Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

2018’s Black Panther was not only a critical success; it was a huge box office success and a cultural phenomenon. Almost five years later, the sequel has finally arrived. The untimely passing of Chadwick Boseman left a lot of questions ahead of the sequel. What does a story in Wakanda without the Black Panther look like and have we seen the last of the Black Panther? Those type of questions left fans of the franchise, and the character, feeling excited and anxious.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever answered some of those questions and breathed new life into the franchise.

After the passing of King T’Challa, Wakanda finds herself in the crosshairs of other nations as they attempt to get their hands on vibranium. During an underwater search for the rare element, a military team crosses paths with warriors from the underwater kingdom of Talocan and their leader known as Namor (Tenoch Heurta).

Namor believes since Wakanda has revealed herself to the world, it exposed Talocan to the surface dwellers that are looking for vibranium. To protect Talocan, Namor wants Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) to bring the scientist who created the vibranium-detecting machine to him. After Shuri (Letitia Wright) and Okoye (Danai Gurira) find the scientist (played by Dominque Thorne), they refuse to give her to Namor. This decision leads to showdown between Talocan and Wakanda. Talocan has Namor while Wakanda is without the Black Panther, its sworn protector.

As a sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever did exactly what it needed to do. It built on foundations of the previous film – M’Baku (Winston Duke) is back as the fearless leader of the mountain tribe, Nakia (Liupita Nyong’o) continues her undercover spy work, Agent Ross (Martin Freeman) returns as everyone’s favorite colonizer, and Okoye and the Dora Milaje are back being as fierce and powerful as the last time we saw them.

The story builds on the future by introducing Michaela Coel as Aneka, a member of the Dora Milaje, and Dominique Thorne as Riri Williams aka Ironheart.

The biggest addition is Tenoch Heurta as Namor. Heurta gives a fascinating performance as Namor. His character finds himself in the middle of a fight with Wakanda while trying to keep Talocan safe from the surface world. Namor is a “villain” with a purpose – he’s not just being evil for evil’s sake. His tactics are a bit violent and some may say they’re over-the-top, but his reasoning for his response makes 100% sense. Namor is a character with a rich history and a historical understanding of the world. With the help of the screenplay, Heurta finds beautiful ways to bring that richness out in his performance. The introduction to Talocan is a visually stunning scene that showcases the beauty of the people and displays why Namor defends his kingdom with such force.

Letitia Wright does most of the heavy lifting in this film as Shuri. Not only does she carry the film as its main protagonist, she carries a lot of the emotional weight. Chadwick Boseman’s passing is still very raw and that’s shown throughout this film – no character carries that pain more than Shuri. The emotional core of the film is Shuri’s journey from the opening scene to the final frame. It’s a beautiful story that I hope the MCU continues to build on.

Director Ryan Coogler masterfully weaves audiences through some heartfelt moments and some of the best action sequences the MCU’s seen in a few years. Queen Romanda’s speech to the United Nations with the Dora Milaje’s fight sequence was *chef kiss* perfection. There are also a few fun chase sequences and some fantastic fight scenes when the Talocan warriors show up.

The amazing score by Ludwig Göransson could almost be a character in the film. It’s absolutely perfect. The score is upbeat when it needs to be and even gets a little eerie with the scene calls for it. The score has a wonderful blend of African, afrobeats, hip hop, and Mesoamerican sounds.

Wakanda Forever is an action film so it’s not immune to the usual challenges those films face – pacing, runtime, character development, and 3rd act that includes a big battle. It’s an MCU film that feels different than anything they’ve done before. It’s big in scale with very intimate moments between characters sprinkled throughout. The film succeeds at pouring all the emotions out through a heartfelt story about loss, new beginnings, and true relationships.  

Grade: B+