The latest Marvel film Black Panther: Wakanda Forever arrived with much anticipation, not simply because the original movie earned numerous award nominations and grossed nearly $1.35 billion at the box office, but also in light of the passing of Chadwick Boseman, who played beloved protagonist King T’Challa the Black Panther himself, in April 2020.
Wakanda Forever obviously had a very different feel to it compared to the first movie; it was very much a tribute to Boseman and the immense loss felt by fans, cast, and crew alike was present throughout. I thought that the tribute was fitting and well done both on and off screen. From the T’Challa montage during the Marvel title sequence to the funeral service held for T’Challa, there’s no doubt that audiences wouldn’t feel the ‘grieving ripple effects’ and the ‘great shadow of loss’ from Boseman’s death.
At the film’s premiere, the cast and crew honoured Boseman in their own ways such as Letitia Wright’s recreation of Boseman’s suit that he wore to the first movie’s premiere, Director Ryan Coogler wore a chain with Boseman’s photo on it at premieres and Variety’s photoshoot, and Janeshia Adams-Ginyard had a body painting of Boseman that she wore alongside her backless dress. Overall, Wakanda Forever is less of your typical action blockbuster and rather a well-deserved tribute to an actor whose loss has been grieved by many.
As a big action movie fan, I thought there weren’t as many epic fight scenes in Wakanda Forever as there had been in the original film but, in hindsight, this made sense since T’Challa’s younger sister and brilliant scientist Princess Shuri (Wright) takes on the role of protagonist alongside other female cast members, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), Okoye (Danai Gurira), and Nakai (Lupita Nyong’o). As the country mourns the loss of their king and deals with the consequences of T’Challa revealing Wakanda’s true nature to the United Nations from the first movie, there is a sense of peace and stillness across the nation. That is until the latest antagonist shows up and, of course, everything changes.
Rather than the villain being one of Wakanda’s own, this time it is Namor from underwater kingdom Talokan who threatens the nation’s peace and stability. Personally, I found Namor to be underdeveloped as an antagonist. I found his motives didn’t match up to his intentions, similar to Safin in No Time to Die, and sadly had to agree with The Telegraph’s description of him being a “dull, grandstanding nitwit whom the film continually mistakes for a noble outsider, and his subjects … look more like the attendees at an Avatar fan convention than a proud seafaring warrior tribe”.
The soundtrack, however, was spectacular. It worked perfectly with all the scenes and added tension and atmosphere throughout. Whilst I didn’t enjoy Rihanna’s song ‘Lift Me Up’ for the movie as much as Lady Gaga’s ‘Hold My Hand’ in Top Gun: Maverick, I loved the rest of songs.
Overall, the movie received mix reviews by fans and critics alike. Whilst it scored highly on Rotten Tomatoes (84% from critics and 95% audience score), other critics described it as a “cobbled-together sensibility”, “Threadbare and pallid”, and “Hopelessly stalled… repetitive, over-familiar… occasionally incoherent”.
This is arguably not that surprising as Marvel’s sequels usually face much criticism, or as The Independent puts it: “When it comes to direct sequels, it [Marvel] is more villain than hero.” This year’s Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness faced heavy disapproval with reviews going so far as to say it was a “CGI horror show”. However, Wakanda Forever didn’t receive quite such criticism as The Independent wrote that “the focus” on Shuri and Ramonda “works beautifully” but the ‘nearly three-hour run time… manages to be at once stultifying and rushed. Wakanda Forever gets one thing right by opening with a moving funeral scene that is a tribute both to T’Challa and the actor who played him.’
In my opinion, the movie is worthy of four stars due to the acting performances of Wright and Bassett, as well as the impressive soundtrack. Whilst the villain was somewhat undercooked and the movie lacked the overall action blockbuster feel achieved by the original Black Panther, there’s no doubt that fans wouldn’t find something to enjoy. Of course, it goes without saying that Chadwick Boseman continues to be missed by fans, cast, and crew alike but, overall, the film was an apt tribute to a beloved actor.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is in cinemas now.