The long-awaited sequel to Marvel’s Oscar-nominated 2018 film ‘Black Panther,’ entitled ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,’ finally opens in theaters on November 11.
The film is in jeopardy in 2020 when the franchise’s lead actor, Chadwick Boseman tragically dies of cancer. Returning director Ryan Coogler and co-writer Joe Robert Cole were forced to rewrite the script, and chose not to recast the characters, finding ways to explain his absence. Their choice was to kill the character, which would be the second and last time T’Challa would die in the Marvel Universe, having been destroyed when Thanos snapped his fingers in ‘Avengers: Infinity War.’
The sequel begins shortly after King T’Challa’s death, but I’ll let the film itself explain exactly what led to his death. The kingdom of Wakanda is mourning the fall of their king, as Shuri (Letitia Wright), Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Okoye (Danai Gurira), and M’Baku (Winston Duke) gather around their Queen, Ramonda (Angela Bassett), while a new threat emerges from the hidden underwater nation of Talokan ruled by Namor (Tenoch Huerta).
With war raging between two powerful nations, the CIA sends Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) to keep an eye on the situation, and while the royal family of Wakanda decides what to do with the Black Panther mantle, they seek help from MIT student and genius inventor Riri. Williams (Dominique Thorne), who is known in the comics as the hero Ironheart and will soon have his own Disney+ series.
The result is a solid and entertaining sequel that really explores the concepts of grief and loss, and introduces some great new characters to the MCU, but sadly never copes with the immeasurable absence of Boseman and his character.
This film does have some problems, and one of the problems with this film is that it is too long to tell. At 2 hours and 41 minutes, it’s longer than ‘Infinity War’ and the story doesn’t guarantee that. Also, without giving anything away, the Black Panther character doesn’t appear until after two hours, and that’s a problem for a film with the words ‘Black Panther’ in the title.
Ultimately, the film suffers from the loss of Boseman, and in turn T’Challa, but there’s clearly nothing that can be done about that. But now that we’ve mentioned all that, let’s talk about what works. Director Ryan Coogler has created an epic, wide-ranging film, which basically addresses the simple idea of grief and how we as humans deal with loss.
The returning cast is excellent, and every actor has had the opportunity to step up their roles after Boseman’s absence. Leading the charge were Oscar-nominated actress Angela Bassett, who gave a passionate performance as the Queen of Wakanda, and a mother who lost her son. Her appearance is at the heart of this film.
Danai Gurira also stands out, with Okoye questioning his place in the world after T’Challa’s death. Her character is opposite to Ramonda and has some great scenes with Bassett. M’Baku of Winston Duke also had a bigger role this time around, now as advisor to the royal family.
Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakia is also welcome back to the franchise, and although she plays a significant role in the story, her character doesn’t have as much screen time as I’d hoped.
But Letitia Wright’s Shuri is definitely the film’s focal point, and while the actress gave a strong performance in the original film as a supporting character, she stumbled a bit leading the film herself but was ultimately helped by another strong cast. supporting show.
But the film’s new characters that really shined include the introduction of MCU Dominque Thorne as Riri Williams/Ironheart and Tenoch Huerta as Namor.
Thorne, who actually auditioned to play Shuri in the first ‘Black Panther’, did very well as the MIT student who would eventually become the MCU’s new Iron Man. Williams and Shuri hit it off right away, and the two actresses have great chemistry together. The characters are great additions to the MCU, and while the film acts as a backdoor pilot for the upcoming Disney+ series, I can’t wait to see what they do with the show.
But what stands out from this film is Namor’s introduction and career performance by Tenoch Huerta. Namor first appeared in Marvel comics in 1939, but because the film rights were tied up in another studio, Marvel couldn’t bring the character to the big screen until now.
It’s a shame that DC could launch the ‘Aquaman’ franchise first, as there would be unpleasant comparisons. The Talokans will also no doubt be compared to the characters in Disney’s big sequel opening this year, ‘Avatar: The Way of Water,’ because they are blue in color and bear a resemblance to the Na’vi.
But the comic book character looks incredibly accurate on screen, and the effect used for his ankle wings is fantastic. Huerta brings a lot of passion and gravity to his role and is very commanding as Namor. Even though the character is basically a hero in the comics, he has arcs where he is an anti-hero, so using him as an antagonist for the film makes sense, but there’s still room in the MCU future for the character. play a more heroic role.
There are a few surprise cameos that I won’t give away, one connected to the original ‘Black Panther’, and another that may be connected to the upcoming ‘Thunderbolts’. And while there’s no end credits scene, there is a mid-credits scene that adds a heartwarming element to the franchise for future installments.
Ultimately, director Ryan Coogler has crafted a strong sequel and a truly wonderful film about loss and dealing with grief, which sadly never got over the original due to the seismic loss of Chadwick Boseman. Coogler and his cast have created a loving tribute to the late actor, but we’ll always wonder what this sequel would look like if Boseman had stayed.
‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ received 4 out of 5 stars.