By Santiago Brion | November 28, 2022
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is the 30th film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the sequel to 2018’s “Black Panther.” Originally intended to be a continuation of the story of King T’Challa (Black Panther), actor Chadwick Boseman passed away from colon cancer in 2020, and the planned sequel was left up in the air. Director Ryan Coogler managed to uphold the task of continuing the Black Panther story by centering the film around T’Challa’s circle. All it took was a complete rewrite and a blessing from Chad’s family.
“Wakanda Forever” follows the unfortunate passing of T’Challa, and the aftermath of the conflict with Namor, the ruler of Talokan, an ancient underwater society. The film opens with a heartbreaking sequence that leads up to T’Challa’s funeral. As the characters from “Wakanda Forever” grieve the loss of their king, the cast and crew (including Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong’o, and Marvel Studios CEO Kevin Feige) grieved their beloved costar.
The characters expressed a deep sadness as Okoye and the Dora Milaje carried T’Challa’s coffin, a sad and beautiful moment that is one of the highlights of Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The direction from Ryan Coogler is another highlight of the film. He expands upon the portrayal of the different cultures in the sequel. The kingdom of Talokan is influenced by Meso-American culture, which adds layers to Namor – one of the most well-known villains in the Marvel comics, and the nemesis of King T’Challa. Tenoch Huerta offered a captivating performance displaying both menace and sadness, through the explanation of his backstory and on-screen presence. Namor also had the best line delivery as his Talokan forces invaded Wakanda: “Mourn your losses, bury your dead, you’re Queen now.”
Although Namor is one of the most powerful characters in the MCU, he does not quite live up to Michael B. Jordan’s multi-layered performance of Erik Killmonger, the main antagonist from the previous film.
Other stand out performances include Letitia Wright as Shuri, stepping out as a main character in “Wakanda Forever,” perfectly portraying the sadness and mourning at the loss of her brother. Angela Bassett plays Ramonda, a grieving mother yet powerful ruler who displays her strength with powerful lines, like “Have I not given everything?” reminding the audience of everything she had persevered through, from the loss of both her late husband, T’Chaka, and now her son, T’Challa.
Following her breakout role in the critically acclaimed TV show, “I May Destroy You,” Michaela Coel plays Aneka. Totalling only three scenes in the entire movie, it is disappointing that she did not get more screen time.
Riri Williams (alias Ironheart), played by Dominique Thorne, is a new character to join the Marvel franchise. Her character provided great comedic relief to balance out the heavier tone of the film, and proved to be a promising new addition to the MCU in the continuation of the “Iron Man” legacy. The upcoming “Ironheart” show will follow Riri’s time at MIT where she’ll balance being a young, gifted, Black student, and a superhero.
Another strong suit of the movie is the score from composer Ludwig Goransson, gifting us with songs like Rihanna’s “Lift Me Up.”
With a runtime of two hours and 40 minutes, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” presents an uneven balance of tribute film and superhero action blockbuster. Overall, it was a great end to Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and is carried by its powerful performances and dark undertones.
I give “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” an 8.8/10.
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is now playing at Regal Crossgates and Regal Colonie Center and The Madison Theater.