Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)
Directed by: Ryan Coogler
Premise: A sequel to the 2018 film. King T’Challa has died, leaving the nation of Wakanda without its superhero. An undersea civilization rises to the surface and its leader (Tenoch Huerta Mejía) threatens Wakanda with destruction if they do not join his plans for world domination.
What Works: The Marvel Cinematic Universe has an uneven track record of sophomore movies in each character’s storyline. Iron Man 2, Thor: The Dark World, Spider-Man: Far from Home, and Avengers: Age of Ultron are the weakest entries in their respective sub-franchises. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is one of the better sequels in the MCU because it builds upon the foundation established in the first picture and expands the characters and themes. The first Black Panther introduced the nation of Wakanda and the story revolved around internal political drama. Wakanda Forever broadens the scope. The leadership of the country faces various international threats with nations pursuing Wakanda’s supply of vibranium. The search for the metal provokes a civilization of oceanic people to make their presence known. Wakanda Forever deepens some of the post-colonial themes of Black Panther and acknowledges the way, in real life, western countries have exploited African nations and their people. That history informs the action and gives the drama some relevance beyond the comic book story world. Wakanda Forever also complicates the characters and the conflicts. Shuri (Letitia Wright) has to choose between her own feelings and the good of her people while the new villain Namoor has a more complex motivation than we usually get in a comic book villain. The other portion of Wakanda Forever deals with the fallout of T’Challa’s death. In real life, actor Chadwick Boseman died and the moviemakers have worked that death into the story. Wakanda Forever partially serves as a memorial to Boseman. The scenes of the characters mourning T’Challa’s death have a sincere emotional impact and Shuri’s character must reconcile with her grief to grow as a leader and save her nation.
What Doesn’t: Wakanda Forever suffers from an overabundance of everything. The movie is not paced especially well and it is frequently baggy with a lot of plot lines weighing down the momentum of the story. Like many MCU pictures, Wakanda Forever is saddled with setting up future stories and that dilutes the film’s drama. There is little tension throughout the picture. The final battle doesn’t have a coherent goal or concrete stakes and the ending comes across anticlimactic. The film also frequently looks murky. Quite a bit of Wakanda Forever takes place underwater or at night and the low light levels are not well photographed. The imagery is so dark at times that some shots are incomprehensible.
Bottom Line: Wakanda Forever is a lot of movie, too much in some respects, but overall it is a successful sequel that expands the story world and enriches the themes and characters. It successfully pivots the Black Panther series to a new place that could be very exciting.
Episode: #928 (November 20, 2022)