Streaming on Disney+
In 2018, Marvel Studios released their most outstanding achievement in superhero movies (and the world of cinema in general), Black Panther! The story of a secret nation led by a noble king who was handed the emotionally charged task of facing the mistakes of his ancestors and setting out to right the wrongs of the past. Under the watchful eye of co-writer & director Ryan Cooglier, along with the powerful performance of legendary actor Chadwick Boseman as the main character T'Chialla (aka the titular Black Panther), the first Black Panther film became a cultural touchstone in more ways than one can realistically count.
Many fans, myself included, eagerly awaited the follow-up to this sensational story. Then, in late August 2020, Chadwick Boseman sadly passed away.
Shortly after his untimely passing, debates swelled over how to proceed with the next chapter. Do they recast T'Chialla with a new actor, deep fake Chadwick Boseman's face onto a double, or write off his disappearance as being away on some distant mission somewhere? All these thoughts cluttered the minds of both fans and the creative team in charge.
Finally, after a few announcements and detailed riddled trailers revealing the story and direction of the next film, it became clear that Black Panther: Wakanda Forever would serve three purposes: provide a loving send-off to a dear friend, tell a socially relevant story, and solemnly promise to continue the legacy of what made the first film so impactful. While the next chapter in the story of the Black Panther delivers all of this in spades, despite not entirely living up to the incredible awesomeness of the first film, it is hands down the best possible way to move forward. Mr. Boseman would have been proud.
The story opens with the unfortunate passing of King T'Chialla, leaving the kingdom of Wakanda vulnerable and without a primary protector in the Black Panther. T'Chialla's mother, Ramonda (Angela Bassett), has been reinstated as Queen and has done her best to maintain Wakanda's security. Primarily in retaining sole ownership of the rare metal known as Vibranium, a powerful resource that powers their technology and society and is the envy of many other nations.
Efforts by other nations to forcefully secure Vibranium from Wakanda or find any outside their borders have left many efforts empty-handed. Until one such discovery also reveals the existence of a secret nation deep within the ocean, led by a powerful ruler named Namor (Tenoch Huerta), who will stop at nothing to protect his people and homeland. His efforts lead him to an attempt to negotiate a partnership with Wakanda, asking for their help in wiping out the entire surface world for their past aggressions towards their ancestors and their potential aggressions towards their resources.
Meanwhile, Princess Shuri (Letitia Wright), brother of T'Chialla and heir to the throne & mantle of Black Panther, continues to mourn her brother's death and struggles with how best to handle the many conflicts around and inside of her. The weight of the many piles on her shoulders as she attempts to come to terms with her future. As tensions between both nations rise, can she find a solution to bring peace, or will she fall into the same dark pit of vengeful anger as Namor?
Right off the bat, the film takes a brutal hit toward the horrors of colonialism and the serpent's tail dangers of the ever-so-tiresome "sins of the father" mentality that can easily plague one's heart and mind. The film also does not shy away from the unfortunate passing of its previous star. It makes the right choice to openly acknowledge his passing and plan the story accordingly. Like the first film, it holds no punches.
Director Ryan Cooglier brings out his creative voice with more extraordinary passion and energy than before. His emphasis on performance, witty dialogue and the occasional long take make this feel more like his film, further demonstrating his talent as a storyteller.
The film's overall story can sometimes feel like something that's been done before. While stories of past transgressions and present anger have been told many times before, it becomes more relevant here than in any other time, past or present. With the social and political climate being the way it is now, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever uses its cultural relevance to remind audiences why these stories are always important and worth being reminded of.
Namor's motivations and reasonings are relatable and sympathetic, even though you likely disagree with his choices in addressing the conflicts he faces. Furthermore, like the first film, it provides an antagonistic force that isn't evil but understandable. It is yet another fantastic effort by the storytellers to remind audiences of the importance of more excellent thought beyond one's base motivations. Because choosing to fight fire with fire at all times will only make you as cynical and heartless as those who wronged you before.
While this film doesn't have quite the same energy and impactfulness as its predecessor, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever stands strong as another triumph in its own right. It may not be the film we expected, but it is the film we needed.
Absolutely worth checking out!
Ladies & gentlemen, I am TheNorm; thank you all for reading.