“What is grief if not love persevering?”
That devastating, beautiful line from WandaVision resonates for a reason. It acknowledges the pain of loss and the reality that loss lingers. But it also lights a path forward, one where the pain isn’t all-consuming and that healing will eventually come.
The spirit of that line hums through the teaser trailer of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, which Marvel unveiled at San Diego Comic-Con. Ryan Coogler’s follow-up to the Oscar-winning Black Panther has been subject to rampant speculation and skepticism since Chadwick Boseman’s death from cancer in August 2020. After reports of production delays and questionable on-set behavior, the teaser is the first official word on how Wakanda Forever will soldier on without its beloved lead.
The grief is palpable from the first frame of the teaser, which opens with Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) staring out at the ocean. While there are no plot details per se, the teaser alludes to T’Challa’s death. Dowager Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) sits on her son’s throne. Shuri (Letitia Wright) appears to walk in a funeral ceremony with dancers dressed in white. The mood is somber, punctuated by Nigerian singer Tems’ cover of Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry.” Tears are shed, and emotional looks are shared. A mural of T’Challa adorns the side of a Wakandan building.
However, there are signs of life continuing. A woman gives birth underwater, and a group of people swims beside two whales. The teaser formally introduces the kingdom of Atlantis and the character of Namor, played by Tenoch Huerta. Again, the teaser doesn’t reveal whether he is a friend or foe to Wakanda. If he is an adversary, the teaser suggests he will be a nuanced one. Wakanda Forever also introduces Riri Williams, who will become Ironheart and spearhead a Disney+ series next year. With these moments, the teaser switches from outright grief to perseverance, with “No Woman, No Cry” bleeding into Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” alongside glimpses of the film’s action set pieces.
At the center of this incredible preview is Angela Bassett, who speaks the teaser’s only line of dialogue. “I am Queen of the most powerful nation in the world, and my entire family is gone. Have I not given everything?” We don’t know the context of that line, but Bassett’s reading is powerful. She wails it with such pain, defiance, and fury that it shatters your soul. It cuts deep into the grief of a nation and a woman who’s seen everyone she loves ripped away from her. It might sound crazy to start discussing awards based on a teaser trailer, but Disney’s team should begin mapping out Bassett’s Best Supporting Actress Oscar campaign right now.
I’d be surprised if Wakanda Forever isn’t a key awards player this season. The cinematography, costuming, and production design all reflect its predecessor’s spirit. However, there’s a sense of evolution and intention. The Wakanda Forever teaser makes it clear that, more than anything else, this film is a tribute to Chadwick Boseman and his legacy. It hurts to watch, but there’s something more than pain here. There is reverence, exaltation, and spirit. Most powerful of all, you feel hope that, even amidst the grief, we’ll all be alright together.