Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is the final film in Marvel’s Phase 4. It follows the kingdom of Wakanda as they mourn the loss of their beloved king T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman). When a new threat arrives on the world stage Shuri (Letitia Wright) has to decide what actions to take to protect her people and possibly the world.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever had a lot to live up to. The remarkable success of Black Panther, the sad passing of Chadwick Boseman and to close out the troubled fourth phase of the MCU. Did it succeed? Honestly, I don’t believe it did.
The film opens with a powerful funeral scene, with the whole nation mourning their king. It is clear for the first hour of this film that T’Challa, and Boseman, are on the minds of everyone. Everyone is lost without him but they have to make sure that Wakanda is still strong. Especially since other nations are trying to find their way to getting Vibranium. On one such excursion, a military team find a deposit of Vibranium. No sooner do they realise it do they find themselves under attack. Is it Wakandans? No, it’s something much worse.
It is here where we meet the people of the underwater kingdom of Talokan. They are an impressive race. With superhuman strength, an enhanced regenerative capacity as well as some nifty other tricks that I won’t spoil they are a force to be reckoned with. The greatest of them is their god, Namor (Tenoch Huerta). He is ready to wage war against the surface world and wants the help of Wakanda, if not then they will be the first casualties of war.
What I liked about Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was several of its characters, the cinematography and its score. Perhaps the best part of the film was its score. Everything about the mood of the film was brimming with character because composer Ludwig Göransson brought such style to the film. A particular favourite scene of mine is when we are introduced to the kingdom of Talokan. Its soundscape is simply wonderful.
I only wish this was reflected in the look of the film. I praise the film for its beauty, in particular during day scenes. However, when we enter the underwater kingdom of Talokan it is surprisingly murky. I understand the commitment to a realistic take on an underwater civilisation but this world lacks any style, unfortunately. Also, many of the night scenes are poorly lit.
This is a serious issue when the first time we are introduced to Namor is during one of these scenes. It’s a real shame because Namor as a character, a moving superhuman, shines when he is well-lit. Seeing him does his thing in broad daylight is impressive. As a character, Namor is a mixed bag. He is not the asshole of the comics. Critic Darren Mooney put it best, he’s Killmonger-lite and though I liked Namor, I have to agree with him.
Coming to the end of my positives on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever I’d like to speak on several of the characters. One of my favourites was Okoye (Danai Gurira) who has grown even more since her previous appearances. Gurira has several scenes where she commands the screen. This can also be said about Angela Bassett’s Queen Ramonda. She is holding the kingdom together while desperately trying to hold her family together also. Bassett is the MVP in several scenes. Another character who I have sorely missed is Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o). She hasn’t been seen since the first Black Panther. She brings a presence to the film that is ineffable and in my opinion, she should have had a much larger role in this film.
Only the most broken people can be great leaders
I was enjoying Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. It was going along hitting the usual beats. Then sadly a realisation washed over me. This film turned into Thor: The Dark World. You heard me correctly. It began to follow several key moments that paralleled the infamous second outing of Thor. From a sense of taking itself too seriously without really delving into the depths of the issues it touches on briefly to a bloated running time there is a lot going on within this film. And a lot of it could have been cut. There was also an overabundance of CGI towards the end of the film that looked unimpressive.
The biggest issue I had with this film though is its lead. Letitia Wright does not size up with everyone else when it comes to performance or presence. She is not nearly seasoned enough to give the proper weight to the story she is given and when it seems like she is about to rise to the occasion the story itself pulls its punches which is a real shame.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a fine film. It’ll entertain and for those fans of the MCU and Black Panther in particular it will be a lot of fun. Unfortunately with a lacklustre lead and a story that only flirts with greatness this Black Panther is definitely stuck in the shadow of its predecessor.
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