The movie Black Panther Wakanda Forever is finally in theaters. The movie hauled in excess of 300 million its first weekend of release. It is safe to say that the movie is or will be closing in on a billion dollars in a few weeks or so. The film, itself is pretty good. Could it have been better? Absolutely. However, I think the anticipation and waiting on this film is the added excitement this franchise needs to take it close to its predecessor, Black Panther. However, this movie is far from perfect. While this blog is not a comprehensive review; I want to examine an area that I find disturbing in regards to film. The area I am considering is the Black leadership of Wakanda. Wakanda’s leadership is that of a monarch. In modern times there are very few stories detailing a monarchy in Africa. Black Panther has for the last several decades explored the kingship of T’Challa. However, in this film T’Challa has died and his mother has ascended to the throne.
The world is watching Wakanda under Queen Romonda’s leadership. It is her assessment that the world believes that Wakanda is easy pickings. She saunters into the UN proudly and simply warns the world to not try to steal vibranium. Vibranium is a precious resource that the world wants but can only be found in Wakanda. Military strikes have taken place to seize vibranium but all have failed because Wakanda is on guard. Queen Romonda warns the UN to not attempt another strike. The consensus will be that Wakanda will treat such action as an act of aggression. It is this calm and calculated demeanor that makes Queen Romonda a formidible opponent. However, this leadership is not without reproach. The last time we see T’Challa on screen in an end credit scene, is scene where he addresses the world to inform him of Wakanda’s technological advancements. The whole purpose in that was to help the world. It is clear that afterwards at some point and time, that unveiling was removed. It looks on screen as if Wakanda wants to share and then decides to not share. Why else would the countries from around the world try steal the tech or the Vibranium? What was T’Challa’s mindset before he passed suddenly?
The decisions made in this film go down hill fast. Namor confronts Queen Romonda and Shuri for the first time in an intimate scene where the Queen is trying to get Shuri to participate in a ritual signifying the change in her mourning regarding her brother, T’Challa. Shuri dismisses this ritual because Shuri does not share in the belief system of her mother. This ritual is designed to give the mourner, comfort. Comfort is not what Shuri desires. Shuri is a scientist who lacks the gift of faith. She flippantly tells her mother that this ritual; the result of it was something that her mind did to help her grieve. Shuri is grieving but she is in the stage of grief called anger. Her decision to not listen to her mother is just the beginning of her poor decision making as the princess. Namor addresses the Wakandan royalty with a request to bring the scientist who created a machine that detects vibranium to him. This machine in question puts Namor and the Talocan, Namor’s people in certain danger to be discovered. The queen sends Okoye to find the scientist with hopes of protecting her. This scientist is a 19 year old MIT student by the name of Riri Williams. Okoye asks the queen to allow Shuri to attend this search and rescue excursion; her thought is that getting out of her lab would do her some good. The queen is not so sure but allows for them both to go. This decision would prove to be not a good one. The Talocan are not the only ones looking for Riri. The feds are looking for her too. They intercept Shuri, Okoye, and Riri leaving Riri’s lab. This pursuit leads them to be intercepted by the Talocan themselves. Okoye and Attuma battle on a bridge and it is one of the best scenes in the movie. However, Riri is captured and Shuri surrenders to the Talocan to meet with Namor. This decision costs Okoye, who finds herself in the water while this is taking place; life changing. Okoye goes back to Wakanda and asks the queen to send reinforcements. However, the queen takes this opportunity to read Okoye. The queen hasn’t been happy with Okoye for quite a while. She reminds Okoye of her loyalty to Killmonger while she and Shuri had to flee to the Jabari lands for shelter. So, what does she do, the queen that is? She strips Okoye of status as general of the Dora Milaje. Okoye is heart broken and mortified. This decision was rash and harsh towards a soldier who has been nothing but loyal to the throne of Wakanda.
The last decision in question was made off screen by the king T’Challa himself. In the end credit scene, we see Shuri and Nakia talking and little boy is there with them. This little boy is living in Haiti with his mother Nakia and turns out, this is T’Challa’s son. A son who is living away from the homeland and the royal prestige his bloodline provides. However, Nakia has chosen this for her son. Also, if you let her tell it, it was T’Challa’s decision too. How can you sire a child and allow him to be raised in the west knowing this is the heir to the throne of Wakanda? When this child grows up, do you think he will want to live in Wakanda or even adopt Wakanda’s way of life? I wont even approach the reality that this is a illegitimate child. Of all the decisions made this one is the most gross or should I say the most western. The reality of single parent homes can influence houses of royalty is nothing new but it should not be paraded as something noble. All of these bad decisions were made onscreen because of the bad decisions that were made offscreen. Chadwick Boseman, the actor who plays T’Challa dies and the powers that be decide to not recast the role. So the alternative was to give tribute to the role by making hopes for a new T’Challa a distant hope. One thing white folks love to do is Black folks symbolism over substance. Why? We just simply do not know any better. Instead, I will endure a plethora of assaults, complaints, side eyes, and goof ball smirks for any and everyone. They will take this piece as me hating. Truthfully, I am hating. I hate incompetence. I hate misunderstandings. I hate the character assassination of T’Challa figuratively and literally. That is what I hate. More than that, I hate the failure of Black leadership, strip away the grief in this movie and that is the pathology in a nutshell. -Richard J. Wright