Direction: Ryan Cooler| Scenario: Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole| Cast: Letitia Wright (Shuri), Angela Bassett (Ramonda), Danai Gurira (Okoye), Tenoch Huerta (Namor), Lupita Nyong’o (Nakia), Winston Duke (M’Baku), Dominique Thorne (Riri Williams), Martin Freeman ( Everett Ross), among others | Playing time: 161 minutes | Year: 2022
The three Oscar winners Black Panther considered by critics to be one of the best Marvel films ever made. The film was groundbreaking in its design, and whether you agree with the critics or not, its social significance was undeniable. Expectations for the sequel are therefore high. Able to Wakanda forever Delight the critics again? The film also concludes phase four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s a shame that the phase that revolved around the introduction of new characters has to end with an old character’s farewell.
Instead of the usual bombastic Marvel opening tune, this time a deafening silence. Wakanda mourns the loss of King T’Challa, and the beginning of the film serves to say goodbye. Of the Black Panther character, but also of the man behind the mask. A moving beginning that hits hard, and a beautiful final tribute to Chadwick Boseman. It’s clear from the start Wakanda forever won’t be your standard superhero movie.
Ryan Coogler, who is also the first Black Panther directed, breaks with the James Bond-esque approach of the original and comes up with a full movie where tears are often closer than laughter. He tells a story of loss, grief and inner struggle. But also about regained strength, taking responsibility and the choice between revenge and forgiveness. It is a story full of symbolism that, in addition to African culture, also places strong women on the pedestal. T’challa’s sister Shuri takes over as the main character and the film is essentially about her journey to acceptance.
Of course, it’s also just a classic Marvel movie, and it’s not complete without some CGI acting. The film introduces two new characters: Riri Williams (Ironheart), a 19-year-old super-genius who will get her own series on Disney+ in 2023, and of course the villain on duty; the feathered serpent god Namor. To protect his underwater world, Talokan, Namor attacks Riri, whose invention threatens his world. When Shuri comes to protect her, Wakanda faces a new enemy.
The Ironheart character hardly takes shape, but the film spends a lot of time on the origin story of Namor, who is convincingly portrayed by Tenoch Huerta. However, his interpretation is a bit telenovela, and his shorts take away awe. The character is therefore less badass than Jordan’s Killmonger from the first part. The Shuri character, on the other hand, transcends her supporting role from the first part, and Letitia Wright’s narrow shoulders prove to be broad enough for the greater responsibility. The highlight of the film is Angela Bassett, whose powerful performance as grieving mother and proud queen clearly gives voice to much more than just her character.
Wakanda forever is obviously much more than just a superhero movie thanks to its immense cultural significance. However, Coogler’s statement is less explicit this time and he leaves it to the public to draw the parallels. The film is primarily a celebration of African culture. The visually beautifully designed afro-futuristic Wakanda is a feast for the eyes and the costumes by Ruth Carter, who Black Panther won an Oscar, are once again phenomenal. The beautiful African-inspired score by composer Ludwig Göransson completes the experience.
The experience is reminiscent of phase three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where the movies were still moving and the stories were still epic. Admittedly, the script sometimes seems secondary to the introduction of the new characters, but the film is solid thanks to its strong symbolism and deeper themes. The action is big and compelling, the special effects are beautiful, and the film’s emotional charge takes the original cast’s performances to the next level.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a painful goodbye, but also a new beginning. It’s a tasteful tribute to the legacy of Chadwick Boseman, occasionally consciously playing the sensitive chord. Coogler is clearly breaking with the typical humorous approach to Phase Four, and this will be a relief for fans. The film takes itself seriously, feels current and holds up a somewhat moralizing mirror to us all. It’s a tearjerker, a stunner of a closer and above all a worthy sequel to the original Black Panther-movie. But who will succeed the Black Panther character?