Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – Another Review. By Shani Harris
Chadwick Boseman was the larger than life energy force, who catapulted Black Panther into the pantheon of blockbuster Marvel movies. His tragic passing has shaped the future of the franchise, after it debuted in 2018, becoming a cultural phenomenon. Wakanda Forever begins by addressing the loss of King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) who ruled over Wakanda and protected his subjects by embodying their savior as a Black Panther superhero. A line is crossed between the fictional world as the audience takes the sad journey on the funeral procession tributes with Princess Shuri (Letitia Wright) and Queen Ramonda ( Angela Bassett).
The spirit of Boseman is ever present on screen as we are presented with murals and an opening credit montage, which shows him as a symbol of strength and manhood. The death of T’Challa means that Wakanda has lost their all powerful protector and has been left vulnerable to attacks from the rest of the world, who wish to plunder their precious resource of Vibranium. The nation is forced to find new leadership as Queen Ramonda guides them on ways to navigate their path as they continue to heal as a nation.
A threat to their homeland arises as Namor ( Tenoch Huerta) is unveiled as a powerful mutant King, who rules an underwater nation called Talokan.. He initially emerges as a potential ally who controls his relm inspired by Atlantis. Namor shares the same goal with Wakanda to protect Vibranium from getting into the hands of global nations who want to weaponize the valuable mineral for mass destruction.
He invites Princess Shuri to take a tour of his realm and shares his origin story about the pains of witnessing colonialism during slavery. Namor is a 500 year old Mayan descendant, who understands the legacy of war and the urgency of preventing Vibraniam from falling into the wrong hands. He eventually presents Shuri with a threat that she will have to choose to work with his descendants or he will have no choice other than to consider Wakanda to be an enemy that he would vow to destroy.
Wakanda Forever director Ryan Coogler had an insurmountable task to face the death of Boseman by incorporating it into the storyline, while rewriting the script with Joe Robert Cole. Those are big shoes to fill with the absence of Chadwick as King. There are attempts to have characters portrayed by Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Danai Gurira and Martin Freeman to shape the narrative. The film has a long runtime of 2 hours and 40 minutes that doesn’t help when the storyline falters, especially whenever Freeman’s flighty character is on screen. Why is Princess Shuri so preoccupied with an outsider, when the existence of her own nation is in dire jeopardy?
Other unnecessary tangential storylines included a few times when Okoye was berated for being bald and called to question whether her complexion was ashy, until she is reassured with a Rihanna product placement reminder, that her Fenty foundation is the correct selection. The fact that Western beauty standards are projected on the venerable leader of the Dora Milaje is a big disappointment, because the depiction of Wakanda from the first film was to celebrate and uplift the descendents of African ancestry, to represent their beauty and promise of how the continent would have flourished without the horrific crimes of colonization. The love themes presented in the first Black Panther that highlight the relationships of King T’Challa and Nakia along with Okoye with her husband W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya) are fully abandoned. Okoye seems only focused on her role as a protector in this film and underdeveloped. The dynamic of her romance with her partner offered a different perspective that made her a three dimensional character that was not only utilized to be ridiculed for her appearance.
Angela Bassett looks regal on screen and does a good job in her role as Queen Ramonda, while the audience mourns with her and feels compassion for the passing of her son. She states in a chilling scene from Wakanda Forever. “I am Queen of the most powerful nation and my entire family is gone.” It is her maternal guidance that teaches us how to heal and engage in rituals to uplift the memory of ancestors who have passed. Unfortunately, Disney often relies too heavily on tragic tropes to force a main character to propel forward on their journey to maturity. Namor tells Princess Shuri. “My ancestors would often say only the most broken people, can be great leaders.” It feels at times as if the grief depicted on screen can be too much to bear when it is compounded with the death of loved ones. Letitia Wright tries her best to pick up the reigns with her role, but the sadness on screen is palpable throughout.
The underwater action scenes and the depiction of the fighting skills of the Talokan nation appear to be far superior to the Wakanda warriors, who mainly use their spears for protection. Namor’s legion of followers are formidable foes. The battle scenes are massive and the special effects allow you to be fully transported and immersed in the film. Oscar winning costume designer Ruth Carter’s work is another reason to be in awe of the intricate fabrics and regal attire that is shown on screen for this massive production. I spoke to John David Washington after I saw the film. Denzel Washington’s son told me that he believed Chadwick would have been proud of the sequel. It meant a lot to hear that critique after his father was responsible for mentoring Chadwick from when he was a student at Howard University.
Black Panther Wakanda Forever is a moving reflection for fans on the legacy of Chadwick Boseman, who was the gravitas and soul of this inspiring MCU saga. It was historic for a majestic Black superhero to exist in a world created by Oscar winner Hannah Beachler. The film lacks much of the hope that was provided in the first installment, but a glimpse of the future for the franchise is shown at the end credits.
Rating : 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is now in theaters.
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