Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Director: Ryan Coogler
Writer: Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole
Based on: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby‘s comic character
Sequel to: Black Panther
Cast: Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Tenoch Huerta, Martin Freeman, Dominique Thorne, Florence Kasumba, Michaela Coel, Alex Livinalli, Mabel Cadena, Isaach De Bankolé, Trevor Noah, Richard Schiff, Lake Bell, Anderson Cooper, Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Part of: Marvel movies
Seen on: 18.11.2022

Plot:
After the sudden death of King T’Challa, Wakanda is grieving. And nobody is spiraling more than Shuri (Letitia Wright) who was unable to save her brother despite all of her technological expertise. Meanwhile, the rest of the world think that Wakanda is weakened under Queen Ramonda’s (Angela Bassett) leadership and they start making plays for Wakanda’s vibranium reserves. When the search for the rare ressource leads researchers to explore the sea, they get attacked. At first, Wakanda is blamed, but it appears that there is a new player in town. And whether they’re an ally or an enemy of Wakanda is yet to be seen.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has really a lot on its plate and balances this mostly admirably, though not always successfully. Either way, it is engaging and so filled with ideas that it never becomes boring, even if some of them remain underexplored.

The film poster showing an arrangement of the main characters of the film in front of a big and new Black Panther.

Wakanda Forever was hit very hard by Chadwick Boseman’s untimely death, and not just because so wonderful as T’Challa and Letitia Wright can’t quite fill his shoes. Translating Boseman’s death to T’Challa’s death is both cathartic, with really beautiful funeral scenes that pay tribute wonderfully; and also hurried and narratively jarring. We start the film with him in the middle of dying from a mysterious illness, and that introduction feels way more sudden than adivseable. Though it is understandable that they wouldn’t spend a whole lot of time with that part of the story as there is simply too much to get through in the film otherwise. The same feeling of slap-in-the-face revelation hit me at the very end again when a secret is revealed that was supposed to be a beautiful “life continues” moment, but to me felt just like a betrayal.

So, we have T’Challa dying and all the grief and politics that come with that which should have probably been its own movie but that just wasn’t possible. Then we have a side-plot that introduces Riri (Dominique Thorne) that would have deserved more attention, but I guess we’ll get that in the TV show that will star her. Then we have very many supporting characters who didn’t get enough time like M’Baku (Winston Duke) who has grown a lot as a character since the first film and gets dragged back to play comic relief again and again which just doesn’t work anymore with those changes; and even more so Okoye (Danai Gurira) who has the worst thing happening that could probably happen to her and we (and she) barely get enough time to consider the gravity of it. And then there is the main event: Namor (Tenoch Huerta) and his people.

Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and Shuri (Letitia Wright) leading a funeral procession for T'Challa.

And damn, that’s a powerful story. I loved that the movie comments on the history of colonialization and that not everybody escaped is as unscathed as Wakanda. I loved that Namor is so absolutely clear in Wakanda and Talokan having to fight together against the global North/white people, and that Wakanda’s position is much more muddled because they managed to come to some power in that system themselves. Also, Huerta is simply amazing (the Black Panther movies know how to deal with villains). But the trouble is that while there is a lot of talk of white people being the real enemies, the film is still 95% people of color fighting against each other, and that feels unbalanced to say the least. It’s also complicated enough that it probably would have needed yet another film again.

The film really has to juggle a lot and that it doesn’t completely fall apart is thanks to Coogler’s great skill as a director, and some completely outstanding performances (Bassett is to die for as usual and a particular highlight in a plethora of amazing people) that buoy Wright’s less skilled, though not unlikeable performance. There is enough in the film to keep it interesting and engaging, that’s for certain. But one would have liked a little more room to breathe for everybody involved.

Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and Shuri (Letitia Wright) in very similar fighting positions.

Summarizing: had a tall order to fill and definitely did more than could be expected under the circumstances.

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