Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Black Panther Wakanda Forever releasing worldwide in theaters on November 11 will be the 30th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Wakanda Forever is the sequel to the billion-dollar Black Pather Film from 2018. Directed by Ryan Coogler; with an ensemble cast featuring Letitia Wright as Shuri, Angela Basset as Queen Ramonda, Winston Duke as M’Baku, Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, and Danai Gurira as Okoye. The film is the final installment in Phase 4 for the MCU, with expectations running high for Coogler’s return to the fictional African nation-state of Wakanda.
In Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” Queen Ramonda, Shuri, M’Baku, Okoye and the Dora Milaje fight to protect their nation from intervening world powers in the wake of King T’Challa’s death. When Namor, king of a hidden undersea nation, alerts them to a global threat and his disturbing plan to thwart it, the Wakandans band together with the help of War Dog Nakia and Everett Ross and forge a new path for the kingdom of Wakanda.
The most important aspect of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is not who would play the role of the “Black Panther” moving forward in the MCU, but how would this film pay tribute to its late star, Chadwick Boseman. Boseman tragically died of cancer in 2020. The film handled the loss of its fallen hero almost immediately; and while not a part of the film, Boseman’s presence could be felt at every turn.
When Chadwick Boseman passed away in 2020, the filmmakers had to take a big step back and really consider what this next story could be. King T’Challa was the heart of “Black Panther”—and Boseman remains in the hearts of everyone who worked alongside him.
“Chad’s passing affected filmmakers and the actors in a way that was incredibly profound,” says Coogler. “Chad was very much our artistic partner in this project, in this franchise and in this storytelling. I would spend time with him, just he and I, talking about where we wanted to see the character go, where we wanted to see the story go, how much he admired the other characters and the actors that portrayed them.
We realized that it would only be right for us to continue the story.” Adds Moore, “We didn’t think Chad would have wanted the world of Wakanda—and the effect that movie had on kids—to go away. Emotionally, it felt like letting it go would be the easier thing to do, but I don’t think it would’ve been the right thing to do. I think to do right by the legacy of the man you have to continue to do right by the legacy of the movie.”
The film tackled the very tough emotions of loss and grief in a mature and respectful way, never forgetting where this franchise found its roots. We have come to know MCU films as theatrical spectacles. Customarily Marvel films are known more for their assault on the senses, rather than being rooted in deep and mature themes like loss and grief. At its very heart, this film is a tribute, in the best possible sense.
The film remains decidedly focused on the legacy left by Chadwick all the way up to the last frame of the film. One feels the weight of the mantle of the Black Panther, and director Ryan Coogler reminds us all of just how big the shoes are that he needed to fill.
The film itself was visually stunning, every bit as beautiful as I had hoped from the jaw-dropping trailers. Both Wakanda and the underwater city of Talokan (Ruled by the film’s nemesis Namor) provided gorgeous backdrops for the events of the film.
It took the creative team nearly two years to develop the fictional underwater empire of Talokan; which was steeped in Mayan architectural colors and icons. Talokan is a gorgeous reimagined comic book depiction of Atlantis and presents a sizeable foe to the powerhouse nation of Wakanda.
Coogler’s juxtaposition of the film’s fictional nation-states fighting for autonomy amongst world powers offered thought-provoking insights into the global legacy of colonialism and modern-day infringement on national sovereignty.
This film was heavy and dark in a way that no other MCU film has been to date. Many of the signature Marvel tropes have been tossed aside, leaving us with a film that feels fresh and unique despite having 29 superhero films preceding it.
The performances of Angela Bassett and Letitia Wright stand out, and it would not surprise me to hear their names again during awards season. Bassett specifically dominates every single one of her scenes in the film. These characters experience tremendous growth individually and collectively, and one can see that the tragedy befallen the cast has left them forever changed.
The film is filled with tender and intimate moments to balance the action sequences that are the hallmarks of the genre. These performances have risen to the occasion, and this cast has been through something transformative.
Ultimately, this is a comic book movie. The action sequences, special effects, music, and cinematography are top-notch. The film’s run time (2hr 41m), while long moved at a decent pace and didn’t drag.
Namor Actor Tenoch Huerta was menacing as the film’s protagonist, offering a powerful foe to the Wakandans. First appearing as the Sub-Mariner in Marvel Comics #1 in 1939, Namor is among Marvel’s oldest characters, acting both as hero and villain in the years to follow.
Riri Williams (Ironheart) played by Dominique Thorne offered comic relief when most needed, but more importantly, gave the audience a glimpse ahead at the future of Stark Tech, which is in good hands.
This film left me in deep thought following the end credits. I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever sat in reflection following a superhero movie. I learned something as a result of my viewing. This film showed me how intimately love and grief exist in the same space; and that while we hold someone in our hearts, they are never truly gone.
This film at its very core was a beautiful tribute to a fallen friend. Chadwick Boseman understood that his role as a fictional superhero could inspire millions of children around the world. While the mantle of the Black Panther is passed in this sequel we are reminded that while gone, Chadwick remains with us in our hearts and minds. Ultimately, Wakanda Forever is Marvel’s most poignant and thoughtful film to date. It is a work of love and triumph. (4.5 out of 5 Stars)
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