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‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ (review)

There will never, truly, be another Black Panther like Chadwick Boseman.

If this had not occurred to you over the endless months of speculation about the future of the character, the franchise, and Director Ryan Coogler, this movie may not be for you.

The grief woven throughout Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is about more than the untimely death of Boseman, who exuded heroism and camaraderie as T’Challa in all previous MCU outings. It’s also a public mourning of the specific vision of the character that was seared into our minds from the moment he donned the sleek black and silver suit.

Figuring out how to move the film forward was no easy feat, but Wakanda Forever finds a way to balance the complex and fiery grief of Shuri (Letitia Wright) and Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) while more-or-less delivering a special-effects-laden MCU standard.

Though the 2 hour and 41 minute runtime could lose 20 – 30 minutes for a snappier film, it is a negligible note.

Honoring a lost loved one takes time.

The film opens with a stunning tribute to T’Challa, who has passed away from a sudden illness despite Shuri’s best efforts.

Fast forward a year later, and she has buried herself in lab work as Queen Ramonda fights off the grasping claws of vibranium-hungry world powers. The search for vibranium minus Dora Milaje protection leads to the discovery of a new pocket, and a new secret civilization that this find threatens.

Their leader, Namor (Tenoch Huerta) rules Talokan, an underwater kingdom with significant Mesoamerican-inspired lore and design. Huerta is an excellent anti-hero, bringing sincerity into arguments that would appear darkly nationalist in less skilled hands. His clarity of purpose is a perfect balance to Shuri’s endless uncertainly about her path forward. The loss of her brother has left the normally cool and collected Shuri chilly and short-tempered, with no outlet for the anger that grows inside of her.

I will not reveal too many plot twists, as they are part of the healing process that Wakanda Forever is facilitating in many ways.

But every character that supported Boseman in the first film is elevated to fill the hole left by their leader and friend. More responsibilities, more lines, more fights. Not only does it showcase the excellent casting, it reinforces that getting through this is a collective effort for Wakanda.

There is not a single actor turning in anything less than what would have made him proud. Wright and Bassett are stunning in the strength of their grief and resolve. This is easily some of the best we have gotten to see from Bassett in years, and she leans into the roar of a leader as heavily as the pain of a mother in mourning.

Coogler and cast had a significant lift on their hands, finding a way to balance a death so large in real life that it temporarily shattered the fantasy as well.

While Wakanda Forever may not deliver on the easily digestible fare that superhero movies tend to be, it is more than everything it needs to be for those that have been waiting to say a final goodbye.

*  *  *  *  *
Produced by Kevin Feige, Nate Moore
Screenplay by Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole
Story by Ryan Coogler
Based on Marvel Comics
Directed by Ryan Coogler 
Starring Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke,
Florence Kasumba, Dominique Thorne, Michaela Coel, Tenoch Huerta,
Martin Freeman, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Angela Bassett

 

 

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