According to one of the editors who worked on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Marvel Studios removed a potential romance plot centered on Shuri from the MCU sequel.
Black Panther 2 is currently enjoying continued success at the box office, as the super-powered epic showed the MCU’s new Black Panther getting her claws and taking on a world in the wake of losing her brother.
From the beginning, Wakanda Forever had been described as “very emotional,” as the cast and crew not only had to push the Marvel Studios story ahead but had to do so while mourning (both on and off screen) their fallen creative partner in Chadwick Boseman.
However, it turns out even more heartstrings could have been pulled in the blockbuster, as a potential romance between Letitia Wright’s Shuri and Tenoch Huerta’s villainous Namor was removed.
Marvel Nixed a Shuri/Namor Romance
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever editor Michael P. Shawver revealed that a romance between Shuri and the film’s main antagonist, Namor, was removed from the film.
Shawyer told Newsweek, “at one point in an early cut we discussed” adding a “[romantic] complexity to the relationship,” but ultimately decided against it:
“I think what’s really interesting is there were takes where there was some connection there…and at one point in an early cut we discussed like, ‘Hey, do we leave it there? Do we just put it out there? Let’s just add some complexity to the relationship.'”
He noted that with that sort of thing “you’ve got to watch out” in differentiating between “Shuri flirting to get what she wants” as opposed to “being a diplomatic leader:”
“But, then, you’ve got to watch out for portraying, for example, Shuri flirting to get what she wants as opposed to being a diplomatic leader and becoming the leader that she needs to be, that she’ll get to at the end.”
Scenes including this romantic element were filmed and tested with audiences, but they were ultimately scrapped from the final cut, according to Shawyer.
What the team “ultimately focused on” was Namor’s line in the film of “‘only the most damaged people can be truly great leaders,” centering in on “shared trauma” rather than anything romantic:
“So what we ultimately focused on was Namor’s line where he says ‘only the most damaged people can be truly great leaders, and that’s planting the seed of the shared trauma that she realizes at the end [of the film].”
It was this common ground of “carrying around this heavy heart” while still trying to lead that the two ended up building their relationship on:
“But that’s essentially who they are, they’re trying to lead and be a leader of their nations with all this pain, carrying around this heavy heart.”
Shawyer told the outlet that this became sort of a “big brother” relationship between Namor and Shuri because there is that “shared cultural trauma between his people and her people.”
Despite all this though, it did not mean that director Ryan Coogler and the editing team thought the two would not work as a couple. Shawyer said the two can relate to one another, and “anytime we can relate to somebody there can be undertones of that kind of thing:”
“They relate, and I think that anytime we can relate to somebody there can be undertones of that kind of thing, you know what I mean?”
The Marvel editor joked that he and others working on the film would joke that when Namor gave Shuri his mother’s bracelet that the two “were married now, and she didn’t know it:”
“Honestly, we’ve got to keep ourselves sane and laugh a lot, especially with the tougher moments or the serious moments, so we would always joke that when he gave her that bracelet they were married now, and she didn’t know it.
He closed by saying there is a totally different movie where midway through Shuri realizes “I’m the queen of Talokan now?:”
“There’s a whole different movie where [Shuri’s] like, ‘wait, what, I’m the queen of Talokan now?'”
What’s Next for Shuri In the MCU?
It is probably best that Ryan Coogler, Marvel, and the entire Wakanda Forever team left the Shuri and Namor romance on the cutting room floor. While there were for sure undertones there, and perhaps in a different movie it may have worked, this was not the right place or time.
Wakanda Forever was about moving on in the face of losing a guiding light in life. It was about asking, what does one do when all their heroes are no longer around?
Because audiences saw Shuri at her lowest, after losing not only her brother but her mother as well, it made her rise to becoming the next Black Panther that much more impactful.
If Marvel had introduced a romantic element to that, it may have downplayed the entire thing. Then instead of Shuri taking on the mantle because she knows it’s the right thing to do, it could have been interpreted as she needed a romantic partner to realize what she could become.
It could have made things very messy, and Wakanda Forever is likely better for not including it.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is in theaters worldwide now.