I’ve been suffering from superhero fatigue for some time now. MCU Phase 4 has not been consistently satisfying and I still have no desire to see DC’s Black Adam (totally fine skipping it altogether). That said, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is immune to that sentiment and I was still anticipating it greatly.
Right from its opening scene, it’s evident that Wakanda Forever is not your cookie-cutter superhero movie. The key themes of the Black Panther sequel are grief and loss, the film is unabashedly emotional as the main characters are mourning the loss of their king. It’s a wise decision on Marvel’s part not to recast Chadwick Boseman, which is really unthinkable given the circumstances of his passing and the enormous legacy he left with the character. It’s tough to even separate Boseman and his character King T’Challa… when his mother Queen Ramonda and sister Shuri, along with the rest of the nation attend his funeral, I feel like the actors weren’t just acting, but they truly mourn their late friend.
Yet the funeral also feels like a celebratory tribute to a great king who has been Wakanda’s powerful protector. For the first time, Wakandan must reconcile with the fact that they have also lost their protector.
The first act of the movie really showcases Angela Bassett’s Queen Ramonda’s gravitas and strength, both as a mother and as a leader. Her resolve is truly tested as new threats emerge, but it also displays her nurturing side as she tries to console her daughter Shuri. I love the quieter scenes between Bassett and Letitia Wright, peppered with light humor to break the sorrowful moments.
Ryan Coogler and his co-screenwriter Joe Robert Cole manage to blend the themes of loss with that of defiance and resiliency on the part of the Wakandan–they upped the stakes by introducing a new world power they didn’t anticipate. Namor the Sub-Mariner (Tenoch Huerta) proves to be a formidable adversary… just from the physical standpoint, he’s tough to beat. He has super-heroic strength, he could swim, fly, even leap midair thanks to his ankle wings.
The scene of the Talokan army attacking a military vessel early in the movie is quite sinister, though the film is careful not to paint the Talokan king as an evil villain. It’s not a simple hero vs villain trope but offers something more complex. Namor is given his own origin story that explains his extraordinary abilities, though some details differ slightly from the comics.
Instead of Atlantis which is associated with Greco-Roman culture, this film features Talokan as an underwater kingdom based on Aztec/Mesoamerican civilization which reflects Huerta’s Mexican heritage. The underwater sequences are beautifully-realized, with stunning set pieces, costumes, and sound design of the Talokan world depicting Mayan and Aztec imagery. I have to say it’s far more visually arresting than the garish and frankly ugly look of Aquaman.
I like that the movie isn’t all about relentless action. There are quiet moments and meaningful conversations that inform the story, but the action sequences are done well. The fight scenes, especially the big one between the Talokan and Wakandan army, are well-choreographed and you can still see what’s going on even when they involve large groups of people. I have to admit though, in the boat fight scene, the Talokan army reminds me a bit of the Na’vis in Avatar.
I do have a few technical gripes though, some of the camera work is too frenetic. I remember feeling dizzy watching the scene in the garage where Riri works on her inventions. Some of the underwater scenes also look a bit too dark it’s hard to see the details. Though Autumn Durald Arkapaw did a nice job overall, I wish Rachel Morrison had stayed on as DP. The casino and car chase scene in the first movie looks absolutely stunning and remains one of the best action scenes of the MCU.
Performance-wise, Bassett is definitely the MVP and I can even say her performance is Oscar-worthy. Followed by Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong’o, in that order. The exchange between Bassett and Gurira is especially poignant given both have given everything to Wakanda. I love that we get to see these kick-ass women display their vulnerability, showing real strength in being emotionally resilient. I’m glad I brought plenty of tissues as I was moved to tears more than a few times.
Huerta is pretty good as Namor, not at the same level of charisma as Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger but memorable nonetheless. Martin Freeman is the sole Wakandan ally of Caucasian descent, he owes his life to Shuri so naturally, he’s being a good sport even when she and Okoye take jabs at him. Dominique Thorne’s Riri adds some comic relief, especially when she first encounters Shuri and Okoye, but her storyline involving a vibranium-detecting device is more of a Macguffin to introduce Namor. Clearly, it’s a ploy to introduce her character Ironheart as her Disney+ series will be released as part of Phase 5.
Coogler collaborates with the best of the best in bringing Wakanda Forever to life. I really enjoy seeing all the Wakandan hi-tech gadgetry/ships/planes as well as the day-to-day life of ordinary people living in such a technologically advanced nation. Props to production designer Hannah Beachler, costume designer Ruth E. Carter and composer Ludwig Göransson (Coogler’s bestie from his college days), this movie is such a feast for the eyes and ears. The music is especially phenomenal. Göransson immersed himself in the African beats for the first film. This time he adds Mayan, South American sound, featuring 40 different artists from 4 continents, showcasing two very different types of music that perfectly complement the story. I’m willing to bet Carter and Göransson get another nomination next year, though another Best Picture nod seems unlikely.
Overall, it’s an admirable follow-up even if it doesn’t quite top the first film. The 2-hour-41-minute runtime is overlong but it’s not tedious. Coogler & co. did two things admirably: firstly, they pay tribute to Boseman in a glorious and beautiful way, ensuring that his legacy lives on. Secondly, they honor the women of Wakanda’s immense prowess, mentally and physically. It’s a win for representation all around as well, Coogler gives us a beautiful celebration of cultures of black and brown people that feel genuine and authentic.
As fans wonder if there’s life after T’Challa, I think Coogler proves that indeed there is hope for the future for Wakanda. The Wakandan may be heartbroken, but they can still achieve greatness. As one character says in the movie, ‘only the most broken people can be great leaders’ – there just might be some truth to that.
Have you seen WAKANDA FOREVER? Well, what did you think?
17 thoughts on “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Review”
I’m gonna wait till it hits Disney+ to watch it. Hopefully by then I will have the urge to watch a Marvel film again. Right now, I have zero interest in any of the MCU or DCEU films.
Sounds good Ted!
I really liked this film a lot as it ended up being better than I thought it would be though not as good as the first film. I also love some of the development of its characters including M’Baku who has a great scene in the third act while I think Angela Bassett, Letitia Wright, and Tenoch Huerta Mejia kicked a lot of ass. The post-credits scene got me.
Yeah, not as great as the first, I mean I really do miss Chadwick as Black Panther. But they did an admirable job honoring him and Bassett really stole the show in the first half. Yes, that post-credit scenes had me crying!
I know there’s people that want to recast T’Challa but it’s not going to work and I’m glad Marvel didn’t do that. Besides, I’m actually excited for what the future will bring for the franchise.
Yeah, it definitely would NOT work so it’s wise of Feige and Coogler to honor Chadwick in this way instead. I’m very curious to see what they’d do with the next Black Panther movie!!
Same here. ***SPOILER WARNING***
I think Namor will return to help the Wakadans with the Talokan in whatever they have to deal with while he would also meet the other Avengers and get to know them. I just hope there’s nice fiesta afterwards.
Good review! I think that this sequel was quite an ambitious project that sometimes buckles underneath its own weight, with notable length of storytelling and a few shoehorned in moments. Still, I really did enjoy this movie and is probably my favorite MCU entry of the 2022 line-up.
Hi Jason! Indeed it’s ambitious as they had big shoes to fill given how good the first one was. I doubt this one would be considered for Best Picture but yeah, as an MCU Phase 4 entry it definitely is my fave!
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