BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER (2022)
A fitting tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman wrapped in Marvel’s most emotionally raw, emotionally intelligent film to date, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever delivers both a character study centered on wrestling with grief and a thrilling action film that is one of the best the studio has put forward.
In Wakanda Forever, news of King T’Challa’s death has invigorated the world’s search for Vibranium, leading to a new threat to the nation of Wakanda that forces Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and Shuri (Letitia Wright) to do everything in their power to protect their home and people. Ryan Coogler’s task with this film was a tall one: address the death of the first film’s beloved lead while pushing the story forward in a worthy sequel. He does just that, armed with phenomenal performances by Bassett and Wright in particular and a new antihero powerhouse in Tenoch Huerta’s Namor. Bassett is absolutely eating here, her role enlarged in the sequel and each line of hers delivered with a gusto that reaches to your very core (oh hey, Oscars). Wright rises to the occasion and balances her character’s conflicting emotions with an unwavering intensity, demanding empathy from the audience. Huerta is a juggernaut as the kinda villain, kinda friend; his portrayal reveals a complicated character that serves the story well and furthers the inclusion of dynamic foes first introduced with Wanda Maximoff. I found myself rooting for him at times.
Everything about Wakanda Forever is big: the stunning performances, the intricacies of the costumes, the beauty of the settings, the vivacious soundtrack, and the magnitude of the action. It dives into themes of family, loss, and grief in a layered story that never once takes its eye off the ball. Wakanda Forever is a different type of Marvel film, a more mature outing that both the characters and moviegoers needed. The introduction of Dominque Thorne’s Riri Williams is a delightful touch that adds brief moments of levity to the heavy film. Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira are once again forces to be reckoned with, each of their characters rising to the occasion of the challenges presented. Michaela Coel is there, too, though underutilized, leaving me wondering if we will see more of her in the future.
Overall, Wakanda Forever is the cathartic experience we needed with this film, something not before seen in the MCU. Lets also not lost site of the fact that it is led almost entirely by a cast of strong Black females, a first for a superhero film and a perfect way to tell this story. There are moments that push the overall narrative of the universe forward ever so slightly, but Coogler rightfully always brings it back to the characters, to Wakanda, and to the intricate plot, resulting in one of the best Marvel movies to date.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever hits theaters Friday.