The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has just concluded its fourth phase of installments with the release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, directed by Ryan Coogler. This film is a sequel to its predecessor, Black Panther, and sees the African nation of Wakanda in the wake of King T’Challa’s death. Due to the discussion of details within the film, I’d like to caution readers with a light spoiler alert.
Upon the film’s promotion, fans speculated what would become of T’Challa, the King of Wakanda, and its protector, the Black Panther. Chadwick Boseman, who famously played T’Challa, passed away of colon cancer in August, 2020– two years after Black Panther’s release, and one year after the sequel was announced. Marvel pledged that they didn’t plan to recast the role. The film opens with the events surrounding T’Challa’s death, in which he dies of an unknown illness that theoretically could only be cured through the use of the heart-shaped herb, a plant that grants superhuman abilities to its consumers. However, Wakanda’s population of heart-shaped herbs was destroyed in the previous film by Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan. Shuri, T’Challa’s princess-kid sister, tries desperately to reproduce the heart-shaped herb synthetically, but fails. T’Challa dies, remaining off-screen. A funeral is held, in which Shuri and her mother, Queen Ramonda–played by Letita Wright and Angela Bassett, respectively–say a final farewell to their beloved in a Black Panther-enscripted coffin. The Marvel Studios title card then plays, tributing Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa throughout his involvement in the MCU.
Wakanda Forever follows Shuri, both as she grieves the loss of her brother, and as she takes on a more diplomatic role as Princess of Wakanda. A lot of concern is placed on vibranium—Wakanda’s richest resource, and the strongest metal on Earth—as world nations mine for deposits of it, despite it only being found in Wakanda. Queen Ramonda gatekeeps the resource, citing her fear of what might happen should other nations get their hands on it. The mining for vibranium attracts the attention of Namor, the water-breathing ruler of a tribe of underwater dwellers, whose empire is also rich in vibranium. Namor implores Queen Ramonda and Shuri to help him find the “American scientist” responsible for the inception of the vibranium-detecting machines, and prevent them from disturbing Namor’s underwater empire of Talokan.
So what did we think of the movie? Personally, I thought that it is one of the standouts among the other installments in Phase Four of the MCU, alongside Shang-Chi and Spider Man. I felt Phase Four dealt with a lot of experimentation in the field of Marvel movies, as seen in toying around with horror elements in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. However, Wakanda Forever reels it in, and homes more in on the core story and its characters. Granted, the sudden passing of Chadwick Boseman altered the course of the initially intended story, but I thought that the filmmakers both handled Boseman’s passing and its effect on the film in stride, while introducing new plot points for future story development. The score, composed by Ludwig Göransson, was a standout to me, with various lyrical songs–such as Rihanna’s new single–to help move the film along. Letita Wright, Angela Bassett, and Lupita Nyongo’o–who play the roles of T’Challa’s sister Shuri, mother Queen Ramonda, and lover Nakia, respectively–stood out to me as far as performances go. As the absence of T’Challa onsets their grief, these three actresses gave stellar performances in how their characters may persevere in their roles through their grief.
Going into the movie, I was worried that the film would be bludgeoned by endless mention of T’Challa, and that this force would prevent adequate character development and exciting storytelling. However, T’Challa’s death prevails as a driving theme primarily at the beginning and ending of the film, with leaving the events in between to touch on themes of letting yourself grieve, and moving forward to find new meaning in a relationship with the deceased.
As a whole, I thought this was a good watch. I believe it does its job to both carry the story of the MCU forward, while honoring Chadwick Boseman and his legacy in a beautiful way. From a film-construction perspective, it may waiver in strength compared to past MCU installments, with regard to its almost three-hour-long runtime, and overall story structure, but grace must be given to its revision in the wake of Boseman’s death. This is definitely a movie to watch in the theater, with one mid-credits scene for audiences to enjoy. Should you not make it to the cinema during its theatrical spread, anyone can be certain it will arrive on streaming services shortly after the holiday season.