Review | Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)
“Despite the gaping Chadwick Boseman-shaped hole, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever still manages to pack a punch. But the emotional weight will cause floods of tears,” says Carl Roberts
Let us face the inevitable question straight away. Is Black Panther: Wakanda Forever a good sequel to the original without the late Chadwick Boseman? Yes, it is. The film is a delight in many ways. The whole film is framed in a great way. It is presented to us almost perfectly. Despite the gaping Chadwick Boseman-shaped hole, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever still manages to pack a punch or two. But the emotional weight will cause floods of tears. And I do mean floods. Tissues are needed almost from the very start. And you’ll need more by the end credits and beyond.
The leaders of the kingdom of Wakanda fight to protect their nation from invading forces in the wake of King T’Challa’s death, while a new threat emerges from the hidden undersea nation of Tālocān ruled by Namor.
From the start of proceedings, we are in for an emotional ride. Believe me, you will require tissues during almost the entire ten-minute opening. And then we come to the Marvel logo itself. We shed tears during the opening of the film. Here, the floodgates themselves will open. The Marvel logo is as I suspected it would be. But I didn’t count on the emotion it would bring. I was heartbroken at the death of Chadwick Boseman. During the Marvel logo, I admit it, I tried and failed to hold it together. It is sheer perfection. And one that I dare fans not to get emotional over.
The film itself is enjoyable without being exceptional. That’s not to say that the film outstays its welcome during its two hours and forty-one minutes run time. It doesn’t. It delivers us a spectacle that we can all sit back and enjoy. Every minute is vital to the storyline and for the franchise moving forward. It is heavy with plotlines and story but not for a minute is anything wasted. It brings to us a spectacle that will dazzle audiences and have them cheering at various points. And Marvel fans will get exactly what they want from a comic book movie.
The film makes us laugh, cheer, and entertains us from start to finish. However, the emotional weight the film carries weighs heavily on the proceedings. The film does contain some amazing action and battle sequences. But the truth of the matter is the underlying message the film contains and conveys quite well. It is a film about loss, the grieving process, and the aftermath of the death of someone close to you. About our feelings of helplessness, anger, devastation, and coming out the other side. How we move forward once we come to terms with it. The movie has that in spades, for obvious reasons, but it is presented to us in a way that we can all relate to and understand. Sometimes, a little too well. And a little too close to home.
Letitia Wright now leads the franchise. And her performance here is exactly what the film needs. As Shuri, Letitia Wright packs the emotional clout to make us follow her journey here. It is no surprise to learn that the character feels guilty about her brother’s death. Despite all her technological knowledge and abilities, Shuri can’t stop the inevitability of death. And she feels helpless, angry, and devastated about that. Shuri is now the main focus of the film and the franchise. And Letitia Wright manages to pull it off with seeming ease.
Lupita Nyong’o reprises her role as Nakia, an undercover spy for Wakanda. And once again, her performance grounds the film. Nakia doesn’t get as much screen time as she deserves. But when she does, the film picks up even more weight and purpose. Lupita Nyong’o is another vital cog in the machine. Without her, it wouldn’t be as even as the film is. Hers is a steading presence in the scheme of things. And she will play a vital role again in the franchise moving forward.
ANGELA BASSETT AND TENOCH HUERTA
Angela Bassett returns in her role as Ramonda, T’Challa, and Shuri’s mother. And she too is a vital piece of the film. Her role is to steady the people of Wakanda, to keep the country safe, all while dealing with the death of her son and her grief. But we can also see the fierceness behind her. Instead of letting her grief consume her, as it does her daughter, she uses it to drive herself forward. Angela Bassett comes ever so close to stealing the film from everyone else. Surely, an Oscar must be waiting for her soon. It is an inspired performance. One that keeps the film moving extremely well.
Tenoch Huerta makes his Marvel film debut as Namor. And delivers a great performance. We can’t help but like Namor, despite what he does during the film. We understand that what he does is for his people, even if the way he goes about it is all wrong. He is an anti-hero in many respects. But one we follow and want to see more of as things progress. He has to take action to protect his people, get them to protect themselves, and protect their oceanic world of Talokan. Make no mistake, he is the villain of the piece but not in the way you would expect. Huerta makes us believe Namor can destroy everyone and everything if he so desires. And it is a wonderful debut for the character.
