Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
“It offers a powerful homage to Chadwick Boseman, but Black Panther: Wakanda Forever feels like an MCU movie shrouded in uncertainty at times.”
Appropriate tribute to Chadwick Boseman
Compelling New Villain
The story is too scattered
Disconnected from MCU
The death of Black Panther 2020 star Chadwick Boseman has left a massive void in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with no project more affected by the talented actor’s tragic passing than Black Panther: Wakanda Foreverthe sequel to his breakthrough 2018 film.
One of Marvel’s most successful solo superhero films of all time (both critically and commercially), Black Panther became the first superhero film to earn a Best Picture Oscar nomination, only to face an uncertain future after Boseman’s death. Two years after the death of the MCU star, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever arrives in theaters with plenty of questions to answer about where the franchise will go and how it will recognize — and honor — Boseman’s legacy.
Whereas wakanda forever does a terrific job of paying homage to Boseman and exploring the ways we deal with grief, his understandable need to lean into these themes leaves little room for the other elements he introduces to Marvel’s movieverse. The end result is a film that feels more like a crowded interlude than a fully realized chapter in the MCU saga.
The story so far
Table of Contents
Realized while returning Black Panther filmmaker Ryan Coogler from a screenplay he co-wrote with Joe Robert Cole (The People v. OJ Simpson), Black Panther: Wakanda Forever picks up with the death of T’Challa (Boseman), the nation’s monarch and protector of Wakanda. The film explores the aftermath of Wakanda’s suddenly vacant throne and the resulting power vacuum, both at home and abroad.
As T’Challa’s mother, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), and her sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), process their grief in very different ways, they soon face another challenge when the kingdom’s ruler submerges. Talokan sailor Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejía) threatens Wakanda. The ensuing conflict tests the resolve of Wakanda’s royal family and its allies and places the entire nation at a turning point in its history.
A cinematic eulogy
From the first seconds of wakanda foreverthe film does an impressive job of integrating and honoring Boseman’s death and legacy in the MCU.
T’Challa’s death in the Marvel Cinematic Universe shares many similarities to the actor’s passing in the real world – a tragedy that apparently surprised everyone outside of his closest circles. Marvel superheroes are larger than life characters, but T’Challa’s death is positioned as a reminder that life remains just as unpredictable in the MCU, and sometimes no amount of science or magic can stop people to be taken from us so soon.
T’Challa’s death – and its aftermath – is handled with a careful, yet heartbreakingly effective touch, and it feels like the scenes in which the characters mourn his passing were an essential part of the friends’ grieving process. from the real world of Boseman and movie family. The sincerity and power of these moments and the conversations that unfold around them are testament to Coogler’s ability to blur the line between the fantasy world of the MCU and the experiences of everyone whose life has been touched by Boseman.
It’s not an easy line to follow, but it does so with a beautifully sensitive eye to both the very real man and the character legacy he left behind. The final scene of the film provides a symbolic and surprisingly cathartic end point in the journey through grief explored by wakanda foreverand Coogler manages to strike the right emotional note to hit at that moment.
Extend too thin
Unfortunately, the rest of the film doesn’t fare as well, with a long list of major plot points, characters, and concepts introduced and seemingly relegated to the background. wakanda forever explores the most emotional – and arguably the most important – aforementioned themes.
Mejía delivers a strong and nuanced performance as Namor, whose own origins and those of his kingdom have been shaped by tragedy and senseless death. He’s a fascinating character in the MCU, with more depth and shades of gray than his comic book counterpart, and the Mayan influence on the character and on Talokan is a welcome addition to the MCU tapestry.
A little like Michael B. Jordan’s “Killmonger” character in Black PantherNamor de Mejía is a star in the film, but his story is in wakanda forever takes precedence over the emotional journey that Shuri, Ramonda, and the other Wakandan characters go on in the film, which lessens the impact of its debut a bit. The fact that his entry into the MCU also introduces a whole new realm that rivals Wakanda, and that he’s the first character to be officially identified as a “mutant” (setting the stage for the X-Men), would normally represent a change. seismic. in the MCU. But that’s just narrative filler wakanda forever.
