It’s time to return to Wakanda for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the new superhero film set to close out Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Ryan Coogler returns to direct a sequel to his acclaimed Black Panther, but this time with a challenging twist. Following the death of star Chadwick Boseman, Coogler needed to find a new direction for the sequel. With the choice not to recast T’Challa, they had to continue the story of Wakanda without their king. While it’s a rare occasion for a sequel to leave out the star of the original and retain its quality, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever succeeds with an exciting, emotionally rich film.
Wakanda Forever opens by immediately depicting the death of T’Challa and the grief the nation felt as a result. It’s an excellent choice that audiences can easily empathize with because, similar to T’Challa, Boseman’s passing was a sudden shock. From there, the movie brings us to a year later. Countries are pressuring Wakanda to share its vibranium with the rest of the world, but Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) remains steadfast in keeping their vibranium. Meanwhile, a new threat lingers beneath the surface.
Our sequel introduces Namor (Tenoch Huerta) and the soldiers of Talokan, another society with a rich supply of vibranium. Coogler helms a tension-filled sequence that illustrates their vast power. With technology and strength enough to rival Wakanda, the antagonists in this film pose a formidable threat to our heroes. And since Wakanda no longer has a Black Panther, that puts them in a more vulnerable state than ever before. How the film uses its circumstances to create a story where the Wakandans are the unexpected underdogs is astonishing. The story plays out excitingly despite a few rough edges.
Every MCU project lately has had a unique feel. The last time we went into this cinematic universe, She-Hulk jumped through the Disney+ menu and complained to an artificially intelligent Kevin Feige. Now, we have one of Marvel’s most serious outings, giving a multi-layered dramatic narrative. The production design is off the charts, displaying the rich futuristic technology of Wakanda while introducing the underwater kingdom of Talokan. The attention to detail is intricate and fun, as Coogler’s shot choices are deliberate and creative. His work behind the camera with Loki cinematographer Autumn Durald Arkapaw is stunning.
As a project set in a superhero franchise, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever offers some excellent action sequences. However, the standout set piece occurs early in the film: a chase sequence with cars, a motorcycle, and a new superhero whom audiences are sure to love. The final battle meets the Marvel standard of spectacle, using the world-building to create a bombastic battle sequence like Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. But this film is impressive because it combines blockbuster entertainment with real-world emotional themes.
Namor may become a fan-favorite MCU villain. Compared to Gorr the God Butcher in Thor: Love and Thunder, Namor is given a lot of screen time where the audience gets a sense of who he is as a character. An extended sequence delves into his backstory surrounding colonialism and how he got his name. While he doesn’t make viewers invest in him as much as Killmonger in the previous film, they are similar in how they are oppressed people becoming the oppressor using violence. He can be likable while also being powerful and layered. However, his use in the film is part of the film’s biggest flaw: familiarity.
Superhero movies have a structure to them. As the 30th movie in the MCU, some overlap is to be expected. Shuri (Letitia Wright) is promoted from a supporting character in the first film to the protagonist in this one, and she steps up to the plate well. However, her character journey is a combination of Peter Parker’s journeys in Spider-Man: Far From Home and No Way Home. The characters are unique, but the story they’re a part of does not take many risks. The film also holds off on developing the character of Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne) for her spin-off Disney+ show.
Furthermore, the movie has a subplot with Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman), and the pacing slows down every time the movie cuts back to it. He has a much smaller role in this film than he did in the previous one, and only one of his scenes moves the plot forward. In a 161-minute movie, you can see how some edges could have been trimmed off. However, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever remains a triumphant sequel. It’s generally well-paced and features an excellent lead performance from Wright and an Oscar-worthy performance from Bassett. For a movie with a complicated hole to dig itself out of, this sequel rises victorious.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 8 equates to “Great.” While there are a few minor issues, this score means that the art succeeds at its goal and leaves a memorable impact.
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