‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ is a moving tribute to Chadwick Boseman
To say the production of this film was complicated would be a remarkable understatement. Chadwick Boseman’s tragic passing was a devastating shock to everyone, and the cast and crew who were closest to him still had to rally together and channel their grief into making a superhero spectacle whilst also honouring their good friend. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever does just that as a beautiful tribute for the fallen hero, whilst also being a tragic and moving exploration of grief, colonialisation and war. You will laugh and cry across its 2 hours 40-minute runtime… but mostly cry.
The film is an example of perfect craftsmanship, with well-deserved Oscar chatter for Angela Bassett
The film deals with the aftermath of the sudden death of King T’Challa, as various superpowers attempt to take advantage of a Black Panther-less Wakanda in search of the rare Vibranium metal. Wakanda, led by T’Challa’s grieving mother Ramonda (Angela Basset) and his genius sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), must rally together to defend MIT prodigy Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne) from the underwater kingdom of Talokan, led by their god-like leader Namor (Tenoch Huerta), as her Vibranium-tracking device risks revealing Talokan’s existence to the world.
The film is an example of perfect craftsmanship, with well-deserved Oscar chatter for Angela Bassett who stands out with her powerful speech driven by agony and torment. Letitia Wright blossoms into the lead of the film beautifully, delivering a multi-faceted performance, as her character Shuri reels through the stages of grief whilst laden with the responsibility of dealing with the mercurial antagonist Namor. Namor himself is a well realised antagonist, as you truly feel the threat that him and his blue-skin army offer against Wakanda, charged with sympathetic motives in a manner like Killmonger (Michael B. Jordon) from the first film.
The Afro-futuristic Wakanda is an example of what the continent could have been without being colonised
Okoye (Danai Gurira), the leader of Wakanda’s all-female royal guard the Dora Milijae, also undergoes strong character development as her pre-existing beliefs are challenged throughout the film. The character of Riri Williams hasn’t been received well in the comics, but Coogler’s depiction of her immediately makes you hyped for her upcoming solo Disney Plus series. However, her presence in this film often feels contrived considering her lack of affiliation with Wakanda, screen time that could have gone to M’Baku (Winston Duke), who was severely underused.
Underneath the jaw-dropping visuals and the panache by which Ryan Coogler directs the film is an accomplished screenplay that provides commentary on colonialisation. Both Wakanda and their opponents Talokan contrastingly display the effects of colonialisation. The Afro-futuristic Wakanda is an example of what the continent could have been without being colonised, whilst Talokan’s creation is forged from the native Mexicans being driven out of their own land by conquistadors. Talokan is beautifully brought to life by adapting various aspects of Aztec and Mesoamerican culture.
Wakanda Forever is a healthy upgrade on its predecessor despite the remarkably challenging circumstances facing its creation
The film is surprisingly bold in its criticism of Western powers, most notably the United States, as the conflict between Wakanda and Talokan is perpetrated by American intervention in its thirst for resources – a clear critique of US foreign policy. Another theme addressed is the concept of faith as Shuri, a woman of science, turns to worshipping the god Bast due to her complete despair, just as the tragic inhabitants of Talokan worship Namor as their god. Ludwig Goransson produces another soundtrack with Academy Award winning potential, augmented by Rihanna’s poignant single ‘Lift Me Up,’ which plays over the film’s credits.
Wakanda Forever is a healthy upgrade on its predecessor despite the remarkably challenging circumstances facing its creation. It is a much-needed return to form for the Marvel Cinematic Universe after recent misfires in Phase Four such as Multiverse of Madness, addressing recent criticisms by feeling like a blockbuster spectacle, with immaculate VFX and a serious and sometimes harrowing tone. The film isn’t without its minor flaws, with Namor’s desperation for war not addressed and an incomplete sub-plot which exists purely to set up the upcoming Thunderbolts film. But despite everything going against it, Wakanda Forever manages to be an excellent geo-political thriller whilst also delivering a heartfelt and moving homage to the legendary Chadwick Boseman.