In fact, a large part of wakanda forever only feels tangentially connected to the MCU, with Martin Freeman and Julia Louis-Dreyfus appearing as the only non-Wakanders returning Marvel characters to the film. However, their roles seem unnecessary in the larger story the film tells, and their performances are wasted on a story that actually had no use for them.
Mejía isn’t the only character to deliver a solid performance in wakanda forever, yet. Bassett and Danai Gurira, who play Wakandan special forces chief General Okoye, repeatedly deliver some of the film’s most powerful scenes, and their performances are brimming with energy and emotion.
One particular scene between Bassett and Gurira explodes with the kind of dramatic weight that few moments in the MCU have equaled, and a reminder of the strength they bring to Marvel’s overarching and evolving story.
The film also features a solid debut for Dominique Thorne as Riri Williams, a brilliant teenage engineer set to direct her own spin-off series, Stone heartlocated after the events of wakanda forever. Thorne’s character is a good counterpoint to Wright’s Shuri, also a brilliant engineer, and the differences in their respective backgrounds keep them bouncing around in fun ways. Riri doesn’t spend much time in the spotlight, but the attention she receives is effective in opening her up to more intriguing adventures.
Unfortunately, the one character that receives the biggest screen time boost in wakanda foreverShuri, isn’t quite up to the occasion.
After playing a supporting role in Black Panther and his other MCU appearances, Wright’s character is honored in wakanda forever but never feels very comfortable in an expanded role. Up until now, Shuri’s role has often been a source of comic relief, positioned as T’Challa’s tech-obsessed little sister who never takes MCU drama too seriously, and it’s a role that Wright performed well enough to be one of the standout characters in the original film.
wakanda forever asks Wright to tone down the comedy and turn Shuri into a more tragic – and ultimately noble – figure, but it’s a pivot that doesn’t come easily for the actress or feel natural to the character as we see it. know. The character’s development in the story is a reluctant acknowledgment of the responsibility she has to her family and Wakanda, but Wright struggles to sell the conflict that unfolds in Shuri’s heart and mind when the story takes its most serious and dramatic turns.
wakanda forever also offers a disappointing contribution to something that usually comes easily in Marvel movies: the action.
The film’s dramatic and emotional themes occupy much of the story that unfolds in wakanda foreverbut when the inevitable action scenes happen, they aren’t as unique and exciting as the scenes Black Panther or other Marvel movies have delivered. Given the film’s ability to explore action both above and below the surface of the water and introduce entirely new technology, combat styles and aesthetics, the fact that few scenes of battle in wakanda forever jumping off the screen or standing out feels like a missed opportunity.
The most memorable action sequences of wakanda forever revolve around Namor, and the film makes good use of his unique abilities to create creative sequences, but the same cannot be said for other encounters between the people of Namor and the Wakandans. In most cases, large-scale battle scenes in wakanda forever are indistinguishable from every other crowded battle scene in MCU movies thus far. That’s a lot of wasted potential, and that’s a surprise, given how much Black Panther was in almost every facet.
Despite its flaws, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever delivers an entertaining adventure and one of the most emotional journeys an MCU movie has taken. It feels like a win for the film, which clearly prioritized the latter’s offering over a more traditional entry into Marvel’s interconnected universe.
While those expecting the usual high-octane, high-action Marvel spectacle might leave wakanda forever a bit deflated, anyone who enters the theater with an open mind – and more importantly, an open heart – will discover a powerfully poignant story that honors a very special person in a very unique and unexpected way. wakanda forever doesn’t always feel like an MCU movie, but it feels like a story that needed to be told for Boseman, his film family, and his fans.
Directed by Ryan Coogler, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is in theaters now.