‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ Is A Beautiful Tribute To Chadwick Boseman And One Of Marvel’s Best – Review
The sequel to one of Marvel’s best films is almost here, but it comes with great sadness. Chadwick Boseman passed away in 2020, and the filmmakers had to take a huge step back and consider what would be next for the story. This was arduous because Boseman’s TChalla was the heart of the original film. Director Ryan Coogler stepped up to the challenge and ensured that Boseman’s legacy was honored throughout the film.
The film’s events follow the death of King T’Challa and explore how people cope with grief and overcome the loss of loved ones. The sequel, which pits Wakanda against Namor (Tenoch Huerta) and the underwater nation of Talokan, has several actors reprising their roles, including Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke, Florence Kasumba, Martin Freeman, and Angela Bassett. In addition, there are some newcomers alongside Huerta, like Michaela Coel, Mabel Cadena, Alex Livinalli and Dominique Thorne.
The top-notch acting from the cast carried over from the original film. In the previous film, you felt Shuri’s love and respect for her brother. The chemistry between Wright and Boseman was one of the highlights, so when she loses that light, her journey feels all too real and relatable when it comes to losing someone you loved, especially if they were a family member. I already expected greatness from Wright, but having her lead the movie and have the most screen time impressed me. In Wakanda Forever, Shuri has to process unexpected grief, and it is difficult for her to find light and peace within herself.
Bassett delivers one of her best performances to date. Queen Ramonda has already experienced the passing of her husband, and when we see her in this film, we know her grieving is renewed. Still, unlike her daughter, Shuri, Ramonda recognizes her grief and goes through the various stages that come with that. Wright and Bassett share some powerful scenes in the film that sometimes leave you shattered. This is a testament to their acting and the script.
Ramonda sees her daughter’s pain and wants to help her, but at the same time, not pushing her too hard. Ramonda’s faith guides her, whereas Shuri believes more in her science and technology. I loved how they leaned into this because it is something we’ve seen happen in the real world. Ultimately, seeing Shuri’s arc include finding her faith was compelling.
Huerta’s Namor has one of the strongest live-action debuts for any comic book character on the big screen. Although he’s seen as a foe to the Wakandans, he feels more like an anti-hero. Namor is such a complex character, and Huerta brings out the complexity in all the best ways. And not to mention, he’s one of the first confirmed Mutants we’re seeing in the MCU, which I thought was cool. An element I appreciated was how deeply inspired by Mesoamerican cultures, specifically from the Yucatan and the Mayan post-classic period. This added a nuanced layer to the Talokans that I loved seeing.
Considering Namor plays a significant role in the movie, it’s no surprise that a good portion of the film is underwater. Visually, the water sequences were beautiful and transported us to a new world we never saw before in the MCU. They were similar to Aquaman, which did a fantastic VFX. I would love to see a Namor movie that takes place mostly underwater.
Outside of water, when Namor was fighting and moving in the air, I thought it looked so fluid and smooth. They did a great job capturing his power while making it feel a bit grounded to the world they’re playing in. When Namor and the Talokans fight the Wakandans, we get some epic fight scenes that have you at the edge of your seat. The fight scenes are great when they go toe-to-toe, but they focused more on the emotional beats rather than big spectacles that would visually wow the audience. In my opinion, this was the right move.
I was interested to see how they were going to handle Nakia. When we meet her, she has left Wakanda and is living in Haiti. You can tell that she is still affected by the loss but compared to some of the other characters, you sense a certain peace. As explored in the later half of the movie, you understand why and it is gut-wrenching. Nyong’o doesn’t get as much screen time as the original, but when we see her, her scenes feel like it is just herself speaking, not her character Nakia. That’s how powerful it felt.
Gurira’s Okoye was another of the many highlights that this film delivered. As the general, she is probably the closest to the Queen and Shuri, and she is just as hurt by the loss of T’Challa. I was impressed with the range of emotions Gurira delivered throughout the film. She still has her lovable whit, but her arc was powerful and gave her character a new light I wasn’t expecting. She has one badass fight scene against the Talokans, one of the best in the film. Each of the hits felt so intense. Please give us more Okoye in the future!
I was pleasantly surprised with how much we saw Thorne’s Riri Williams. I went in expecting an introduction and a nice setup for the Ironheart series, but we got much more. She plays an essential part in the story and seamlessly fits into the MCU. Besides Namor, I think she was another one of the film’s breakout characters. Her being close in age to Shuri created great dialogue and funny banter between the pair. She has a bright future in the MCU.
The Dora Milaje are just as badass and excellent as before. They even have a couple of new tricks up their sleeve. Coel is another great addition to the cast, with a few fantastic action scenes and a brief nod to her comic relationship with Kasumba’s Ayo. I would love to see her have a more significant role in the MCU, similar to what they did in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier with Ayo. However, with a World of Wakanda show in the works, who knows what we will see from them next.
Throughout the films, we’ve seen M’Baku become more intertwined with all the people of Wakanda, not just the Jabari. Although this film is somber, Duke brings levity to some scenes when it’s felt like it’s needed. Seeing him be a part of the council and a pillar for the people was hard-earned character development, and I enjoyed seeing that.
Last but not least is everyone’s favorite colonizer, Everett Ross. Since he owes Shuri his life, the way in which he is tied to this story is very interesting. It also does some setting up for future things within the MCU. He’s connected to some characters that I didn’t see coming, but in an effort to keep this review spoiler free, I will speak to that more at a later time!
The MCU can sometimes lean more towards lightheartedness and shy away from more serious tones. However, I believe Wakanda Forever is easily one of the most serious films we’ve gotten in the MCU. Although Phase 4 has had some solid films and shows, closing out Phase 4 with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was fantastic because it is the best film in this phase. It is also (arguably) the best film the MCU has released since Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, which is no small feat. It was also powerful to see three Black women leading this major MCU movie, and with the addition of Namor and his people, this felt highly inclusive.
It’s hard to compare the sequel to the original film because it was different in so many ways, especially given the circumstance. This cathartic experience now holds a special place in my heart. Coogler delivered an epic and emotional sequel that is an incredible tribute to Chadwick Boseman’s legacy. Wakanda Forever is one of the best and most ambitious sequels we’ve gotten from the MCU. Wright, Bassett, and Huerta give their all in the roles. From the cast and crew, I give them all their flowers for being able to return and put together something so special.
Black Panther was already one of the MCU’s best properties, and the sequel keeps it that way. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is one of Marvel’s finest films.