Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The mood of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is somber. That’s to be expected. The shadow of Chadwick Boseman looms large, and his absence is felt. However, director Ryan Coogler addresses this head-on right at the beginning. Ramonda (Angela Bassett), the Queen Mother, announces that T’Challa has succumbed to an unknown illness. His passing is then followed by a grand funeral procession to celebrate his life.

At first glance, the country of Wakanda may appear to be a ship without a sail, but Coogler reframes the production around the strong women. The chronicle finds room to detail the poignant journeys of Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Okoye (Danai Gurira), and Aneka (Michaela Coel). However, no one individual is more troubled by the loss of T’Challa than his sister Shuri. Actress Letitia Wright ably carries most of the emotional weight. Trying to cope with the fact that her brother is now gone and accepting new responsibilities defines Shuri. Her mother, the Queen, provides significant support. When Ramonda arrives at the United Nations, Wakanda is chastised for keeping the rare metal vibranium to build weapons of mass destruction. She forcefully deflects that accusation with a dynamic response. Ramonda gives another passionate monologue later before the Tribal Council. “I am queen of the most powerful nation in the world, and my entire family is gone! Have I not given everything?” I wouldn’t be surprised if Angela Basset gets a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role here.

The African-based Wakanda managed to avoid colonization, and now another land must do the same. The CIA unknowingly infringes upon the kingdom of Talokan when it uses a special machine to detect a deposit of vibranium underwater. This exploration awakens a civilization of blue-skinned, sea-dwelling people. They suggest the inhabitants of Avatar but with Mayan and Mesoamerican cultural influences. The Talokanil lure the ship’s passengers to their death using a siren song. The leader of Talokan is a mutant with superhuman strength. Namor (Tenoch Huerta) is a malevolent presence but fiercely protective of his people and wants the creator of the vibranium-detecting machine dead. He appeals to Ramonda and Shuri for help. However, conflicting ideologies ultimately pit Wakanda against the underwater city of Talokan.

These are the underlying conditions for an overstuffed story that succumbs to a frequent problem: editing. The second-longest film in the MCU is stretched to a bloated 2 hour 41 minute runtime. Only Avengers: Endgame is longer. Unnecessary characters are shoehorned into a crowded ensemble of various tangents to further other properties. The most blatant example is child prodigy Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne), an MIT student. She’s introduced as a prelude to the upcoming Ironheart Disney+ series. However, actors Martin Freeman and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, as CIA operatives with intersecting backstories, also divert focus away from the main saga.

Despite some minor quibbles, this is a rousing sequel. Wakanda Forever manages to pull off the daunting task of respectfully honoring Chadwick Boseman’s memory while delivering the action-packed entertainment we expect from Marvel. The best scenes are quiet moments that provide an emotional foundation from engaging performances. These set the stage for the special effects-laden setpieces we expect. Featuring one of the more memorable villains in the MCU, Namor is a pointy-eared antihero who goes to battle while flying around on little winged feet. The action may not be the most vibrant we’ve ever seen in a Marvel production. Nevertheless, the spectacle resonates because the screenplay has established compelling stakes. Oh, and I can’t forget to give a special mention to Ludwig Göransson’s score. The eye-popping visuals are beautifully enhanced by rich music that hits hard when it needs to and pulls back when the feeling is enough. “Wakanda Forever” isn’t just the title of the movie. It’s also the most soul-stirring instrumental of the year. This is a superhero picture firing on all cylinders.

11-10-22

2 Responses to “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”

  1. 4 ⭐️. I really believe Ángela Basset gave an Oscar worthy performance here. I like the direction this series is headed. That end scene brings me excitement for the future.

    Liked by 1 person

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