product features Talokan god-king Namor going head-to-head with T’Challa’s sister Shuri, who is unsteadily wading into the dangerous waters of leadership for the first time. But it’s fascinating to picture what a rivalry between Namor and T’Challa could have been had Boseman not been tragically taken too soon. It’s easy to see a conflict between Namor, aggressively moving against Wakanda, forcing T’Challa to reclaim his confidence and power as a leader. The internal battle between the guilt and grief over T’Challa’s unchanging past versus finding the strength to move forward and change what can be changed would have made for compelling viewing.
Wakanda Forever Deals With Shuri’s Internal Battle Instead of T’Challa’s
Of course, the story of T’Challa and Namor’s battle was never meant to be. The thematic cornerstone of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever instead becomes a much more literal loss. Shuri, her family, and her nation are justifiably despondent at the missing piece that is their brother, son, and king. Shuri’s grief kick-starts her own internal battle. The princess must choose whether to retreat into isolation, violence and anger or to follow in the footsteps of her brother T’Challa and seek diplomacy and peaceful resolution, even when it’s most difficult to do so.
Despite his absence being felt throughout the film, Chadwick Boseman’s performance as T’Challa lives on and looms large over the proceedings of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. The film and its remaining cast do an excellent job in paying tribute to the late actor’s uniquely powerful portrayal, not to mention T’Challa’s importance to onscreen Wakandans and real-life fans alike.
Audiences will unfortunately never have the opportunity to see the original screenplay for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever with Boseman and his character T’Challa come to fruition, but the legacy of both is deeply felt in the final film and will undoubtedly remain as such in the MCU at large, moving forward. In the hearts of MCU fans everywhere, it’s Wakanda and Chadwick Boseman that live forever.
Check out Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, in theaters now.