Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Review

Tenoch Huerta Mejía as Namor in Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever continues the legacy of Chadwick Boseman in a sequel that helps us greive his loss and look towards the future. At a runtime of 2 hours and 41 minutes we are given a great story but the time could have been used to either give more character development to some characters or just be cut out altogether. Don’t get me wrong, the movie is a fantastic sequel to the original but some things feel out of place. Out of all the Phase 4 films that have been released, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever set the course back on track and makes up for what we have been served recently.

Ok, let’s start with the elephant or panther in the room; the loss of Chadwick Boseman. The film does not shy away from his lose right at the beginning of the movie. While we do not know what is initially happening we see Shuri scrambling to make a synthetic Heart Shaped Herb. During these first few minutes and throughout the Marvel logo sequence you could hear a pin drop in the theater. The movie hits you in the gut right away and wants you to feel this pain and think about how you will deal with it. This is the struggle that faces Shuri during the movie.

With the introduction of Wakanda to the modern world, the powers that be want Wakanda to share their Vibranium with them. They feel threatened that this “small” nation has all of this advance technology but will not give it to others. This leads to Wakanda being looked on as a threat. Queen Ramonda elgantly states that they are not sharing their resources because they know what other nations will do with it. When an attempted takeover of a Wakandan facility is foiled, Queen Ramonda uses this attack as a reason as to why Wakanda will not share Vibranium with the world. Mirroring real life, when one nation is not given something that they ask for they will go around people’s backs to try to get it.

In a U.S. base out in the Atlantic they are drilling in the sea trying to find Vibranium. The team finds it but are attacked by a new threat. Since Vibranium was found at the site, the attack is attributed to Wakanda. The attack also builds tension between Wakanda and the rest of the world. This is where Everett Ross comes into play as a liason between Wakanda and the United States. He owes Wakanda for saving his life and will do what he can to help them and prevent a war.

It is revelaed that a U.S. scientist created the drill that was able to detect the Vibranium and Namor asks Queen Ramonda and Shuri to help him find them. He asks for the scientist and he will leave Wakanda and the world alone but if he does not get what he wants he will wage war with the world. This plot was a bit reminiscent of Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness where the villian is looking for one person to fulfill their need. This is where the similarities ends.

In Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, America Chavez was a plot device that misused the character. It was only in the final minutes of that movie that we were able to see what she was capable of. Maybe learning from that misuse, Coogler makes Riri Williams a more rounded character than America Chavez. Although we are given Riri’s story in quick 5 minutes we are able to understand where she is coming from and why she feels she has to prove herself to those around her. You can not help but like her character and want to see what her future will bring in the upcoming Disney+ show. It also is great to see the Chicago flag represented in her dorm room.

There are some great action sequences in the movie and I don’t want to give away too much of the movie. The connection that Shuri and Namor have not only boosts their performance but makes you question what decision should be made. When Namor tells Shuri his story he shows her how they are similar: “Two nations being drained of their resources by another race”. This line is so powerful and poignantly mimicks what is going on in the world today. There is so much infighting between races that we do not pay attention to who is making them fight.

Letitia Wright grows in this movie. She grows not only as T’Challa’s little sister but as the Princess set to one day rule Wakanda. During the movie we see her internal struggle. She wants to burn the world down for giving her the knowledge and technology to solve everything but not enough to save her brother’s life. She also wants to be humble and royal like her brother. We feel that pain and it comes out of her whenever she is on the screen. Wright’s perfomance is stellar and a great compliment to Huerta’s Namor.

Tenoch Huerta Mejía’s Namor is one of the stand-out characters in the movie. Where it has become the norm to make you like the villain in these movies, Namor’s story is a little different because he wants to stay hidden. His character has seen the evil that the people on land can do and he does not want to be a part of it. Only when an operation comes too close to his home he seeks help to protect his people. Yes, his request is harsh but if it is met he will go away. He knows his kingdom is powerful, which we will get into soon, but does not want to use it’s power unless he has to. What he has created underwater is beautiful and he will do anything to protect. “Imperius Rex!”

Before we talk about Talokan just seeing and hearing my native tongue spoken on the screen bought tears to my eyes. Hearing the characters talk about Namor in Spanish in a Marvel movie just felt beautiful and surreal to me. What was even more amazing was going through Talokan and all of the imagery in that scene. We see some of the Talokanil playing Pok-A-Tok, which is an ancient Mayan game. The people of Talokan speak Yucatec Mayan which was also amazing to hear on the screen. The Mesoamerican imagery is so stunning that it stays with you after the movie is over. Coogler stated “We wanted to recognize that there are so many Mayan communities in Mexico, Central America and here in the US, even though they are oftentimes misrepresented as a people that don’t exist anymore.” This recognition is present in every moment we see Namor and his people of the screen.

Quick takes on some of the other characters: Angela Bassett IS Queen Ramonda and she deserves all of the praise she is getting for this role. She has lost a lot for her people and the world and she does not rule in fear. Give her an award for this role right now!

A scene from Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

Winston Duke’s M’Baku felt a little off for me. Maybe he has matured since the battle with Thanos but he felt more subdued this time around. He still kicks ass and has a strong presence but there was just something off.

Nakia and Okoye were perfect in their roles. We see a new side of Okoye this go round and I really enjoyed seeing this side of her. As for Nakia, she does what she does best and that’s being a spy that comes through for her people. I just wanted a bit more screentime for her character.

Final Thoughts: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a great continuation of the legacy of Black Panther that was started by the great Chadwick Boseman. The movie is visually stunning to look at and there are moments where the scenery just envelopes you in its beauty. The themes of loss, revenge, and hope are perfectly balanced but there are moments that are a miss at times. Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejía) is the break-out character of this movie along with Letitia Wright’s Shuri. Wakanda Forever lets us grieve the loss of our King and look forward to a future after him.

Kid-Friendly: Dealing with loss is one of the themes of the movie. While this theme might be heavy for younger viewers the film does not shy away from how that loss affects those left behind. While this is a Marvel movie there is an underlying theme of how two exploited races are made to fight each other instead of their common enemy. For some children, these themes might go above their heads and they might just focus on the action that is in front of them.

Violence: The amount of violence in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is similar to that from the first movie. You do not see any bloodshed within the fights but the damage to other persons is implied. There are multiple fight sequences in the film but the fantasy violence is never gratuitous.

In Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), Shuri (Letitia Wright), M’Baku (Winston Duke), Okoye (Danai Gurira) and the Dora Milaje (including Florence Kasumba) fight to protect their nation from intervening world powers in the wake of King T’Challa’s death. As the Wakandans strive to embrace their next chapter, the heroes must band together with the help of War Dog Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) and forge a new path for the kingdom of Wakanda. Introducing Tenoch Huerta Mejía as Namor, ruler of a
hidden undersea nation, the film also stars Dominique Thorne, Michaela Coel, Mabel Cadena and Alex Livinalli. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” directed by Ryan Coogler and produced by Kevin Feige and Nate Moore

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