For many reasons, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has easily been the year’s most anticipated film.
Wakanda Forever is the sequel to the Billion-dollar grossing first installment title Black Panther with the late Chadwick Boseman in the titular role.
Chadwick’s sudden passing caused waves throughout the Marvel Cinematic universe. As well as the Twitter-verse of course. Between #RecastTchalla, to trying to cancel actress Letitia Wright for her views on getting vaccinated. The latter resulted in rumors that Michaela Cole was cast to replace her as Shuri. To make matters worse, the film had to be delayed due to Wright’s injury while filming the movie. Add in director Ryan Coogler had to completely rewrite the script, and you can see how this could have gotten ugly quicker.
The sequel follows the aftermath of the snap from Infinity Wars and T’Challa’s decision to open Wakanda up to the world. All our main players have returned in Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), Shuri (Letitia Wright), M’Baku (Winston Duke), Okoye (Danai Gurira) and the Dora Milaje (including Florence Kasumba).
Wakanda forever also brings back Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and Everett Ross (Martin Freeman). While Introducing new characters Tenoch Huerta as Namor, king of a hidden undersea nation, Dominique Thorne as Riri Williams, Michaela Coel, Mabel Cadena, and Alex Livinalli.
At the helm of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is director Ryan Coogler who also co-wrote the screenplay with Joe Robert Cole and produced by Kevin Feige and Nate Moore.
One of the films’ most essential elements fans were awaiting to see come to life is a long-time comic book rivalry between Namor and The Black Panther.
In the comics, Namor is the King of Atlantis. (I know; I know) Sounds just like Aquaman.
It is because the DC counterpart is almost a copy-and-paste version of Namor as far as origins go. But the MCU has changed all that to make the character entirely his own.
Black Panther: Wakanda forever has canonized Namor to have a real-world tie-in with Mayan culture. The reimagined backstory of one of Marvel’s first characters now sees him as the 500-year-old mutant ruler of Talokan. A Mesoamerican-inspired underwater nation. Instead of Atlantis.
Namor, the submariner as known in Marvel lore, is half human, half merman. Yes, just like Aquaman. Good thing for us; Marvel swerved on that as well.
Tying his merman aquatic side into a byproduct of a plant with metaphysical properties used to save his people from smallpox disease breakout that leads them to take refuge in Talokan in an attempt to flee from Spanish Colonization.
The changes to the character particularly serve the film. For both the fictional world in Marvel 616 and in real life. As in human History, indigenous people and African people have always been willing to invite outsiders into their “universe.” In America, Black people use the term “invited to the cookout .”It speaks to how we are always the impasse and bridge to connecting worlds.
Black Panther: Wakanda forever’ does the same for the Mexican-Latin community. Mesoamerica is a historic region spanning modern-day Mexico and neighboring cities. Mesoamerican indigenous groups include the Maya, the Olmec, the Aztecs, and the Toltecs.
The Kingdom of Talokan is more than likely derived from “Tlālōcān,” an Aztec Paradise overseen by the rain god Tlāloc. The cultural representation and consideration displayed in this film were impeccable. It was like the Lion King on Broadway meets Valerian. Just incredible!
One of the things Marvel does so well again is how a person obtains their moniker. Namors’ name was a name given as a curse to him after killing those trying to colonize his people. Namor, meaning without love. No, love. While his people refer to him as Kúkúlkán, the feather serpent god. This name comes directly from the Maya, who worshipped a god of the same name and form.
Getting Namor right is a huge reason why this movie is excellent. Fumbling with this character of titanic-sized importance could have seen the film succumb to the same fate.
Mexican actor Tenoch Huerta who portrayed the anti-villain gave a compelling sinister, and charming performance. He makes the character feel like a real threat and explores why he is the way he is. In addition, we get an entire tour of the great civilization and what this mutant ruler wants to protect at all costs.
The visuals and custom design were breath-taken, like holding your breath underwater.
It finds a way to look like a completely different world than Aquaman while positioning it as an underwater Wakanda. With people, you can cheer for while also leaving room for conflict within its own people.
Everything they did with the Namor character and the fight to protect the nation of Wakanda from intervening world powers in the wake of King T’Challa’s death raised the stakes to epic proportions. Wakanda once again finds itself saving the outside world that wants nothing more than to strip them of all of their resources.
The movie sets up several coming conflicts and storylines for future Marvel projects. None more directly than probably Captain America: New World Order. The world wants what Wakanda has and is willing to do whatever it takes to get it, even recruiting a suicide squad known as the Thunderbolts to get the job done. Madam Hydra herself makes a cameo, played mostly for comic relief in a primarily somber family drama type of movie.
Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, last seen recruiting Yelena Belova to kill Clint Barton, drops a line that she dreams of a world where they have control of all vibranium. Setting in motion this idea of a “new world order .”Seeing many nations and countries teaming up to come for Wakanda.
The new character Riri Williams was my least favorite. She was used as the pawn that accelerated the conflict between the Wakandans and the Talokans. Her character felt unnecessarily defensive and combative. The princess of Wakanda and the general of the Dora Milaje show up, who are known heroes, and her reaction is to throw things at them. Just needed to make a lot of sense. They gave a cool science sisters moment, but the character feels too much like all the teenage-level characters.
Okoye and Queen Ramonda were exceptional. However, Angela Bassett had a much more significant role in this film, and her character sets up the push needed for the new Black Panther to emerge.
Once again, taking into account authentic world culture and respect for traditions, they baked into the movie for great defining moments.
The opening scenes give us the growing tensions between the world and Wakanda. Queen Ramonda’s narrative is a badd ass action sequence that gives us a taste of what’s been going on since Wakanda opened up to the world. Soon after, we get our first look at the people of Talokan and Namor. Both nations were in conflict with other countries trying to find more vibranium. The movie explains that part of the meteorite in Wakanda also landed in the ocean. Both civilizations’ primary resource was vibranium.
Taken away the one edge Wakanda would usually have over all other threats. Tipping the scales in Namor’s favor. Especially with no Black Panther.
After a failed attempt to retrieve Riri Williams, Shuri and Riri are taken, and Okoye returns to Wakanda to a very pissed queen. Queen Ramonda strips Okoye of her rank and duties as the general of the Dora. Nakia, living in Haiti and now running a school, is pursued by Queen Ramonda to find Shuri. The film does a fantastic job of articulating how each person deals with the loss of T’Challa. They are all grieving in different ways. One moment right before being approached by Namor, Queen Ramonda sets up what we would later find out in the post-credit scene. But what she knows is something that helped her move in with the burning of the ceremonial garments. A practice that is still done today in Kumeyaay tribes and Xhosa families. Xhosa is the real language used to create the Wakandan language.
Letitia Wright was remarkable. Her performance was outstanding for the most part. In some scenes, you cannot tell whether her raw emotion is for Chadwick or T’challa. After the death of Queen Ramonda, Shuri is in an entirely savage mood. Seeing Letitia play vengefully and angrily gave weight to the moments and the stakes.
Michaela Cole’s character and Winston Duke’s M’Baku were under-utilized. Both were great in all of their scenes. Duke brought out everything we loved about the character in the first one. Could have had more of him.
Michael B. Jordan returned in what most of the internet expected. His moment felt strong. Setting up the light or dark side of the force type of energy.
Shuri and Riri devise a plan to kill Namor, and it works. A much more satisfying final fight than in the first film. Right before delivering the coupe de grâce, she sees and hears her mother reminding her to “show them who we are .”That’s when Shuri calls back to T’challa’s words in Black Panther when fighting M’Baku for the throne. As well as his words to Zemo in Captain America Civil War. “Yield, your people need you.” Vengeance has consumed us; we must not let it consume our people.”
The two return to the ensuing battle, and Namor commands his people that their fight with Wakanda is over. A decision that did not sit well with some of his people. But Namor reveals his plans to destroy the surface world are still at play. As Namor identifies that their alliance will bring them closer to their goal. He anticipates they will come for Wakanda, and Wakanda will come to them for help because though they are the strongest nation in the world on the surface, they have no allies.
Now to address the Panther in the room. The handling of T’Challa’s death and the future of the character. T’Challa dying of an unknown illness was the right move. They paid homage to Chadwick throughout the film. Regarding T’challa, the earlier scene with Shuri and Ramonda was the setup for the big reveal. Nakia has a son named Toussaint.
Well, at least that’s his Haitian name. His real name is prince T’challa. Nakia and T’challa had a child before the blip. It was another emotional moment filled with tears of joy to help comfort the audience and prepare us for the passing of the mantle, eventually.
The movie felt like it slugged a lot at points, and some missed opportunities and recycled tropes from the first film did not land this time.
Some minor issues with the story, and not entirely fond of the son role. It was predictable, and I wish there would be a way to bring the actual T’Challa back.
Overall this is a family drama film with a superhero crossover. It was done with so much care and spectacle. I rate the movie an 81. The film feels essential, unlike most of the films in phase four. So many of the character’s arches are being pushed forward. The representation continues to make this feel bigger than a movie. Wakanda forever, ever, ever, ever, ever.