Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Released: 11 November 2022
Director: Ryan Coogler
Starring: Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke, Florence Kasumba, Dominique Thorne, Michaela Coel, Tenoch Huerta Mejía

The sequel to 2018’s Black Panther focusses less on being an average Marvel movie and more of a memorial to the life of the amazing Chadwick Boseman, the series’ main star who sadly passed away from colon cancer in 2020. Whilst Wakanda Forever struggles with its story and tedious runtime, it still crafts a beautiful tribute to its former king which really was the overall aim of the movie to begin with.

Marvel elected not to recast Boseman and decided to continue his legacy in another way with the spirit of King T’Challa flowing throughout the latest story and at times the movie feels like a form of spiritual healing. The theme of grief and overturning this emotion is strong and our main cast come face-to-face in dealing with this despite the world and its enemies evolving around them.

Letitia Wright shines in her starring role as princess Shuri, T’Challa’s younger sister who eventually takes up the role of the Black Panther. There’s a certain coming of age feel here with Shuri, she needs to face a fearsome threat whilst trying to come to terms with her brother’s passing. Shuri is extremely purposeful and the agony of losing people close to her enhances her motives and gives her the bravery to finally lead Wakanda into battle against the mighty Namor. I liked Wright’s performance, we see her at her weakest and also her strongest, the depth of her acting here is quite something.

Tenoch Huerta Mejía’s portrayal of Namor is easily the best part of the movie. From his first appearance, which is done in such a frightening and superb way, he really does craft a hateful character who is so convincing. I love how the story makes us trust him for a brief period, almost sympathising with him, before ripping that all up and showing him in his full villainous form. His relationship with Shuri is also developed particularly well, there seems to be some understanding between the two until the line is crossed. He doesn’t fall into the mediocre antagonist category that are accustomed to most MCU villains, he’s unique and fits the tone of the movie extremely well.

The returning characters all play their part, some more than others however my biggest criticism is of the new characters Wakanda Forever tries to force in. Whilst I have no issues with Riri Williams aka Ironheart entering into the MCU, the inclusion of the character feels unnecessary and almost like she doesn’t belong in the story she’s in. Dominique Thorne is fine in the role but her debut could have been done in a different environment, this movie didn’t need it and she, as well as her interactions with other characters, felt so out of place. A particular mention to Angela Bassett who returns as Queen Ramonda, her portrayal is different from what we have seen before, she’s struggling to deal with world leaders closing in on Wakanda as well as managing a post T’Challa kingdom.

Like I said the flick really struggles with the dragged out runtime and other than the middle act there’s nothing that overly excited me in terms of storytelling or set pieces. The action sequence when Namor attacks Wakanda halfway through is well done, the movie feels like its really getting somewhere at that point but it doesn’t capitalise on any of the momentum that entire sequence builds. By the time we get to the final act there’s nothing we haven’t already seen before and it feels like a big repeat of what’s come before.

If the movie was trying to create a touching tribute to Chadwick Boseman then it succeeds, anything else falls short and I’m left begging the question whether this series has enough to hold its own after Boseman’s sad and untimely death. Like its predecessor it has some fascinating visual shots and its musical score immerses the audience, taking us back to Wakanda with some exceptional pieces of music but it’s just not enough.

Rating – 5/10

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