The 10 Coolest Moments From Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

We go to see most Marvel movies because we know they'll deliver a good time, but "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" has to travel a more difficult road. It has to deliver a blockbuster spectacle while helping us mourn the loss of Chadwick Boseman, the Marvel Cinematic Universe's beloved Black Panther, who died in 2020. Thankfully, director Ryan Coogler succeeds, bringing the cast together not just to honor the passing of an actual superhero, but also to celebrate what those who we love leave behind.

"Wakanda Forever" does it all while being slick, stylish, and keen to the bold fashion and capabilities of Black women worldwide. As these moments prove, it's easy to admire what's going on through our tears, and it's okay to cut our grief with delight as we explore the new underwater world that's revealed to us through Namor's eyes. Be warned, though, this article will contain heavy spoilers. Go see the movie first! We'll be here when you get out of the theater, ready to cheer with you about Riri Williams' hot new ride.

Queen Ramonda addresses the UN

Global politics isn't often an exciting affair at the United Nations' New York headquarters. That should be regarded as a good thing. Geopolitical spiciness gives everyone stomach trouble, and it's only a few minutes into "Wakanda Forever" that the representatives of France and the United States look like they've swallowed live bugs. Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) flips the script on France's attempt to paint Wakanda as noncompliant with the rest of the global community by providing the resolution to the action sequence that's intercut with her arrival.

After French mercenaries attempt to force their way into a scientific facility outside of Wakanda, the queen reveals the live prisoners that her Dora Milaje took during the attack, offering them back to France's representative with a healthy serving of crow. Angela Bassett works hard in this scene, grieving and furious, yet also glacially calm and completely in control of the situation. It's a testament to the power that Black women are forced to exude in hostile spaces, although the emotion in Bassett's eyes remind us that it shouldn't have to be that way. It's not just a cool moment, but one that's perfect and necessary. It's the first time in the film that Bassett shows us that her queen is also purely human.

Talokan's siren song

"Wakanda Forever" works fast to establish that its blue-skinned people have nothing in common with some other blue people who have a way with water. We've known for months that "Wakanda Forever" would introduce a new take on Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejía) and his people, and the Talokanil's first appearance in the MCU is just as good as expected. See, it's not just the legends and histories of Mesoamerica that inspired Talocan. Some cosmic horror and the allure of a mermaid's voice come with it.

The loss of two deep-sea divers to strange, half-glimpsed creatures in the ocean depths is a moment pure terror — all we see is a blood-red jellyfish and a floating, empty lifeline. On the surface, heads pop out of the water, and the soundtrack begins to play a song of unearthly beauty. The Talokanil are singing to the American invaders, who are persuaded by the sound to fling themselves into the water and die. Not only is that awesome to watch, but it's also a brilliant way to blend another real-world myth with a modern-day saga.

The beauty of the African bush

The casual way that Namor invades Queen Ramonda's ritual with Princess Shuri (Letitia Wright) is worth calling out on its own, but make no mistake: It is an invasion, one that intrudes on a moment so peaceful and private that the audience might feel a little rude watching it. Ramonda brings Shuri into the untouched bush all around Wakanda, where the wildlife remains in charge. It's a small but beautiful moment, with the camera taking us over the edge of the water, where a family of elephants drinks without the threat of poachers.

Ramonda's humanity is again brought to the fore as she tries to draw out Shuri's grief. The firelight emphasizes the warm golds of the scrub and sand as these two women try to connect with the land around them and the simplicity of their place in the world. But then, surprisingly, the elephants suddenly flee, aware that something has changed.

Namor's disruption here is low-key but importantly symbolic. He thinks he's the balancing force the world needs, presenting a calm, even polite demeanor. But Namor also breaks the peace whenever he walks on land, and his message wouldn't have landed if he'd strolled up into the palace first. Showing off nature like this, and using it to tell a story without words? That's awesome.

Ironheart Mk. I

It's not a cave and a box of scraps, but Riri Williams' (Dominique Thorne) cruddy warehouse lair, complete with a pile of junkyard parts and her dad's restored sports car, is pretty close. We don't get to see the first Ironheart suit until the FBI raid is in full force; she keeps it up on a repair lift. However, we do get glimpses of Riri's process via her sketches, and she's quickly on the path to impressing the hell out of the equally science-obsessed Shuri. That sets our hype level for the big escape, and Riri Williams, the local superhero cryptid, delivers exactly what we need.

The Ironheart suit is all very Tony Stark, right down to the cherry red trim on the cobbled-up mech. Riri doesn't quite have the full HUD locked down, and she faces some of the same issues that Tony did during his first big flight. The free-fall is a straight-up "Iron Man" homage, but Riri sticks the landing. It's not her fault that the escape goes sideways due to the arrival of Attuma and a squad of Talokani warriors. Besides, it was a great ride, and we're all ready to cheer for her next big flight.

Visiting scenic Talokan

Going into "Wakanda Forever," it was kind of a given that we'd get a trip through Talokan, giving us a better sense of Namor and his motivations for coming into the MCU like a wrecking ball. But it's still a perfect ride, one that exposes the chilling reality of life that deep in the ocean. Shuri can't just slap on an oxygen mask and head underwater. She needs a diving suit the size of a Hulkbuster to survive the pressure. It's not as bright a trip as the one we took through the underwater world of Naboo, either. "Wakanda Forever" isn't going to lie about the fact that the sun can't reach the sea's furthest depths.

