“Black Panther” is one of my favorite films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so naturally I was on board for a sequel since day one.
What I did not expect was to lose Chadwick Boseman two years ago. He was one of the finest actors of this generation, and I was ready to see his career take new heights. With the script nearly finished and a pandemic raging, it seemed as if director Ryan Coogler would have an impossible task to complete.
Despite all the adversity and pressure to do Boseman’s T’Challa justice, he astonishingly delivers. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is a soulful epic that beautifully pays tribute to Boseman.
“Wakanda Forever” is a dense film that seems like it might have a lot going on, but still manages to deliver with its story and characters. At its core, the film is about grief and solidarity. In the wake of T’Challa’s death, his effect on Wakanda and the world is felt throughout the film.
Grief shapes every character and their decisions, especially Shuri, played by Letitia Wright. Though there are plenty of new characters introduced, the film remains her story. Shuri is the most affected by T’Challa’s passing and goes on a soul-searching journey to move past her grief and guilt.
In opposition to Shuri and Wakanda is Namor and the secret nation of Talokan. Namor, played by Tenoch Huerta, is one of the best antagonists in the MCU’s history. He is a vengeful character that shows little to no mercy. While he and his nation Talokan have similarities to Wakanda, they represent what happens when power is used for hatred, not humility. Namor’s hatred for the world does not come without reason however, which makes him one of the most compelling characters in the film and franchise.
The MVP of the movie is by far co-writer/director Ryan Coogler. The entire weight of the world was on his shoulders, and he returns with the best direction in a Marvel movie since his first outing in “Black Panther.” There’s a soul in every Coogler film, and this is his most soulful yet.
It’s refreshing to see a filmmaker given the chance to create genuine art within a franchise that feels far from it. Coogler outshines his Marvel contemporaries in every scene with excellent blocking and even more excellent camerawork. As soon as the film started, I knew this was truly a Coogler picture.
As for the performances, the entire cast is on their A-game. Wright does a fantastic job in her leading role. She proves immediately that she is up for the task in leading the film. Huerta gives a memorable breakout role. It’s impossible to see Namor come to life as well without him. Dominique Thorne is charming as Riri Williams/Iron Heart. She was meant for this character and gives me high hopes about her TV show, Iron Heart, next year.
The supporting cast all give powerful performances as well. The standout of these performances comes from Angela Bassett as Queen Ramonda. Bassett gives the best performance of the film and a career best. Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke are amazing returning to their respective roles and are given their moments to shine.
To no one’s surprise, the technical aspects are some of Marvel’s best. The cinematography by Autumn Durald is gorgeous. Every shot has a true level of care behind it and helps the film stand out as one of the few examples of cinema in the MCU.
The score by Ludwig Goransson is one of the best in franchise. Goransson’s score for the original “Black Panther” is my favorite film score of all time, so I had no doubt in my mind that he would deliver once again.
It goes without saying that Ruth E. Carter has impeccable costume design and Hannah Beachler has beautiful production design.
My only gripe with the film is that, with a such a dense story, some plot points could have been shorter and the third act is rushed.
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is a beautiful emotional rollercoaster about grief and perseverance. I was left speechless by how everything was wonderfully put together throughout. Coogler and company gave it their all in creating something truly meaningful and heartfelt. This film is a moving tribute to Chadwick Boseman that will stand the test of time.