Review by James Lindorf
To say “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” had a troubled production would be a massive understatement. It began on August 28th, 2020, when the world was shocked by the untimely passing of Chadwick Boseman. With a reworked plan, production would have to fight against COVID-19, Anti-Vaxxers, and an injury to star Letitia Wright that kept her off set for nearly four months. Despite that mountain of obstacles, director Ryan Coogler and his co-writer Joe Robert Cole crafted a superhero film that continues the celebration of Black culture while being a poignant tribute to Boseman that examines grief and fear. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” will be available everywhere on November 11th from Disney and Marvel Studios.
In the wake of King T’Challa’s death, his mother, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), has been forced to lead her country in this time of great sadness and danger. Without their King and protector, the Black Panther Wakanda is being accosted by world powers who have moved from requesting to demanding access to vibranium. Some even go as far as to try and steal the precious metal. With some help from unsuspecting MIT student Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne), their greed will force the hidden nation of Talokan and its leader Namor (Tenoch Huerta), to draw a line in the sand. The slightest provocation could lead to the destruction of every surface nation, even Wakanda. To navigate the complex political waters and multiple threats, Ramonda will need the help of Shuri (Letitia Wright), M’Baku (Winston Duke), Everett Ross (Martin Freeman), General Okoye (Danai Gurira), and the rest of Dora Milaje.
Unlike many MCU films, “Wakanda Forever” has a lot of weight to its story. It is far from joke free, but there isn’t a single character we have come to love that is in a good place. The new additions aren’t better off as they scheme and threaten to get what they want. The tone is going to be difficult for many fans. No one should be surprised if it at least gets a little dusty in their theater or if there is open crying from some audience members.
The movie opens with the offscreen death of T’Challa, and the sequence amazingly mirrors the public’s reaction to the loss of Boseman. Shock, disbelief, and chaos gave way to sadness and beautiful moments of celebration. Then, we are left with emptiness as the studio logo comes up, only showing images of Boseman and presented in total silence. It forces the audience to sit with the emotions of the characters, the actors, and even their own. It was a brilliant decision and perhaps the thing I will remember most about the movie. While what followed was entertaining, that sequence and that moment, in particular, made an emotional impact, which is worth remembering.
According to many fans on the internet, phase four of the MCU has been hit and miss. I believe it has been largely successful as they set into motion something that will make “Endgame” look small by comparison. They appear to be setting up different factions to take into “Avengers: Secret Wars. The cosmic and mystical sides have been dominating phase four so far, but now we are returning to the political thriller world that began with “Winter Soldier.” It is the perfect way to bring in other leaders like Namor and potentially Latveria’s Dr. Doom.
Coogler uses this film to expand on the colonizer jokes and themes presented in the first movie by having white nations try to take what is precious to Wakanda via political pressure, destabilization, and force if need be. It is no coincidence that Namor is no longer from Atlantis but the Mesoamerican-inspired kingdom of Talocan. His people were driven into the seas by Spanish Conquistadors, and he will turn the surface world to rubble before he allows history to repeat itself.
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is beautifully acted, even if some accents aren’t always consistent. Huerta is a revelation as Namor, and he promises to be a big problem for The Fantastic Four, Wakanda, and anyone else he views as a threat. Ruth Carter again does a wonderful job with the costuming and should be required learning in fashion and film schools worldwide. However, not everything was top-tier. Poor CGI plagued the first “Black Panther,” and it has reared its head again here. While it is better than two blurry cat characters fighting each other, it isn’t up to par for a film with this budget. Then there is the climactic battle that only makes sense because it was written in the script. Who thinks challenging water warriors on a boat is a good plan? It is laughably bad and only serves to show just how bad things have gotten and how close we are to the eventual collapse of Wakanda.
For “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” to be this good is a fantastic feat and a credit to Coogler and K.E.V.I.N.. If you look closely enough, it is the “Iron Man 2” of phase four. It gives our main character an emotional arc, introduces a young woman who will play a significant part in the MCU, and puts a lot of people in place for bigger things to come. However, the flavor that Coogler brings to the film makes it something special and not just another middle-of-the-road MCU entry and earns a 4 out of 5 from me.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Original Language: English, Wakandan
Director: Ryan Coogler
Producer: Kevin Feige, Nate Moore
Writer: Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole
Release Date: November 11th, 2022
Runtime: 2h 41m