Discover more from The Mendez Movie Report
Quick Review: Black Panther - Wakanda Forever
The following is my review for the film Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. A reminder, you can click this link to see how I score films when I review them.
Queen Ramonda, Shuri, M’Baku, Okoye, and the Dora Milaje fight to protect their nation from intervening world powers in the wake of King T’Challa’s death. As the Wakandans strive to embrace their next chapter, the heroes must band together with the help of War Dog Nakia and Everett Ross to forge a new path for the kingdom of Wakanda.
In a day and age where we get three to four Marvel Cinematic Universe movies (Plus a few Disney Plus series) a year, it can be hard for one of their properties to stand out. But then you have 2018’s Black Panther which made history by not just making a boatload of money at the box office, but managing to become the first ever superhero movie to get an Oscar nomination for Best Picture ten years after The Dark Knight barely missed getting in. Perhaps its how different direction style, the lore, the world building, and the characters that stand out versus typical MCU fare, but I even know some ardent MCU haters who make exceptions for the 2018 blockbuster hit.
So you knew a sequel was coming. But alas Director Ryan Coogler was handed several rough blows that lead to the movie getting delayed year after year. First was the tragic and sudden passing of Chadwick Boseman, then there was the pandemic, then came having to make decisions on how to completely rewrite the story, and the cherry on top on all the troubles there were rumors of some COVID related hold-ups while filming. But someway somehow Black Panther: Wakanda Forever became a reality.
The gaping hole that is left in this property by Boseman’s death and the decision not to recast the character (A move that I personally would have gone with) is felt watching this follow-up. His shadow looms large through the events of every turn of the story and to Coogler’s credit he managed to deal with his main protagonist’s in-story death in a way that gives tribute to Chadwick as well. There’s two significant scenes at the beginning and end where the movie really stops to give tribute to the late actor, and yet somehow still keeps things going from a narrative perspective.
The cast that had to fill such a large gap features returning players from the first film in Letitia Wright as Shuri, Lupita Nyong'o as Nakia, Danai Gurira as Okoye, Winston Duke as M'Baku, Martin Freeman as Everett Ross, and Angela Bassett as Queen Ramonda who gives a performance that I actually believe is worthy of awards consideration but unfortunately very likely won’t be thanks to things out of her control. There’s also the addition to the cast of Dominique Thorne as Riri Williams, Michaela Coel as Aneka, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (From what I gather she’s appeared in the Disney Plus shows but I don’t watch those personally).
But the biggest addition to the cast in my mind is the character of Namor played by up-and-comer Tenoch Huerta Mejía. His performance is great, and the character himself continues this nice streak of late of well written, layered MCU villains. Surrounding the character is some new lore and world building introduced to the cinematic universe as a whole that feels refreshing to see given how much previous MCU movies play it safe.
What you end up with is a tale of a nation trying to come to grips with its lost king, a family trying to move on, and a new threat that will test them. The movie has themes that hit on loss and grief, faith, and even has some things to say on colonialism. Its action scenes are entertaining and while I still wouldn’t call it top notch, the visual effects are much better than the previous movie. I think all in all this is going to be a decent addition to the MCU catalog. But…
I can’t personally label this a great movie either. I think its a significant step down from the first film, and its (as I mentioned before) Chadwick, and in turn the character of T'Challa, have left such a massive hole in this world we’re returning to. The film comes off at times as overbloated in that it attempts to tackle so much, and its runtime absolutely could have been shaved down as I found myself feeling its length towards the third act. And there’s moments and decisions in this where it feels like their shoving advertisements for upcoming MCU shows like Ironheart rather than attempting to make arcs that are mainly in service to the story in front of us.
There’s no doubt this movie has its moments of beauty in its tribute to Boseman’s legacy; or that the film we got is rather amazing to have even finished given all the things lobbed in pre-production at it. This is going to hit all the right notes if you adore this world and are a general MCU mega fan in general. But I can’t ignore the movie’s weaknesses. This is an enjoyable enough blockbuster popcorn flick, but it doesn’t come close to touching the original - and on its own without the presence of Boseman or the great elements in the movie that worked, its honestly a mid-tier MCU project in my eyes.