The Marvel cinematic universe has come a long way over the years, with multiple films exploring the triumph and hardships of superheroes and the world they reside in. One of the harshest things the MCU has needed to deal with is grieving the loss of loved ones and everything that comes afterward, which has been an ongoing theme of Phase 4. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is forced to tackle this on two fronts, while simultaneously closing a chapter of the MCU in preparation for the next phase. Though there are some missteps and stumbles along the way, Wakanda Forever handles that near-impossible task with class and good taste. There are things that not everyone will like, but real loss and grief seldom come with anything that we really want.
The giant elephant in the room is the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman in real life, which is echoed and felt in a very tangible way throughout the whole film. T’Challa passes away at the start, which is followed by a heartfelt tribute and homage to the late and great actor. Characters we’ve come to know from the first Black Panther film, and throughout the MCU, are shown as emotionally vulnerable and hurting. It’s a feeling that the cast and crew of the movie put on full display. It’s a level of emotion that the audience feels in a way that makes for great films, mirroring both real life and the cinematic universe we watch on screen.
What about the rest of Wakanda Forever? The bulk of the story is focused on Shuri and how she deals with the loss of T’Challa, as well as how everyone around her processes their grief. Letitia Wright does an excellent job showing multiple emotions with each of the other side characters, especially alongside Danai Gurira as Okoye.
The two of them have some fun banter and interesting moments early on in the film. Many of the women from the first Black Panther take a central focus for a lot of what happens, which pulls back Winston Duke as M’Baku to a much more secondary role. He’s good when on screen with Shuri and other Wakanda royalty but definitely doesn’t do as much here as in the first film.
The heavyweight of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is most definitely Angela Bassett as Queen Ramonda. The range of emotions and reactions she has for many of the big events in the film is what we love to see within the MCU. It’s a powerful performance that will have you empathizing with the hardship and tragedy the Queen faces, both for her family and her nation. There are some moments where her actions are questionable and may not make sense at first, but when you realize she is a mother dealing with the loss of her son, everything falls better into place. You don’t need to be a parent to relate to the pain that Queen Ramonda feels during her time on screen.
Looming above everything is the rising threat of other nations looking to take Wakanda’s precious resource, vibranium. This political aspect of the plot is present throughout, and is the catalyst for certain events, but is not the central problem. The underwater nation of Talocan and its ruler King Namor is a big threat here, with a motivation that makes sense even though it’s not entirely fleshed out fully. Tenoch Huerta plays Namor with a Latin American nobility and underlying viciousness that is fitting for the character.
However, comic fans may or may not be happy with the heavy changes to the character’s origin that better suit the movie here, as well as it’s similar symbolism to the first Black Panther. It makes you wish we had the chance to see T’Challa interact with Namor, and what he would have done in response to Namor’s actions. But alas, we may never know.
Talocan and Wakanda are similar in that they are unique cultures that utilize vibranium for different means. Underwater scenes show Talocan look beautiful and offer a look at a new group that can influence the Marvel Cinematic Universe going forward. Unfortunately, many of the people and side characters that come from Talocan aren’t given the same depth or attention as who we’ve come to know from Wakanda. Attuma, played by Alex Livinalli, has some great action sequences with both Okoye and Shuri in the film but we aren’t given much for who he is and his complicated relationship with Namor. In the comics, this character is more significant than how he’s presented in the film. With so little time to tell the story, there doesn’t leave much room for characters like Attuma to be fleshed out better.
Speaking of which, the typical Marvel movie trope of setting up future projects is here with the introduction of Riri Williams, also known as Ironheart. Riri has significance to the main plot due to her actions off-screen that provoke Namor and Talocan to take action against the surface world, which brings her into contact with Shuri and Okoye. While she does have some significant role to play in this story, she doesn’t share the same emotional weight as everyone else does, nor does she really need to be around, to begin with.
It’s great finally seeing her within an Iron Man armor she built and helping Shuri and Wakanda, but afterward feels non-important. Riri is going to get her own show on Disney Plus eventually, so we’ll probably get to learn more about her in that story. But was she important enough to need to be in Wakanda Forever? The honest truth is no. Her actions could’ve easily been done by Shuri and would’ve probably made for a more connected film between Shuri and Namor towards the end.
As far as how the movie is presented, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a great-looking film. Ryan Coogler knows how to make a great frame and showcase the colors and details of this world. The movie has some very good-looking shots of Wakanda, the people within Wakanda, Namor, and Talocan, as well as many of the big action sequences that unfold.
There are some very cool shots of underwater animals being used in battle, as well as the ships and technology of Wakanda on full display. No matter what one might say about the film, nobody can say that the film doesn’t look fantastic.
Is Black Panther: Wakanda Forever a good film you should watch? Yes, it is entertaining and offers a different emotional side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe we hardly get to experience. Despite the very sad and harsh tragedy, everyone needed to deal with, the movie is successful in working with what it has to make another good entry into the MCU. It’s a moment for everyone to grieve, process, and dust off in preparation for what is next. Wakanda Forever is not as enthusiastic or lighthearted as other movies, not by choice, but manages to close out Phase 4 definitively.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
This movie is good, with a lot of emotion and heartfelt scenes that will impact everyone. There are some plot points that are questionable, which may or may not work with some viewers. The visuals are very good with lots of color and lighting effects that make certain scenes look great. For MCU fans, this gives some closure and hope for what might come next.