Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Nov 12, 2022 | Posted by in Movies
Wakanda Forever

The people of Wakanda deal with a devastating loss as a new threat emerges from the depths of the ocean in Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

The tragic death of Chadwick Boseman presented a major problem for both this film and the universe as a whole. It’s clear that he was being positioned as one of the major players following some notable leavers at the end of phase 3. Not to diminish the fact that an excellent talent and by all accounts wonderful person was taken far too young. The operative question going into this movie was how to make a sequel to Black Panther without the actual Black Panther. Recasting was an option but it’s a safe bet that most have conflated the actor and the character with no option to separate so that, for now, is very much not an option.

Wakanda Forever

Everyone needs time to heal

Wakanda Forever chooses to lean into the loss and build the film around it. The film opens with Shuri (Letitia Wright) frantically trying to concoct a miracle cure for her brother’s unnamed illness until she receives the news of his passing and has to deal with the reality of absence. T’Challa’s funeral is depicted with touching elegance, befitting an influential figure’s passing. The entire nation of Wakanda comes together to honour him and there’s a quiet dignity to the way the funeral is portrayed. Coogler does an admirable job of showing the scope of the event while maintaining an intimate focus on those closest to him. It highlights the widespread importance of T’Challa’s passing as well as the personal loss that now has to be processed.

Unsurprisingly, grief is the prevailing theme that the film explores with the major characters dealing with T’Challa’s loss in their own way. Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) maintains an outward quiet dignity while being torn apart inside, Shuri is overwhelmed by anger combined with an inability to truly accept the loss and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) feels the need to remove herself from the surroundings that remind her of T’Challa. Through the main characters, the film covers a wide spectrum of grief that highlights its complexity and provides fodder for varied characterisation all focused around the same idea. Grief is simple to understand as a concept as well as being infinitely complex in how it can be explored so it’s the perfect starting point for the main characters with defined progression built in.

Wakanda Forever is meditative in its first act. Ryan Coogler crafts the opening of the film around the message that grieving takes time and it’s ok to take that time to recalibrate before figuring out what the new normal looks like. Queen Ramonda doesn’t have the luxury of taking time off as the leader of a nation and it’s clear that she struggles to find the strength to perform her duties as the leader of a nation while working to deal with the reality of outliving her child and taking on the role he should be in. Angela Bassett’s performance is excellent; her presence is that of a monarch and she is given the opportunity to deliver multitudes such as quieter emotional moments, the jovial parent or powerhouse speeches.

Wakanda Forever

Just when I thought I was out they pull me back in

Broadly this is Shuri’s film. Her character arc is unmistakeably laid out early on and the film tracks it well. The idea of her having to grow up much faster than she anticipated underpins every minute of screen time and the weight of responsibility she expected her brother to be the one to shoulder is evident. A consistent theme throughout Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been recalibration with most of the output dealing with characters questioning what should come next for them in the wake of such seismic events. Wakanda Forever makes that a personal question for Shuri and resisting that calibration becomes one of her biggest obstacles. Letitia Wright dazzles in her portrayal of this throughout, believably turning Shuri into a character burdened with unwanted responsibility before she’s ready for it. The drama comes from whether she can rise to the occasion or crumble.

The personification of that challenge is Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejía); the monarch of Tolocan – an undersea nation built from Aztec Mesoamerican roots. Talokan is what Wakanda was in the first film, a hidden nation mistrustful of the world it willfully separates itself from and Namor represents a fear-driven isolationist viewpoint motivated by a backstory that fully supports it. The two nations are comparable in that they both have access to Vibranium which makes them of major interest to those outside their borders. The key difference is that Talokan is completely hidden and Wakanda has taken small steps towards becoming part of the international community though the inability of other nations to respect their claim to the nigh magical metal has halted what T’Challa started for now.

Namor makes himself known when his people’s anonymity is put at risk by an expedition that stumbles onto some Vibranium on the ocean floor. The Viranium was detected by a device built by teenage prodigy, Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne) who becomes the subject of an ultimatum posed by Namor to the Wakandans. Basically, they either deliver her to Namor so he can put an end to the threat her intelligence represents or Talokan will declare war on Wakanda. Tenoch Huerta Mejía is captivating as Namor, bringing determination and sadness to the role while also making him believably formidable. His presence almost makes the ankle wings credible.

Black Panther

Darling it’s better, down where it’s wetter, take it from me

This prompts Shuri and Okoye (Danai Gurira) to go on an excursion to track down the tech genius and Shuri finds a kindred spirit in her. The parallels between them are obvious and Wakanda Forever makes great use of them. Riri is held back by the society she belongs to but forges ahead to overcome that with a fierce determination to create a world in which she can thrive. Riri is an immediately engaging character confidently portrayed by Dominique Thorne who immediately stands out as a force to be reckoned with. She is slightly built on the standard traits of being quick-witted and effortlessly brilliant but Thorne brings so much inner life that it negates this to some degree.

