‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ — More than a miracle
How do you follow up on a cultural phenomenon? The task that lie ahead for director Ryan Coogler seemed insurmountable. Making a movie of any kind is a miracle, but the sequel to a film that spoke to an under-represented voice, a voice that accepted the original with open arms, and a Wakanda Forever salute, is an untamable beast. With the untimely passing of its star and anchor, Chadwick Boseman, it’s safe to say Black Panther: Wakanda Forever had an up-mountain battle.
Like the warriors of the Dora Milaje, the cast and crew behind this film have accomplished the impossible. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever isn’t just a good superhero movie; it’s an epic. After exposing themselves to the outside world, the Kingdom of Wakanda must straddle the lines of international relations. With their king departed, the nation is vulnerable, especially to those who salivate over their most magical resource, vibranium.
Luckily, a deposit of the stuff is sitting on the ocean floor. Unluckily, it’s guarded by an underwater king with a bad attitude and an army to back it up. Tenoch Huerta plays Namor, the king of Talokan, a character with the gravitas to spare. From the moment he’s introduced, shrouded in darkness, the winged- ankle monarch is a formidable threat. Visually and tonally, the character becomes more nuanced as the film progresses, with his motivations becoming understood as he’s brought into the light of day. With influences from Mesoamerican culture, the world of Talokan is offered a far richer cultural significance than its comic origins. Despite being a departure from the source material, the characters are infused with a sense of authenticity that resonates. That same ethos is spread to the returning characters, who each deliver some of the most heartfelt performances in a superhero film.
The film deals heavily with grief, with each of the characters lamenting their fallen hero, brother, son, love, and king. Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira, and Lupita Nyong’o all perform admirably, but it’s Angela Bassett who brings the house down. Her performance alone is worth the price of admission, and it’s a testament that it shines through among all of Wakanda Forever’s chaos.
With such a well-balanced original cast, the inclusion of so many new characters creates a bit of a crowd. Domonique Thorn’s Riri Williams is a delightful inclusion, but isn’t afforded the same level of development as hero MCU peers. The story of the film is emotional but, at times, unwieldy. The plot feels almost overstuffed, with certain plotlines detached from the main story. Wakanda Forever ties everything together neatly, but some resolutions feel like afterthoughts.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever isn’t without its flaws, yet its failings are far from disparaging. It certainly deserves adoration and attention for the risks it takes, even if they don’t always pan out. It delivers one of the most satisfying and compelling films of the year, and I, for one, can’t wait to see it again.
Rating: Big Screen Watch
Damian Levy is a film critic and podcaster for Damian Michael Movies.