Wakanda Forever Review: A New Panther Must Rise

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Wakanda Forever marks the end of the MCUs fourth phase and the chance for a new beginning. A new Panther must rise but who can fill those iconic claws?

The original Black Panther movie was released in 2018 and became a pivotal anchor point in many societies. The United States had in 2017 lost Barack Obama as president and people were doing everything to hang onto his message of hope, change and ‘Yes we can’. But while a young lady from Compton married British Royalty and the #metoo movement celebrated the arrest of Harvey Weinstein, the new President had already began spreading a message of division, intolerance, and wall building.

People needed something to keep that hope alive, so they turned to the fictional nation of Wakanda and its progressive, noble King T’Challa aka The Black Panther. It couldn’t have come at a better time for Marvel, already riding high of their other MCU successes, as the film was a massive hit and its lead actor, Chadwick Boseman catapulted to stardom.

Letitia Wright as Shuri in Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER. Photo by Annette Brown. © 2022 MARVEL.

But what made Black Panther and Wakanda so important? I mean there had already been a successful black Marvel superhero on screen, in the shape of Blade. But despite how well Wesley Snipes did in that role, there was always the feeling of an almost one dimensional ‘scary big Black Man’ out of place in society. After many generations of Africa being portrayed on the news and TV screens as a place of poverty, destitution, and lacking education, it was refreshing to see a positive aspirational vision of Africa, even though it is pure fantasy. Humans are designed to believe what they see and images, both positive and negative influence perception and young minds.

Fastforward four years to 2022 and the world is a very different place. Not only did we lose Chadwick Boseman but the optimism and hope for the future seems to have been battered in part down to global conflicts but largely down to the Covid pandemic, The once unstoppable ‘MCU’ has lost much of its shine and while the movies for phase four have been profitable, none have garnered the fan or critical acclaim of the previous three phases.

It’s against this backdrop that director Ryan Coogler attempts to give us a sequel that recaptures some of the magic of the original and for Marvel, restores some of the goodwill they have lost to hopefully finish phase four on a high note.

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Winston Duke as M’Baku in Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER. Photo by Eli Adé. © 2022 MARVEL.

It doesn’t feel like Wakanda Forever does much building on the foundations of what went before, its more rebuilding from scratch. The great nation of Wakanda is dealing with the loss of its King and is uncertain of its place in the world. While King T’Challa has a vision, his mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) has no such insight and is simply a Queen/mother trying to hold things together while they decide what to do next.

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(L-R): Danai Gurira as Okoye and Letitia Wright as Shuri in Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER. Photo by Eli Adé. © 2022 MARVEL.

As some of the cast haven’t publicly expressed their grief over the loss of Chadwick, you can imagine many of the tears shed on screen were from real grief. The little sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) has to go from lovable tech geek to potential ruler and main focal point of the movie. Letitia rises to the challenge and manages to balance the rollercoaster of emotions from comical moments, to action and of course a huge dose of grief.

The story is twofold- one part dealing with the loss of the King and the other part is dealing with the worlds new most desirable raw material- Vibranium. Western powers realise they can’t infiltrate Wakanda to get the materials so begin searching for sources outside the Wakandan borders. Vibranium is discovered deep in the ocean but before it can be mined, the underwater kingdom Talokan that protects the Vibranium are alerted and Wakanda very quickly find themself in the middle of a three-way conflict, keeping the western powers at bay whilst trying to prevent the movies antagonist Namor (Tenoch Huerta ) from starting a war with the surface world.

Wakanda forever is a solid superhero movie, made more important by its tribute to Chadwick Boseman. It felt much more like a family political drama with some powerful and honest performances from the lead characters. I can imagine the truth of those emotions wasn’t hard to find considering they were dealing with a real-life loss. I wasn’t that taken by antagonist Namor or his back story. While much of movie is beautiful, I found the underwater kingdom Talokan bland and uninteresting. Whether you liked DC’s Aquaman or not, Atlantis was a dazzling and beautiful to look at, full of life and colour. Talokan was not.

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Tenoch Huerta Mejía as Namor in Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER. Photo by Eli Adé. © 2022 MARVEL.

Continuing a franchise like this without its charismatic main star was always going to be an uphill challenge. But it’s one I feel Marvel and Ryan Cooglar rose to and made the best of an incredibly sad situation. The characters we liked from the first film (M’Baku, Okoye, Nakia) are all here and just as likable. I didn’t take to the new characters like Namor or Riri Williams aka Iron heart and felt no desire to see more of them in future MCU projects.

Try the fantastic Black Panther Trivia Quiz here

As a tribute to Chadwick Boseman, Wakanda forever is fantastic, both honouring and respecting what he did in his role as Black Panther. It’s the closure we all needed and a perfect goodbye to a notable talent gone too soon. As a superhero movie, it’s good but lacked the imagination and magic that made the first one so special. Wakanda was an aspirational place in the first movie, it was ‘cool’. It felt less so here, like things just didn’t work or feel right without Chadwick.

I’ll be called a ‘DC Fanboy’ for saying that as a superhero movie, I had a lot more fun with Black Adam recently, don’t attack me, I’m just as surprised! But there isn’t any danger of this film not being successful or profitable. We are there for Chadwick and the movie grabs hold of our grief from the very first scene and doesn’t let go till the very last. A fittingly beautiful tribute to the fallen king. WAKANDA FOREVER!

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