‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

When Chadwick Boseman was cast as T’Challa, many didn’t know the impact he was going to make. The character of T’Challa grew into a diplomatic, noble leader of Wakanda over time. Not only was he regal at all times with his demeanour, but he had such a playful side that he shared with Shuri (Letitia Wright). He started as a young man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and became a King to everyone. Boseman’s presence was felt throughout Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and the emotional weight of this film is one of the reasons this felt as draining as it did. Director Ryan Coogler had an impossible task at hand, and he was able to create a complex sequel. He incorporated many layers to suit his cast’s needs, the MCU’s grandeur, and the fans. Grief is the main theme explored as this film’s overarching theme and how everyone grieves differently. That pain never fades, instead, it manifests into other forms of expression. 

There are many moving parts to this film, and at times it can be a bit dense. After the death of King T’Challa, Wakanda lost its protector, and they appear defenceless to other nations. While grieving, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) intimidates the UN Board of Directors, who have been challenging Wakanda’s hold on vibranium. Meanwhile, the CIA has been digging in the ocean for vibranium using a detector made by a scientist. In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, they find it and uncover a new nation of people called the Talokan with Namor (Tenoch Huerta) as their god. With a series of misunderstandings about who is after the vibranium and hurting members of the CIA, the Talokan and the Wakandans come face to face. This side of the story is fairly standard and is a good way to introduce Namor in the MCU. What matters most about the geo-political storyline is Namor’s backstory and what ruling means to him. 

Coogler had to bring the audience back into a further developed Wakanda and have everyone grieve over T’Challa together. On top of that, he had to create an entirely new world for audiences to connect with. He was able to construct a connection with those on the surface, and those underwater, who have experienced similar obstacles in their lives. The grieving process is shown through Namor and Shuri extremely well. Shuri has internalized her pain and sees death through a more scientific lens. Whereas Queen Ramonda believes in connectivity to the ancestral plain, and uses spirituality to comfort her. Namor’s grief is tied to a different emotion where he becomes vengeful over the protection of his people. The entire second act dives into both sides and the roles Namor and Shuri must play for their kingdoms. Moreover, the introduction of Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne) can be considered the fun puzzle piece amid all this sorrow. Each piece is assembled to move the narrative forward, but it still felt a bit overwhelming. Yes, there can be layers, but it felt like two strong ideas were being pushed into one story. 

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a beautiful tribute to T’Challa and Boseman’s legacy. The entire cast gave such powerful, emotional performances, especially Angela Bassett, Danai Gurira, and Letitia Wright. The costume design by Academy Award winner Ruth E. Carter was incredible, as she had to design for a whole new nation while upgrading the Wakandan wardrobe. Ludwig Göransson’s score was a bit more subdued compared to its predecessor. It’s not like it went unnoticed, but it wasn’t as integral to the feel of the story as it was in the first one. There are a lot of wonderful things about this film, but from a technical standpoint, it just doesn’t feel polished. The editing is probably the most jarring as the pacing suffered throughout the lengthy runtime. The one thing that did improve from the first film is the special effects and the fight choreography with the new suits was strong as well. This film is strong because of the emotional connection that many of the fans have with these characters, but certain aspects didn’t work for the film in its entirety, and it ultimately suffered from sequel syndrome.

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