Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
In the aftermath of the death of King T’Challa & the destruction of the Heart-Shaped Herb by Killmonger, Wakanda is left without its protector: The Black Panther.
Genre: Action / Drama / Fantasy / Science Fiction
Director: Ryan Coogler
Cast: Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira, Angela Bassett, Tenoch Huerta, Winston Duke, Lupita Nyong’o, Mabel Cadena, Dominique Thorne & Martin Freeman.
Run Time: 161 min.
US Release: 11 November 2022
UK Release: 11 November 2022
German Release: 09 November 2022
Well, I finally went to see Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, a movie I wasn’t really looking forward to as, since the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman, I lost all interest in that part of the MCU. That said, I was pleasantly surprised by what was delivered by Ryan Coogler! This is a good movie, not great but good, that honours the memory of Boseman as well as the role he portrayed while setting up different pieces into motion for future storylines. So, let’s strike right into my review of this second feature of the Wakandan superhero.
Mourning the death of King T’Challa, sovereign leader and protector of the technologically advanced nation of Wakanda, the people need to step up to protect their kingdom, as the different world powers see their chance to intervene in obtaining the rare metal Vibranium.
Plans for a follow-up were already in motion in 2018, with the success of the first blockbuster. After the death of Boseman from colon cancer in August 2020, however, Coogler needed to start from scratch, since it was decided that the character would not be re-cast to honour the actor's memory. It was a polite and beautiful sentiment that brought several issues with it. For one, who would inherit the mantle of the Black Panther? Secondly how to explain the sudden disappearance of T’Challa?
The director, together with his co-writing partner Joe Robert Cole, decided to implement the real-life situation into the script, by letting the character die of a mysterious illness. In doing so, it not only pays a respectful tribute to the actor, but Coogler managed to create a story that is cathartic for fans as well as the complete cast. It is a screenplay filled with powerful emotions, turning grief and blind anger into the hidden antagonists of the film. It also did well in weaving the fall of a nation's protector into a political plotline, where other grand powers see the chance to stronghold Wakanda for its resources, believing the country to be weak.
This leads into the feature’s biggest issue, as the narrative starts branching off into too many directions, adding unneeded personas and finally losing focus on what story it primarily wanted to tell. It is also too long for its own good, dropping in momentum around the middle of the second act, just like the first half of the third act. Finally, due to the amount of information that is bombarded at the audience in those close-to-three hours of runtime, little of the scenarios stick after a day of having watched it.
The changes made to the underwater nation of Namor, deviating from the source material, were fine for me. It was interesting to use the culturally rich background of South America, though let us not fool ourselves, those changes happened because the MCU wants to distance itself from DC, who used Atlantis first in their blockbuster Aquaman.
The conversations are what carry the emotions. There are several dialogues/monologues held by different people, especially an impressive one by Angela Bassett, where the lines between real pain and acted pain start to blur.
As stated before, there are way too many people running around this flick, some of who don’t add anything to the overall plot, such as Martin Freeman’s Everett Ross. As much as I like that supporting role, it would have sufficed to see him in one short scene. That said, most involved in this movie do give great renditions of their respective personas.
Letitia Wright, who returns as Shuri, gives a fantastic performance, especially when considering that she needed to step up from a supporting role to the lead character. She displays a credible battle of emotions, as Shuri’s rational brain tries to make sense of her spiritual traditions, all amidst her still processing the death of her brother. She is also the obvious choice to take on the mantle of Black Panther, though, personally, I thought she was wrong for it, as she doesn’t have the physicality and as such the credibility. In all honesty, it should have been Okoye.
Tenoch Huerta, who was cast as Namor, gives a good rendition as the villain opposing the kingdom of Wakanda. Namor is the leader of an unknown, Mayan descendant underwater nation, rich in Vibranium. Namor’s backstory is fleshed out well enough, to make audiences understand why this villain is making such radical decisions. Huerta plays Namor as a leader who has fallen victim to anger, still dealing with the losses of those that came before him. He is a perfect emotional mirror for Shuri’s struggle.
Danai Gurira returns as Okoye, giving an equally brilliant emotional performance. Having lost everything in the previous film, in the service for her country and crown, another devastating blow is served upon the character, after the tragic loss of her friend T’Challa. Gurira is amazing at selling her fighting stunts. After everything this warrior went through, she should have been bestowed with the honour of becoming the next Black Panther
Further magnificent performances are given by Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, just like Angela Bassett as Queen regent Ramonda, who probably should get nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Finally, Winston Duke as M’Baku is the comedic relief, stealing many great scenes. That said, the inclusion of Riri Williams, played by Dominique Thorne, simply distracted from the main narrative, with her depiction being rather irritating.
Cinematographically, this is a gorgeous piece of art to look at! The overstuffed narrative is gracefully saved by suave interlaced flashbacks plus intercuts, while the gigantic battles are mostly well captured, even if it gets a little bit hard to follow at times. The different colour grading set a balance between the surface world and the underwater nation of Talokan, while the lighting creates an atmosphere, underlining the fragile emotional state of the nation.
The CGI effects for the underwater sections plus the water effects themselves are well rendered, looking sufficiently realistic. That said, it is different once Namor himself rises into the air. The same goes for Shuri’s Black Panther suit, which is visibly computer animated. The blue-skinned look of the Talokan people is solid, though why the decision was made to compete with the design of James Cameron's Avatar sequel, to be released later this year, also taking place underwater, is unclear to me.
Tenet composer Ludwig Göransson was hired to create an exciting, sentimentally powerful, but also threatening soundtrack, which he fully delivered!
Verdict: Ryan Coogler managed the nearly impossible task, to create a follow-up to the widely acclaimed Black Panther, after the tragic passing of its lead actor Chadwick Boseman. What he delivered is a beautiful memorandum, with more emotion and less comedy, while also implementing a political theme that drives the story forward. Sadly a lot of that is put on hold by veering off course, bombarding audiences with new characters and future MCU elements that will be picked up in future premises. Riri Williams, played by Dominique Thorne, is annoying and as much as I appreciate Martin Freeman’s Everett Ross, his side arc is non-important. It is Letitia Wright, who steps up to the game, taking the mantle of the lead, giving a relatable performance. The cinematography is good, the effects primarily gorgeous, the music haunting. Wakanda Forever is good, not perfect, worth a 7.5 out of 10.
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