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Why Shuri Won't Let Riri Williams Leave Wakanda With Her Ironheart Armor

Spoilers ahead for "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever"

"Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" focuses on themes of grief, legacy, honor, power, and colonialism — not new themes for the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Phase 4 or for the previous "Black Panther." But the way the film deals with these concepts provides plenty of feels for movie audiences — and these fans are lifting the film's box office totals to an estimated $175-185 million for its opening weekend (via Deadline).

Fans may be flocking to theaters to find out how the MCU is dealing with actor Chadwick Boseman's death, but the continuing stories of Wakanda and characters like Shuri (Letitia Wright) and Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) are more than compelling. Then there's the much-anticipated introduction of a new character, Riri Williams, who is being played by Dominique Thorne both in this film and in a future Disney+ series, "Ironheart." This film introduces both Riri and the Ironheart armor. At the end of the film when Namor has called off his army and he and Shuri have come to terms (of sorts), Shuri tells Riri she will have to leave without her superheroic suit. But why?

Riri wields a version of the Ironheart armor that was improved in Wakanda

In the film, Riri is represented as a young genius in Shuri's own mold. She's an MIT student whose work creating a vibranium detector has put her in the crosshairs of Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejia); his civilization, Talokan, is guarding a vibranium deposit of its own. Riri has created a few other interesting inventions, including one that she uses to try to escape Namor. This is the Ironheart armor (named for the heart-shaped arc reactor that powers it), which gets its first outing as Shuri, Okoye (Danai Gurira), and Riri try to escape the FBI agents that have honed in on their position at the garage where Riri keeps her inventions. The Talokans show up and kidnap the princess and her new friend. 

Riri later wields an improved version of the armor, the Mark II. She's seen working on it in Shuri's lab while she's in Wakanda. Then, when Shuri — who has now donned the Black Panther armor — decides to draw out and attack Namor and his forces, Riri uses the armor in the climactic battle. Presumably, she improves upon her suit using Wakandan technology, which may play a role in why Shuri wants it to remain protected.

Wakanda's increasingly dangerous position in world politics may be a factor

One of the things fans learn about Wakanda in this "Black Panther" sequel is that there are consequences to the actions outlined at the end of the first "Black Panther." As you may recall, T'challa (Boseman) — acting on the influence exerted by Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) — opened up his technologically-advanced civilization to the global stage. It's clear from the beginning of this film that Wakanda has become a coveted resource.

Researchers are actively searching for vibranium in places around the world and also trying to infiltrate Wakanda. Immediately after T'challa's funeral, the movie cuts to a scene one year later. In that scene, Queen Ramonda steps into a United Nations meeting room and displays the hired mercenaries Wakanda has caught trying to steal its vibranium. She issues a warning, telling the countries in the room that additional attempts of aggression would be considered acts of war. "We know what you whisper," she says in her address, "They have lost their protector. Now is our time to strike."

Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) is even arrested for keeping information about Wakanda from his ex-wife and CIA director Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). This is part of the reason Namor wants to force Wakanda to team up with Talokan, and creates possible foreshadowing for a future conflict between Wakanda and the rest of the world.

Shuri might think the armor is safer in Wakanda—for now, anyway

It is with this as a backdrop, then, that Shuri tells Riri that she must leave her armor in Wakanda. While she doesn't actually give a reason, it's clear that Wakanda must be cautious. It's fairly clear that at least the CIA, under de Fontaine's leadership, would give a lot to have access to Wakanda's weaponry and other resources. 

Still, while Namor and his warriors might be able to easily get past Wakanda's defenses, this is not so true for the rest of the world. Shuri has a number of reasons to want to keep the armor close. She might believe that the second iteration of the Ironheart armor is safer in Wakanda. She might also believe Riri is safer without that technology in her possession. More than that, though, she probably wants to keep the specifics of Wakandan technology away from those who don't have her country's best interests at heart — and with Riri having improved the armor there, it's likely the suit includes some Wakandan secrets.

However, with the "Ironheart" TV series coming to Disney+, it's fairly clear that this movie is doing its part to set up the new show. At this point, it remains unclear whether Riri will be making a new Mark III version or if she'll be able to access the armor she left back in Wakanda. But we'll find out in Fall 2023.