Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Marvel Studios

Written by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole

Directed by Ryan Coogler

Starring Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Tenoch Huerta, Martin Freeman, Dominique Thorne, Florence Kasumba, Michaela Coel, Alex Livinalli, Mabel Cadena and Julia Louis Dreyfus

Rated PG-13

The people of Wakanda fight to protect their home from intervening world powers as they mourn the death of King T’Challa.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever returns the audience to Wakanda and delivers the first of many emotional gut punches as it deals with the loss of Chadwick Boseman through his character T’Challa aka The Black Panther. It is an emotional scene that highlights exactly where many of the emotional beats of the film will derive from as Shuri (Wright) and Ramonda (Bassett) are put in the forefront to not only deal with their personal loss, but also the nations of the world attempting to use that loss as a means of stealing the country’s biggest resource, Vibranium.

The internal and external conflicts drive the action, adventure and emotional journeys of these characters and Coogler trusts the audience to have the maturity to engage with the complex themes of the film. This is done through incredibly interesting and profound conversations between characters and all of them have their moments to shine from Nakia (Nyong’o) returning to a world that she left behind because of her duty to Wakanda, to Ramonda standing in her role of Queen by showing her power to the world while also dealing with her loss as well as M’Baku (Duke) showing a growth in his character as he tries to council Shuri along her path.

Danai Gurira’s Okoye has one of the tougher arcs in the film and there is a scene between she and Ramonda that is heartbreaking because Gurira delivers the pain of the character with every line. You feel both sides of the conflict in that moment and your heart breaks for both characters. An emotional theme that will permeate throughout the movie.

The newest addition to the cast is the arrival of Namor (Huerta) and the people of Talokan who have a connection to Wakanda that resulted in them developing along a similar path. Both societies have a central conflict of protecting themselves and their cultures from the encroaching greed of the outside world and their strife comes from how each of them plans to deal with it. This clash of ideologies is manifest in the search for Riri Williams (Thorne) who has developed technology that puts both countries at risk. Her character is more than just a target for the conflict in the film and Thorne brings amazing presence and agency to the character.

Huerta’s Namor is a great character as well. Cold, confident and calculating, the character transcends his comic book origins by being more than a villain. In essence, he isn’t a villain at all and Huerta portrays him as a man who will do anything to protect his people from a world he knows will exploit and ultimately destroy them and his culture. In that sense, both sides have valid reasons for their conflict and you find yourself not rooting for one side to defeat the other, but for both sides to find common ground as the bigger threat lies outside their respective borders.

Not everything in the film is perfect. The death of Boseman naturally required a change in the story and I felt that a lot in the pacing of the film. There were scenes that went a little too long while there were others that should have been longer. Many times, the emotional weight of the story overshadowed the conflict, action and stakes of the film because I was feeling the emotion rather than experiencing the adventure. That being said, Wakanda Forever earns every minute of its almost three hour run time and I never felt bored or took my eyes off the screen.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever beautifully says goodbye to Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa, positions its characters for bigger, more intriguing conflicts to come and brilliantly closes out this current phase of the MCU by not only giving us new characters to explore, but also elevating what the Marvel Cinematic Universe can do emotionally and thematically on the screen.

(There is a mid-credit scene that sets up something interesting for the future of Black Panther and specifically, one of its characters. It’s a wonderful, organic way of answering one of the bigger questions fans had about the character of T’Challa.)

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

9.2

9.2/10

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