When we thought 2020 could not get any worse, August of that year brought us the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman at the age of 43 following a secret battle with colon cancer. With his passing he left behind a legacy of bringing iconic Black characters and historical figures like Thurgood Marshall and Jackie Robinson to the big screen. Boseman’s most iconic role was as King T’Challa, aka the Black Panther, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, now that they have lost their king, who will protect Wakanda now?
“Wakanda Forever” takes place one year after the death of King T’Challa, and the nation of Wakanda is still reeling from the loss. The rest of the world sees Wakanda as a threat due to their access to Vibranium, but it appears another civilization has their own access to the substance. The civilization is one long hidden beneath the ocean and led by the winged being Namor (Tenoch Huerta). Now, the remaining leaders of Wakanda must work together with new allies to protect their homeland without the help of the Black Panther.
Right out of the gate, “Wakanda Forever” is certainly the most emotional MCU film, and that emotion elevates this film to another level. The cast is clearly taking their pain from losing a friend and putting all of it into their performances. Angela Bassett and Letitia Wright are magnificent and carry this film on their backs. Letitia Wright in particular is given such an amazing arc to go through in this film, struggling with the loss of her brother and battling between the mystical and scientific ways of Wakanda.
Tenoch Huerta might be one of my favorite MCU villains after this movie. Namor is a fully fleshed out character, one with clear and understandable motivations. The world they introduce through Namor is also fascinating and visually stunning. The civilization is clearly inspired by the Aztecs; seeing that culture with a futuristic edge is fascinating, and I hope that it is explored further in future movies.
We are also introduced to new character Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne) aka Ironheart. I was a tad worried that she was going to serve little purpose in the grand scheme of the story and just feel like a pointless addition to promote her own show. Thankfully, Thorne is really charming in the role and provides some nice comedic relief, as well as a more down to earth perspective once she enters Wakanda. The only character here I wish we got more of was Winston Duke as M’Baku, who is given a much smaller role than the previous film.
With that being said, this is an MCU movie after all so it is far from perfect, and being a part of the MCU might be its weakest aspect. It is very apparent where director, Ryan Coogler’s, vision ends and the studio mandated visions begin, which is nothing new for the MCU. Still, when your movie clocks in at 2 hours and 42 minutes, it just feels like we are taking random detours from our much better (and much shorter film). I also feel that the film’s action is pretty lackluster. Apart from the fun final act and the cool technology of the underwater civilization, the action sequences are not the most interesting nor are they shot particularly well.
However, it’s clear that “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is not focused on being an action spectacle or big MCU blockbuster — its goal is to pay tribute to a beloved actor. When the movie focuses on the characters interacting and giving them a quiet moment to deal with their emotions, it is really powerful. Trying to be any old superhero movie is where the film starts to suffer. The good news is the good elements outweigh the bad, and “Wakanda Forever” comes out as an emotional rollercoaster that excels in the places where it counts.
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