Loss. Grief. Legacy. Dealing with sudden loss and attempting to move forward. These are some critical themes that Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” addresses.
So much has changed since 2018’s “Black Panther,” and it is no secret that this sequel had many fans wondering how Marvel Studios would move forward after the death of lead actor Chadwick Boseman in August 2020 after they had announced the sequel to the first film.
After the first trailer of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” was released, it became evident that the film would deal with the death of T’Challa in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and led to speculation about who would become the superhero known as the Black Panther.
The movie deals with the sudden death of King T’Challa and how his mother, Ramonda, and his sister Shuri deal with the loss. The conflict escalates when the sudden appearance of the secret people of Talokan and their leader Namor begin causing trouble. The Wakandans must then find a way to do what is necessary as tensions between Ramonda and Shuri and Namor escalate, which could result in a devastating war.
The film’s key characters are Princess Shuri and Namor, who desire peace and progress for their people. The movie does an excellent job of shifting Shuri from a supporting character in “Black Panther” to becoming the series’ focus.
Shuri’s grief is highlighted throughout the film, given that her brother has passed. Ramonda also has to deal with losing two beloved family members and ruling Wakanda.
One may think that Ramonda is unreasonable in some of her actions throughout the film, but she is only trying to hold on to her only remaining family member. When I first saw some of her actions, I thought her emotions clouded her judgment, but I began to think about why she acted the way she did. This was a grieving woman who felt that she was about to lose so much if she did not act quickly and decisively.
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” brings representation to Latinos and their Mesoamerican background. The kingdom of Talokan draws inspiration from Mesoamericans, primarily from the Mayans in the modern-day Yucatán peninsula.
The film briefly discusses the colonization of Mesoamerica and the harm Europeans inflicted on the Mayans and other surrounding empires. This is a motive for Namor’s plan for peace.
As a Latino myself, the casting of Tenoch Huerta Mejía as Namor meant a lot to me. I am not used to seeing people similar to me and my background in the superhero genre of movies. I also thought it was amazing to see the film celebrate the indigenous culture of the Mayans. I find it essential that movies like this do not try to tuck away the unpleasant realities of colonization in the Americas.
Letitia Wright’s performance as Shuri is powerful, and one can feel her pain throughout the film as she tries to find peace in her grief and loss and to carry on the legacy of her late brother.
Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejía) is a well-written character, who serves as the film’s antagonist, but I might argue that he is more like an antihero. There was great chemistry between Shuri and Namor in the movie and they both understood each other enough to talk civilly in many scenes. I was left very impressed by some of Mejía’s line deliveries, which left the theater and I gasping. I was able to understand his character’s motives throughout the movie.
The movie’s visuals were astonishing compared to the previous films and series in Phase 4 (the collection of Marvel movies that work much like TV series and their seasons) of the MCU. Much like its appearance in the first film and “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018), Wakanda continues to leave audiences in awe and wonder, and the introduction to the underwater nation of Talokan appears phenomenal.
When Shuri was being shown the underwater kingdom, I was mesmerized along with her. The scene showed the lives of the people in Talon and some of the kingdom’s architecture, which made the scene feel as pleasing as it felt to initially see Wakanda in 2018.
Some of the scenes that take place in natural settings, such as the woodlands, rivers and mountains of Wakanda or the beaches of Yucatán are stunning, bringing Marvel fans back from the cosmos and alternative universes from past films and present real-world settings set in a fictionalized world filled with superheroes.
The film still suffers from a few questionable CGI fight scenes. Some of the movements of the characters were not impressionable. They looked overly animated and poorly edited, which many Marvel projects have suffered from lately, such as “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” or “Thor: Love and Thunder.” The CGI was not bad enough, as it was in those mentioned projects, to dislike the film completely. Still, the choreographed stage combat, cinematography, iconography, such as the funeral traditions and rituals of
Wakanda and the natural settings of the film make up for the shortcomings of the movie’s lackluster CGI, which I may add are only a couple of scenes.
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is a powerful and moving film that honors the legacy of the late Chadwick Boseman, and is a beautiful project.
4.5 out of 5 stars.