Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Review by Paul Bowler
The tragic loss of lead actor Chadwick Boseman, who died of cancer in August 2020 aged just 43, brings an added sense of poignancy to Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Writer-director Ryan Coogler’s sequel to his 2018 smash hit Black Panther is both a sombre tribute to the death of the Oscar nominated star and an epic-scale superhero movie that builds on the original film’s powerful themes of colonisation, vengeance and forgiveness.
Ryan Coogler’s screenplay co-written with Joe Robert Cole (who also co-wrote Black Panther with Coogler), makes the passing of Chadwick Boseman an integral part of Wakanda Forever. Opening with the heart-rending death of Chadwick’s King T’ Challa unfolding off-screen while his scientist sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) desperately seeks a cure for the unnamed malady that has struck him down, the raw emotion conveyed by Wright’s performance and Shuri mother Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) in these tragic moments are deeply heart-felt and movingly real. Following the emotive funeral sequence, events return to Wakanda a year later.
However, Wakanda is now a nation adrift without either its king or his iconic alter ego Black Panther, and the Wakandans must find a way to embrace the next chapter of their great nation. As Shuri and Queen Ranonda struggle with their grief, M’Baku (Winston Duke), Okoye (Danai Gurira) and the Dora Milaje (including Florence Kasumba) unite as the world powers set their gaze on Wakanda for a share in the nations rights to their precious metal resource vibranium following King T’Challa’s death. With the interventions of War Dog Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Everett Ross (Martin Freeman), Dominique Thorn as MIT student Riri Williams/Ironheart and Michaela Coel as Wakandan warrior Aneka a new path slowly begins to emerge for the kingdom of Wakanda.
The political turmoil and intrigue is stoked further by the introduction a flying Mayan merman called Namor (Tenoch Huerta) who emerges from the ocean depths of his kingdom to wage war on the surface world. Much like Wakanda, Namor’s civilisation has its own rich culture and technologies built on the previous recourse vibranium. He fears the forces the surface world will seek to overthrow and colonise his people as the Spanish conquistadors did his ancestors. Namor then proposes an ultimatum for Ramonda and Shuri, to either join him in his war against the surface dwellers or Wakanda will become his enemy.
It is this moral conflict and quandary that drives the narrative of Wakanda Forever and places Shuri front and centre at the heart of the action. Given the film has a veritable plethora of main and supporting characters, Letitia Wright very much takes the lead here in Wakanda Forever and gives an outstanding performance as Shuri. The film does feel a tad overlong though, the pace drags a tad in the mid-section, but things soon pick up once Namor make his presence felt and everything builds to a satisfying showdown on barge in the Atlantic.
While not quite in the same league as the original film, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever manages to respectfully address the passing of Chadwick Boseman and weave some intriguing foreshadowing into what future the MCU may hold. Amidst all the action, spectacle and world building at its core it is Basset’s and Wright’s standout performances that really ground the film and keep everything on an even keel. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever may not be the most spectacular Marvel movie, but it is certainly a deeply moving one on which to close Phase Four of the MCU.
About The Author
Hi, I’m Paul Bowler, blogger and reviewer of films, TV shows, and comic books. I’m a Sci-Fi geek, a big fan of Doctor Who, Star Trek, movies, Sci-Fi, Horror, Comic Books, and all things PS4.You can follow me on Twitter @paul_bowler,or at my website, Sci-Fi Jubilee, and on YouTube and Facebook