But when Riri finally arrives via heavy current, Talokan ends up being as vivid and rich in character as Wakanda. It's a celebration of thriving Central America culture, with tropical fruits and sea-dependent lives both at ease in a natural world that suits them. Above them all is the Mayan-style pyramid palace, a perfect memory from the era before Spanish colonizers and imported diseases arrived from afar. With it is the "sun" that Namor has brought to his people, an artificial light powerful enough to make the turquoises and golds of this hidden world sparkle. We instantly understand why Namor would scorch the world to protect this place — and we immediately hope that it never comes to that.

Wait, Valentina Allegra de Fontaine is who?

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is clearly having a ball as Valentina, and she gets her meatiest appearance yet in "Wakanda Forever." It's hard to pick out which of her scenes is the best, so let's just collate her entire small arc: She's involved with global politics at a level that we could never have guessed, because she's the new director of the CIA. Oh, and she's also Everett Ross' ex-wife. That's, uh, a lot to take in. Valentina knows the effect she has on everyone around her, including the invisible audience, and she revels in it.

The coolest part of Val's appearance is that it upends a lot of what we've assumed about her so far. We knew that she's been cozying up to U.S. Agent John Walker, and that she's set to be a key figure in "Thunderbolts." That left us with some suspicions about her allegiances and her seemingly nefarious goals. But that she's actually the face of a well-established — and decidedly shady — government organization is a shock. Worse, it also means that she has many more resources at her fingertips than we initially expected. Finally, she's no slouch as a field agent, either.

Shuri's visit to the Ancestral Plane

Watching T'Challa reconnect with his heritage after taking the Heart-Shaped Herb in "Black Panther" was a heartbreaking triumph, as well as a reminder that the creed "Death is not the end" is literal for Wakandans. Shuri's effort to recreate the lost plant after its total destruction in the first film isn't just necessary. It's part of her grief, an expression of the pain she's locked up so deep that it's been diffused through every action she takes.

But Shuri's success makes her confront the truth that she's been hiding from herself. She can't bear the grief, so it's become rage. As a result, her truncated herbal ritual brings her face to face with Erik N'Jadaka "Killmonger" Stevens (Michael B. Jordan), seated on the throne of a Wakanda that's on the cusp of burning to the ground. It's gleefully scary stuff, with Killmonger at his most leonine as he reads out his cousin's fury. But it's also an awe-inspiring sequence, the kind of a spiritual inner battle that the "Star Wars" sequel trilogy didn't quite nail. Now, we know exactly just how much risk Shuri is taking on.

The new Black Panther arrives

No matter how respectfully quiet your theater was during the memorials to T'Challa (and, by extension, Chadwick Boseman), there's one sequence in "Wakanda Forever" that's guaranteed to produce cheers. The new Black Panther makes her stunning arrival in Jabari territory, where the Wakandan council and refugees have gathered to avoid the water's deadly edge. The audience knows that the loss of Wakanda's protector was never going to be permanent, but the kingdom has long since given up on the Black Panther's return. There's a tangible nervousness to their gathering.

But then the sun pours into M'Baku's throne room, giving a Wakandan talon fighter room to airdrop its special cargo. Shuri doesn't disappoint, launching herself to the floor in full Black Panther regalia with the feral agility of the cat she's now named for. It's our first full look at the new suit, which has hints of both T'Challa's silver streaks and Killmonger's leopard gold, reminding us that Shuri's still torn up inside. But M'Baku quickly heralds her arrival, making us giddy even as we share in her nervousness. The moment is a new contender for one of the top-five coolest superhero landings.

Ironheart Mk. II and the Midnight Angels

Comic fans knew the moment that Riri Williams was confirmed to be in the movie that we'd get to see the sleek powered armor that graces the covers of her books. The introduction of her rickety but intimidating Mk I suit in Boston is a great slow burn, and the in-action reveal of her advanced suit is just as awesome. In a nice twist, the new design dials back the Iron Man influence and gives Riri more of her own personality. It's still a beautiful bold red, however, with the chest plate featuring a stylized heart-shaped power core.

Gaming fans might also notice a little inspiration from Samus Aran. Riri's supercharged jetpack looms over her shoulders, with a rounded design that looks less angelic and more like rough morph-ball tech. Flying alongside her are the Midnight Angels. These blue-and-gold power suits are getting a cool reception from some fans despite their accuracy to the source material, but let's focus on the rad part of all this: Not only is the most elite faction of the Dora Milaje now in the MCU (with all the controversy that might come with it), but my beloved Okoye gets to be a superhero.

The rise of M'Baku

With the loss of T'Challa, M'Baku (Winston Duke) is the best man in Wakanda. I will not be taking feedback. Using the sheer power of his presence to hide his playfulness, M'Baku's leadership role in "Black Panther" took a back seat to Killmonger's coup. Thankfully, "Wakanda Forever" re-introduces the Jabari leader. He's now much more comfortable with the rest of his peers, strolling into the queen's court while munching on a carrot. He's the source of some of the film's best lines. He goes from hilariously deriding the "fishman" to counseling Shuri against war with a man who's literally regarded as a god.

It's behavior that Hanuman, the Jabari's patron spirit, would applaud. M'Baku is both prankster and sage, wise enough to know when not to deploy his great strength, and loyal enough to know when it's time to go all in. We cheer with relief when he shakes off Namor's armor-shattering blow mid-way through the film, but we — okay, I — cheered even harder when he crashes what was meant to be Shuri's coronation ceremony, recalling the time he did more or less the same in "Black Panther." Wakanda will have a powerful, stable king-regent while its new protector gets time to figure out who she truly wants to be.