Her inclusion in the film is organic and amounts to far more than a teaser for her upcoming Disney+ show though it is something of a contrivance that she would be involved in the first place. She makes the most sense as someone for Shuri to connect with on the basis of being the young genius dismissed by those around her and looks to use the resources at her disposal to give Riri the opportunity to make use of her gifts. Sacrificing her to Namor to preserve peace becomes unthinkable especially when that peace is only offered as an alternative to war.

Shuri and Namor compliment each other in fascinating ways. Both are consumed by grief combined with a desire to protect the people that they are responsible for. The biggest risk for both is that their grief will lead to them making bad decisions. Namor risks being an enabler for Shuri who is already toying with embracing her darkest impulses. He doesn’t need much convincing to tear the world apart in the name of protecting his own and Shuri risks having her thinking led in that direction. His challenge to her is as much on an ideological level as it is on a physical one and their interactions allow him to become a complex antagonist up there with the best of them in the MCU even if elements of his background are derivative of other heroes and villains in both the universe and genre.

Wakanda Forever

Under the sea, Nobody beat us, Fry us and eat us, In fricassee

On a visual level, Wakanda Forever consistently impresses. the attention to detail in the production design makes Wakanda a stunningly vibrant place with a varied cultural identity. The building exteriors, interiors and costumes all conform to a specific design aesthetic while having individual flourishes. A variety of locations and clothing are shown and many shots evoke a sense of scale to the location itself. Talokan is also impressive but far more limited in terms of what is presented, likely to be fleshed out in later appearances.

Wakanda Forever is oddly structured in ways that both benefit and compromise it. Ramonda and Nakia take the reins of the narrative from Shuri and propel the plot forward at key points but never take the narrative focus away from her. This gives the film a sense of scale by furthering the idea that Wakanda is a nation of exceptional people working towards a common goal rather than a singular figurehead being solely responsible for everything, there are odd diversions such as a pointless subplot involving Martin Freeman’s Everett Ross and Julia Louis-Drefus’ Valentina Allegra de Fontaine that hints at something interesting but ultimately goes absolutely nowhere and the plot itself takes a long time to actually kick in. The latter makes sense in order to craft a moving tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman but it makes the overall experience suffer from a pacing standpoint.

The film is largely structured around key setpieces with some working better than others. A chase sequence involving cars, a motorbike, a rudimentary Iron Man-like suit and even a drone stands out as the best of the bunch, Namor’s attack on Wakanda is sloppy but impressive in places and the third act climax is on par with what can be expected of MCU at this point for better or for worse. It’s well crafted and has some interesting ideas in the mix but doesn’t stand out from the pack of third-act climaxes in MCU films. Wakanda Forever at times feels like it’s in conflict with itself about what it wants to be which makes the end result a fascinating yet clunky viewing experience.

Wakanda Forever

Who is the new Black Panther?


A fascinating yet clunky viewing experience that feels in conflict with itself about what it wants to be but features a strong exploration of grief, stunning visuals and excellent characterisation. Leaning into the tragic loss of Chadwick Boseman and building the film around it works well and sets up Shuri’s character arc nicely. The funeral sequence is depicted with touching elegance that shows the scope of the event while maintaining an intimate focus on those closest to T’Challa. Each of the characters react to T’Challa’s loss in their own way which allows the film to cover a wide spectrum of grief that highlights its complexity and provides fodder for varied characterisation. Broadly this is Shuri’s film with a clear arc that is tracked well throughout. Letitia Wright’s performance is excellent throughout. Namor makes for a compelling and well-developed antagonist who challenges Shuri in a deeply relevant way. Tenoch Huerta Mejía is captivating as Namor and almost makes the ankle wings credible. Riri Williams being introduced as a plot contrivance both works and doesn’t. She is an organic addition to the narrative and functions well in relation to Shuri. Dominique Thorne impresses in her first outing and elevates what could be standard material. Wakanda Forever consistently impresses on a visual level with stunning production design presenting Wakanda as a place with a varied cultural identity. The film is oddly structured with the main plot -understandably- taking a while to kick in and a subplot that goes nowhere dragging it down. The setpieces are impressive though the climax doesn’t stand out from the pack of MCU third-act climaxes. Wakanda Forever at times feels like it’s in conflict with itself about what it wants to be which makes the end result a fascinating yet clunky viewing experience.

  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever


Kneel Before…

  • a varied and thoughtful exploration of grief
  • the characters having unique reactions to the loss of T’Challa
  • Angela Bassett’s powerhouse performance
  • a compelling character arc for Shuri
  • Namor challenging Shuri in a deeply relevant way
  • Tenoch Huerta Mejía’s portrayal of Namor
  • Riri Williams complimenting Shuri
  • Riri Williams inclusion to the film being mostly natural
  • stunning production design
  • the impressive chase setpiece


Rise Against…

  • uneven pacing
  • the main plot taking a long time to actually kick in
  • a subplot that goes nowhere


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User Review
4 (1 vote)

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