The spirit of the late Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa, Black Panther) looms large throughout Marvel Studios’ Wakanda Forever, even as the film—and the franchise—seeks to clear a path to a future without him. The film is both painful and cathartic.
Looking back at my 2018 review of Black Panther, I can’t help but note my anticipation for more T’Challa in the years ahead, which is why Boseman’s 2020 death from cancer (at age 43) still seems hard to fathom. Wakanda Forever isn’t the sequel initially intended, but it’s the sequel we’ve got—and it’s a good one. It does Chadwick (and T’Challa) proud.
Wakanda Forever addresses the elephant in the theater room right off the bat. There’s no recasting T’Challa. He’s gone – the victim of some mysterious illness that even his brilliant, tech-savvy little sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) can’t cure from the confines of her pimped-out lab.
As Wakanda mourns the loss of its King T’Challa, aka The Black Panther, the world at large ponders what his passing could mean for their access to Wakanda’s exclusive stash of the powerful, sound-absorbent metal vibranium.
The protection of Wakanda (and its vibranium) rests largely on the shoulders of a cadre of kick-ass women including Shuri, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), the great warrior general Okoye (Danai Gurira), and War Dog Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o). They are the heart and soul of the film, while Winston Duke’s reprisal of M’Baku provides much-needed moments of comic relief.
Boosting the testosterone level a bit is Namor (Tenoch Huerta), the fishy, blue-skinned king of a hidden undersea nation. He is eager to form an alliance with the Wakandans, whether they like it or not. Battles ensue. And perhaps, a new Black Panther will emerge.
I’ll just leave it at that.
The performances are moving; Ryan Coogler’s direction is solid; the costumes, make-up, and music are all likely to make the short list for an Oscar nomination. It could, potentially, even make the cut for Best Picture, though superhero films are a tough sell in that category.
Bottom line: If superhero films just aren’t your thing, and you haven’t seen the original Black Panther, then you’re not likely to suddenly embrace the genre with this film. It’s overly-long (2 hrs, 40 minutes) and filled with MCU-isms. For those who know what vibranium is, are keen to honor the memory of Chadwick Boseman, and/or love to shout, “Wakanda Forever!” at the drop of a headpiece, then this one’s most definitely for you.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever opens exclusively in theaters Nov. 11.