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Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Review

November 11, 2022 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
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Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Review  

Directed By: Ryan Coogler
Written By: Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole; Based on the Marvel comics and characters created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Bill Everett
Runtime: 161 minutes
MPA Rating: PG-13 for Some Language, sequences of strong violence, and action

Angela Bassett – Queen Ramonda
Letitia Wright – Shuri
Tenoch Huerta Mejía – Namor
Danai Gurira – Okoye
Dominique Thorne – Riri Williams
Lupita Nyong’o – Nakia
Winston Duke – M’Baku
Alex Livinalli – Attuma
Mabel Cadena – Namora
Martin Freeman – Everett K. Ross
Florence Kasumba – Ayo

On August 28, 2020, the world lost the iconic actor Chadwick Boseman, who portrayed Marvel’s Black Panther on the big screen. The spirit of Boseman looms heavy over the sequel to 2018’s Black Panther with Marvel’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, making the film a heightened, emotional experience.

With Boseman’s passing, Marvel Studios opted not to recast the role. It is difficult to argue against that decision, and it’s plain to see that writer-director Ryan Coogler struggled with how to continue the franchise without Boseman. Wakanda Forever deals with the struggle with grief as part of the film’s emotional journey. T’Challa has also fallen. The sudden passing of T’Challa has left Wakanda wounded and vulnerable. Wakanda Forever is the story of how T’Challa’s friends and family are supposed to move on with their lives without him. How do they find a way to live their lives while continuing to honor T’Challa’s memory?

What is next for Wakanda’s Queen Ramonda (Bassett) and Princess Shuri (Wright) is a challenge in the form of Namor (Huerta Mejía). Namor is an all-powerful ruler of a hidden underwater civilization called Talokan. Recent events bring Talokan into direct conflict with Wakanda. With the Black Panther and all sources of the Heart-Shaped Herb gone, Wakanda is now at its most vulnerable. Namor’s challenge could bring about Wakanda’s ultimate destruction.

At its core, Wakanda Forver is a story about mourning and the overwhelming grief of a tragic loss. How does one find the strength to carry on in the face of such tremendous grief? The tragic loss of T’Challa appears to be insurmountable, yet his loved ones must find the strength to endure. Shuri’s grief threatens to overwhelm her. The crux of Shuri’s grief-stricken journey is where Black Panther: Wakanda Forever finds its strength.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever puts a lot on the shoulders of Letitia Wright. Wright now has to carry the entire weight of this franchise and take center stage. So much is stacked against Shuri throughout the film, and Wright ascends beautifully. From an emotional and dramatic standpoint, Wright handles a difficult role with grace. She was always a strong presence beforehand, but she emerges and truly comes into her own with the film’s standout performance. That is not to disregard the incredible work of Angela Bassett, who also performs a great deal of dramatic heavy lifting of her own.

Wakanda Forever falls short in the conflict with Talokan and the introduction of Namor. It’s not well thought out, and it’s not given a proper structure. Setting up an all-out war between Talokan and Wakanda appears ill-advised, especially considering their approximate locations to each other. Namor is introduced as a serious threat but lacks a fulfilling character arc — especially since Shuri subs for the Sue Storm role here in many respects.

Another issue is that at a length of 161 minutes long, parts of Wakanda Forever play in a very abrupt fashion. Structurally, some significant scenes appear to be missing. Major plot issues are left unresolved or unaddressed. There is a likelihood that certain plot elements will be left to other movies or shows, but it makes parts of Wakanda Forever confusing. So much is at stake, and then major developments are either handwaved away or flat-out dropped. These narrative issues serve to make Wakanda Forever feel both bloated and lacking.

The film has a tertiary subplot involving Wakanda’s standing with the United States government and Everett Ross. The problem is the movie stops caring about the subplot about midway through. The thread is never brought to fruition. There is a likelihood some of these elements could be revisited later, but it comes at the cost of hurting Wakanda Forever‘s overall experience. The original Black Panther did not seem so flippant with such important details and had a far more cohesive narrative. Wakanda Forever has a narrative that falls apart with the more thought it’s given.

The overall narrative puts together a contrived conflict to introduce Namor, which does not gel properly. Namor becomes all that likable as a character. Namor’s lead generals, Namora (Cadena) and Attuma (Livinalli), are fairly one-note and given little to do. Namor’s emotional journey also plays in an incomplete, abrupt manner in light of what takes place throughout the film.

As a result, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is left juggling many subplots and characters. The bittersweet journey of Shuri trying to find her path following the loss of her brother resonates throughout the film. However, the conflict with Namor does not function nearly as well.

Visually, the movie looks great. Ludwig Göransson returns for another quality, powerful score. Coogler’s action looks kinetic and impressive.

The reimagining of Namor and his people as the remnant of a Mayan tribe appears polished. The production integrated those visual motifs and ideas into their culture in a way that looks natural. Talokan’s visual presentation makes the civilization look unique from Atlantis and its people in Aquaman.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever works well in parts. It’s a moving tribute to both Chadwick Boseman and T’Challa, along with Shuri taking her own hero’s journey. However, other half of the movie is messy. The conflict with Wakanda and Talokan never comes together in a coherent manner.

The final score: review Average
The 411
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a mixed bag. The film has its strong points. As a tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman, it shines. As its own solo Marvel Black Panther film, it's flawed. The emotional journey of Shuri is heart-wrenching, yet triumphant. Letitia Wright excels when she takes the spotlight. However, the rest of the bloated, messy runtime is at odds with multiple other shoehorned subplots and suffers from dealing with too many characters.