DOMINIQUE THORN, FLORENCE KASUMBA, AND MICHAELA COEL
Dominique Thorn appears as Riri Williams/ Ironheart. And makes for a terrific secondary character. Her sassiness is the perfect antidote to all the sweetness that occurs from time to time. Riri is a technological genius and has created a suit that rivals Iron Man’s almost down to the minute detail. Both she and Shuri are similar to each other in many ways. And it isn’t a spoiler to say they work well together, bouncing ideas off one another to come up with the perfect solution. Dominique Thorne is a welcome addition to the MCU and it will be great to see her again in the Disney+ series Ironheart.
Florence Kasumba once again plays Ayo, the second-in-command of the Dora Milaje. And from the second she appears, we feel safe and in familiar territory. The last time we saw Ayo was in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier. Here, her role is expanded and she delivers in spades. She is also another vital cog in the machine that is the film. And we can’t wait to see her appear once again in the future.
Michaela Coel as Aneka is almost the comic relief. And she is wonderful. Aneka displays a rebellious streak that goes against everything that the Dora Milaje holds dear. And it is terrific. When we first meet her, she makes us laugh at her chipper attitude toward Okoye and Ayo. But she comes into her own during proceedings and Michaela Coel plays her part with ease.
But the standout of the entire cast is Danai Gurira as Okoye, the head of the Dora Milaje. We first encounter her again at almost the start of the film. And are surprised to see that Okoye displays emotion, shedding tears we never thought she would. From here on, she is the perfect supporting character for Letitia Wright’s Shuri. The pair play off each other brilliantly. And Okoye actually does the impossible by making us laugh out loud. Danai Gurira has come into her own playing the character. So much so that when she isn’t on screen, we want her to return as quickly as possible. The jokes made at Okoye’s expense are wonderful and Danai Gurira displays a great sense of comic timing to go alongside her action-packed performance. As soon as she bursts into action, we cheer her on, making her the best thing in the whole film.
WRITING AND DIRECTION
Ryan Coogler once again directs the film as well as being half of the screenwriting duo alongside Joe Robert Cole. And again he directs proceedings with great flair. Every shot is beautifully framed with vibrant color, with great attention to detail and every penny spent on the film is up there for all to see. The film zips along at a decent enough pace and never fails to hold our attention. The writing is also pretty good, with plot exposition, details, and enough weight to wring every emotion from the audience. Some things drag the film down slightly but are not enough to distract the audience from what is going on during the proceedings or make the audience want the next big sequence. But it is the emotional content that moves the film forward, making the film as good as it is.
There are some faults within the film. Some of the visual effects are not up to par with what we expect with a film of this kind. Some we can see have been filmed against a green screen and leave a lot to be desired. They are not enough to take us out of the film but do play on our minds slightly.
The biggest fault though is the character of Black Panther. For a film entitled Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the character doesn’t show up until three-quarters of the way through. We can see why this happens. But we have come to see Black Panther in action. And we don’t get it for a long time. The anticipation and build-up are worth it when the character finally appears. But it does take a long time to get to that point. And when the character appears, we think ‘finally.’
The film earns another star simply because of the emotional content. The first ten minutes or so drag us through the emotional wringer. But just before the film ends, we get hit with something that will wreck the audience. Tissues are needed big time. The emotional wave that has been coming and going, threatening to overwhelm us hits and destroys us. It has been a long time since something in a movie made me an emotional wreck. The film did it to me this time. By the time we get to the mid-credits stinger, we are not prepared for what they will do to us next. And it hits us right where it hurts. Talk about hitting us before we have time to recover!
The film does exactly what it needs to do. It continues the franchise, the legacy of the Black Panther, and provides some top-quality entertainment. The cast is all invested in their roles, Ryan Coogler writes and directs brilliantly, the action sequences are top-notch and the whole film is what the MCU has been crying out for this year after the godawful Thor: Love & Thunder. It also provides a fitting and moving farewell to the late Chadwick Boseman. Although his sad absence is evident throughout, the film is the perfect way to say goodbye to our departed friend. And leaves us with a reminder of his legacy as Black Panther while moving things forward. Welcome to the new Black Panther. Rest in power Chadwick Boseman. Wakanda Forever indeed!
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is in theaters from Friday, November 11th. Book your tickets now.
Carl Roberts is the News Editor for The Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force frequently!