BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER
Starring: Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Tenoch Huerta Mejía, Dominique Thorne, Winston Duke, Florence Kasumba, Michaela Cole, Martin Freeman, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Director: Ryan Coogler
Wakanda Forever is an emotional film carrying a lot of weight, and director Ryan Coogler adeptly balances that weight on his shoulders. He delicately crafts an intimate story about grief while still delivering timely humor and great action, allowing for some messy “studio” sections of the 180-minute runtime to feel less hollow. Propelled by devastatingly powerful performances from returning stars Angela Bassett (Ramonda), Letitia Wright (Shuri), Lupita Nyong'o (Nakia) and Danai Gurira (Okoye), not to mention stand-out newcomers Tenoch Huerta (Namor) and Dominique Thorne (Riri Williams), Wakanda Forever thrives off its palpable passion both in front of and behind the camera.
For context, I think Black Panther is merely a slightly-better-than-average MCU movie. With that in mind, the individual moments I enjoyed in Wakanda Forever are better than the ones I enjoyed in Black Panther; however, the latter works better as a movie-watching experience. Honestly, given the circumstances, it’s impressive that Wakanda Forever works as well as it does, but it has issues. Mostly, it tries to do too much by essentially tackling three origin stories while touching on similar themes as its predecessor, making it feel like an overlong (minor) retread. Still, typical MCU-quality action and poignant moments paying tribute to Chadwick Boseman keep it engaging.
With the untimely passing of Chadwick Boseman, the big question was going to be “who will now take up the mantle of Black Panther?” But, really, who cares? Because this is the Angela Bassett show. Her strong and composed performance is the heart of this film, along with some poignant tributes to Boseman and his character. Beyond that, however, this is yet another middle of the pack Phase Four entry. Yes, there are some great action sequences, but this feels less cohesive and fleshed out than the first one, which is unacceptable given this film’s nearly three hour runtime. The late Boseman is missed.
The Black Panther sequel is here, and, as can happen with sequels of this nature, it can’t quite live up to the legacy of its predecessor, nor the star-shaped hole at its center. Wakanda Forever pays tribute to Chadwick Boseman in more than one emotional form, and it has a lot of things to like throughout; however, its structure is overlong and somewhat messy in the first act, especially in the editing. It gets better as it goes along though, and Tenoch Huerta’s performance as Namor establishes a formidable MCU villain as Ryan Coogler once more thematically addresses colonization.