November 10, 2022

CINEMA | 'Wakanda Forever' Young – Back to 'Black Panther'

"Only the most broken people can be great leaders."
Letitia Wright Ryan Coogler | Black Panther: Wakanda Forever | Marvel Studios
Marvel Studios
Director Ryan Coogler returns to the titular fictional African kingdom from Black Panther after the tragic passing of its original star Chadwick Boseman from colon cancer in 2020. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever grieves and mourns its protector T'Challa and the actor who portrayed him just as a secret threat emerges from beneath the sea in another thrilling but messy blockbuster superhero sequel action spectacle.

Coogler and his team had the unenviable task of respectfully writing Boseman's character off while continuing to build out a universe of new stories as T'Challa's sister and mother played by Letitia Wright and Angela Bassett, reprising their roles, have more heavy lifting to do in his absence. They both bring it fully, especially Bassett as Queen Ramonda deep in mourning while thrust into ruling a kingdom with the world's eyes on it.

A stellar returning supporting cast from Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, and Winston Duke fill in the narrative gaps as Wakandans in action alongside newcomers Dominique Thorne (as Ironheart) and Michaela Coel. Their complex characters continue to explore the deep ramifications of western colonialism and endless war while aiding Wright's Shuri in her reluctant quest to restore Wakanda's supremacy in global affairs.

Mexican actor Tenoch Huerta stars as one of Marvel's oldest characters, the often villainous mutant warrior Namor the Sub-Mariner, who is the chief antagonist of the film. Namor rules the Mayan-inspired underwater kingdom of Talokan (originally Atlantis in the comics). Huerta is fierce in his Hollywood debut drawing strong parallels to Michael B. Jordan's Killmonger as a skilled combatant with a deep grudge against the surface world.

Letitia Wright Ryan Coogler | Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Scripted once again by Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, Wakanda Forever is forced to navigate so much messiness after radically rehauling the entire story after Boseman's tragic death. While introducing a new mutant race of sea warriors, a shoehorned Iron Man successor, and gracefully eulogizing the character of T'Challa, enough of the sequel lives up to its predecessor.

The first Black Panther unknowingly left so many hurdles for this follow-up to dance around like Killmonger destroying all of Wakanda's magical power-giving heart-shaped herb, establishing the nation's advanced life-saving medical technology, or the coda revealing itself as a vibranium-having superpower.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever takes its time to mourn and grieve. So much of the story and action revolve around the unimaginable loss of its star and main character while trying to eschew some of the MCU's "Phase 4" noise. Coogler, unfortunately, is forced to redo many origin story elements to re-establish his utopian Wakandan universe yet almost achieves the near impossible by recreating some of the magic of the original Black Panther. It's an emotional action blockbuster ride that's just as raw and messy as losing the eponymous mythical figure at its centre.

More | YVArcade / Indiewire / ScreenCrush / Verge

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