Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is spectacular, emotional, pulse-pounding, quite visceral, and even cathartic.
We review the MCU film Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, which does not contain spoilers.
Perhaps no sequel in film history had stakes this high on a human level, considering the original film is a touchstone moment in cinematic history, the first big-budget comic book film with a majority Black cast, led by a hero who never looked like the white knights most Hollywood executives envision while layering the film with themes, traditions, style, and a celebration of a community’s heritage and ongoing legacy. How can a sequel possibly exceed expectations? Perhaps what Chadwick Boseman stood for and his tragic passing fueled the filmmakers to make a superhero picture with great gravitas, even one that may be a pulse-pounding metaphor for grief.
The story opens with the mourning of King T’Challa’s death and a year of mourning. The most powerful nations in the world sense, or more accurately assume, weakness from Wakanda. Why? There’s no Black Panther to protect them. Like most powerful “first world” countries looking to colonize others unlike them and raid their most valuable assets, Wakanda is being vastly underestimated since it’s at the forefront of science and technology. However, the world wants its vibranium, and influential countries feel Wakanda is hoarding the glowing blue metal, a resource with untapped kinetic energy.
Queen Ramonda (the magnetic Angela Bassett, sensational here) delivers a powerful speech directing the rest of the two nations to stand down, or they will feel just how strong Wakanda can be. However, their strength camouflages their current grief. It has been a year since Princess Shuri (a strong Letitia Wright) lost her brother. She blames herself for not saving his life as Queen Ramonda tries to honor his passing with Wakanda traditions. Yet, Shuri struggles to keep her faith, which is already in limbo since she is a woman of science. A calling, for her, cannot explain the celebration of her brother, that he can now be felt all around them. Wakanda is in limbo and is about to be tested beyond its greatest fears.
Directed by Ryan Coogler, who wrote the screenplay with Black Panther scribe Joe Robert Cole, they set a tone that can be felt viscerally. The story has dark notes, with heroes spiraling into feelings of loss and ambivalence. They are a shell of themselves as they deal with losing their protector and confidant. You have fan favorites back trying to lead their principle players to a new day. Okoye (Dana Gurira) worries about the Princess’s mental state, losing herself in her work. M’Baku (Nine Days’ Winston Duke) continues to acclimate himself and his people into Wakanda, taking a stance they need his leadership during the transition period.
Coogler and Cole excel at forging classic characters ahead with effective cameos and introducing new ones (hello, Ironheart), especially the villains. Tenoch Huerta (Narcos: Mexico) joins the film as Namor. He plays the king of an underwater world, Taloken, which we saw at the end of the first film. Huerta’s character is three-dimensional and remarkably frightening with the quick, simple threats. He is menacing yet empathetic, and may be one of the more complex Marvel characters we have seen in some time.
They combine this with thrilling action sequences without ever feeling too cartoonish and grotesquely digital like the Black Adams of the world, all with the added weight of a fictional and human-interest story that fans feel passionate about. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is 161 minutes, almost three hours long, but it never feels stagnant, repetitive, or drawn out. There were rumors the film may have been presented in two parts. And thank goodness they stuck with the original, or we may have never gotten the cathartic release fans of Boseman we sorely needed.
The final product is one of Marvel’s best sequels and has perhaps the greatest mid or after-credit scenes in the famed studio’s history. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is spectacular, emotional, quite visceral, and even cathartic. Go see it on an Imax screen if possible.
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