When fans learned Riri Williams would debut in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, many wondered how she’d fit into such a packed film. After all, Ryan Coogler had to cover King T’Challa’s death, Namor waging war on Wakanda and how all this trauma influences the royals. Thankfully, Riri’s slotted into play in a very organic manner, eventually working with Shuri. And, as expected, Ironheart brings a lot of firepower to the field as the African nation battles the Talokan army. However, after taking stock of Riri’s entire journey, it’s clear that while she’s on a trailblazing road to defining her own path, she does pay homage to the best and worst aspects of Iron Man.
Black Panther 2’s Ironheart Is a Heroic Genius, Just Like Tony Stark
Now, as much as some folks didn’t like Tony Stark for his ego, his Iron Man really was a genius, in and out of the science lab. He had a vision and came off as proactive, wanting to provide a suit of armor around the world. Granted, his narcissism and not asking for permission did get the best of him at times, but his legion helped in many wars, including the Thanos debacle, where he’d sacrifice his own life.
Riri cuts a similar figure, but she’s more of a young prodigy than her predecessor, given she’s 19 and starring at M.I.T. Still, she recognizes how the world needs her talent, which is why she stays in Wakanda and builds the Ironheart suit. She wants to help stop Namor, knowing, just like how Tony saw the Ten Rings as a threat, Namor’s forces would destroy the surface. It pushes Riri to use her science knowledge for the greater good, transcending a student looking to get good grades and make money. Ultimately, this nods to Tony realizing he had a greater destiny, which Riri accepts when she heads home to Boston.
Black Panther 2’s Ironheart Is a Destructive Weapon, Just Like Iron Man
Admittedly, a lot of what started Tony’s journey was him cleaning up his own mess. His Stark Tech was used, not just by the army but by the Ten Rings, too. It almost cost him his life, leading to him becoming Iron Man to fight back in the name of justice and domestic security. The problem is, as Tony became obsessed with freedom, he still cut that lord of war figure with his toys. To make things worse, the way he started by killing soldiers in the Middle East, whom he inadvertently helped empower, came off as tone-deaf.
Ironheart has that similar destructive energy, first seen when she blows up cars to help Shuri and Okoye escape cops and the CIA when they first come to get her in Boston. Prior to that, her vibranium-detecting machine angers the Talokan, as Namor hates how humanity wants to start mining his kingdom for their resources now. In that sense, like Tony, Riri doesn’t grasp the responsibility. Instead, she’s in this overachieving bubble, not seeing how her work could be stolen and appropriated by a bloodthirsty U.S. government.
And the sad thing is, like Tony, she armors up, and due to the dominoes she kicks over, she ends up killing Talokan soldiers. And while it’s altruistic how Riri wants to save the world, she’s going after misguided souls she helps push into a war of attrition and survival. She may not be an industrialist, but she’s just as dangerous as Tony was, being the catalyst for a brutal feud against folks who ultimately want to stop countries from colonizing, enslaving and oppressing.
See how Riri cuts a polarizing figure in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, now playing in theaters.