To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is an Afrofuturistic superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name directed by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station), from a screenplay written by Coogler and Joe Robert Cole (Black Panther). Featuring Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke, Dominique Thorne, Florence Kasumba, Michaela Coel, Tenoch Huerta, Martin Freeman, and Angela Bassett with Chadwick Boseman appearing in archive footage. The film is the sequel to Black Panther and the 30th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The story follows Wakanda as they mourn King T’Challa’s death and fight to protect their nation from the deep-sea-dwelling warriors of Talokan and their god-King, Namor.
In an elevator Shuri (Letitia Wright) prays to Bast asking her to help her save her brother and she will never doubt her belief again. As she enters her lab her AI, Griot (Trevor Noah), tells her that her brother’s heart rate is dropping. She talks to her assistants as they desperately try to artificially recreate the heart-shaped herb with the scorched remains of the plant and T’Challa’s DNA. As her brother’s heart rate continues to drop she prints an herb that Griot says is not fully viable. As Shuri is about to leave the lab her mother Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) enters with a sad face. Shuri asks Griot what her brother’s heart rate is and she is informed that King T’Challa has passed away. A funeral is held for King T’Challa in the rainforest with his family and clan leaders in attendance. His casket is carried through the city by the Dora Milaje with the Wakandan citizens singing and dancing to celebrate his life before his casket is taken away by the Royal Talon Fighter.
Black Panther is a phenomenal film and was a massive hit for Disney and Marvel Studios. The film went grossed over $1.3 billion and for years was the fourth highest-grossing film of all time at the domestic box office. Currently sixth after the huge box office successes of Spider-Man: No Way Home and Top Gun: Maverick. Most of the success can no doubt be attributed to the acting talent of Chadwick Boseman. He was a standout as Prince T’Challa/Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War and fans couldn’t wait to see him headline his own superhero film. Boseman’s star power exploded after the success of the film with the actor becoming a symbol to many Black people around the world. He would later appear in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame with many fans clamoring for information on how T’Challa’s journey would continue in the Black Panther sequel!
Unfortunately, Boseman was secretly battling stage III colon cancer having been diagnosed with the illness in 2016. Although he continued to work on projects such as Da 5 Bloods and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, his cancer progressed to stage IV and Boseman passed away on August 28, 2020, to the surprise of the world. I remember being in disbelief when I first read about his death. It didn’t make sense and for the most part, as he appeared healthy. He did appear very thin in his final interview, but many people attributed that to him preparing for some sort of upcoming role. What made Boseman’s death even more perplexing was his choice to only tell very few people outside of his family about the severity of his condition. Not even Kevin Feige or Ryan Coogler knew. I thought they would have definitely been in the know considering they were heavy in preproduction on the Black Panther sequel. After much debate, the movie was delayed and Marvel Studios decided not to recast the character and have T’Challa die with Boseman. This forced Coogler to throw out his old script and create something new, using this devastating loss as fuel to tell a powerful story about grief and loss.
Considering everything that happened, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever turned out to be a powerfully emotional film. This is high-class filmmaking and one of the best films of Phase 4. If you look back, the entirety of Phase 4 has been about losing loved ones and dealing with the grief that comes with it. Not to compare, but Coogler and Cole deal with death in a way that feels more impactful than other Marvel features. Although there is levity throughout the movie, none of the jokes come after a serious moment. Viewers are allowed to take the moment in and hold on to it before moving on to the next scene. The story this time around is more ambitious feeling similar to the Marvel formula we’re used to. Bringing in Namor and Talokan adds wonderful new characters with a motive that is comparable to Killmonger’s line of thinking. Namor wishes to protect his people by any means necessary and is willing to burn the whole world if he has to. There are some ties to the greater MCU with the inclusion of characters like CIA Agent Everett K. Ross, M.I.T. student Riri Williams, and Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. Although considering the death of such an important figure in the MCU, I’m shocked there aren’t more cameos.
Even without Boseman, the performances in this film are through the roof. Angela Bassett may just snag an Oscar nomination for her role as Queen Ramonda. She gives two great speeches during the movie that are written beautifully. She is the Queen of the most powerful nation in the world and has to keep her nation afloat while also dealing with her own internal pain and the constant incursions of the outside world. Letitia Wright is the heart and soul of this film. It’s her grief that we follow throughout the story. At this point, Shuri has lost both her father and brother and not to mention five years of her life thanks to the Blip. Tenoch Huerta’s Namor is a welcome addition to the MCU. His origin is changed to a Mesoamerican heritage with the character’s dialect and dress reflecting the area. Even his name Namor is revealed to be a portmanteau of “No Amor,” which is Spanish for “no love.” The rest of the cast also turn in terrific performances with Winston Duke’s M’Baku continuing to be a scene stealer. Lastly, this review cannot end without mentioning the amazing score and unparalleled costume design. Ludwig Göransson and Ruth E. Carter should both expect Oscar nominations and wins again at the upcoming Academy Awards.
To sum things up with a quote from Vision, “What is grief, if not love persevering?” Even with the tragic loss of its main star Black Panther: Wakanda Forever still turned out to be one of the best films in the MCU and a great cap to Phase 4. The actors give their all and the story is spectacular, ambitious, and emotional on every level. I give Black Panther: Wakanda Forever a Decent 8.9/10. Can’t wait to see where Coogler will take the third film if he decides to return as writer and director.