By Jack McLaughlin
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is the hotly anticipated sequel to its 2018 predecessor. The film serves as a tribute to the late actor Chadwick Boseman, who starred in the titular role in Marvel Studios productions until his untimely death in 2020.
The film focuses on the nation of Wakanda struggling to move on following T’Challa’s passing. Wakanda has been attacked by other nations more frequently as their possession of the precious material vibranium is concerning the rest of the world due to its capabilities.
Shuri (Letitia Wright) is struggling to properly mourn her brother’s death, but is confronted by Namor (Tenoch Huerta), who demands an allegiance against other countries as his civilization of Talokan is under threat due to the vibranium they own.
This film proves to be Marvel Studios’ best this year. It’s a slow burn drama centered around the ideas of grief and loss with all the dazzling action we come to expect from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
The writing proves to be a sizable improvement over most MCU entries. The lack of a reliance on cheap punchlines and trendy humor gives this story the proper serious tone it is going for. There are moments of brevity sprinkled throughout, but this movie is first and foremost going for a more dramatic feeling.
A particularly good scene between Shuri and Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) in the first hour explores the film’s idea of grief in an expertly crafted and performed scene that stood out far beyond most attempts at emotion in Marvel films.
Action scenes are fairly scarce in the first two acts, at least for Marvel standards. Audiences are instead given more moments to understand the inner dilemmas these characters are facing, and these end up being more entertaining than any of the action.
The third act is composed almost entirely of action that detracts from the over two hours of dramatic build up. It unfortunately felt like it stumbled back into the MCU formula of requiring the film to end in a huge drawn out climax.
What made this third act different, however, was that the characters, particularly the villain, were given plenty of moments to make the audience empathize with them and give the action emotional weight.
Namor is a perfect villain for this type of story. He is a character who is simply trying to protect his people, and is willing to do anything in order to achieve that. It’s hard not to sympathize with his plight throughout. The film does terrific work making you not want to disagree with his concerns with the main characters.
Namor’s scenes with Shuri in the middle of the film perfectly explore this idea of a sympathetic villain. The bond they establish throughout these sequences make it all the more riveting once their conflict truly begins.
A new face introduced to this story is Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne). She is mostly included here to set up her character for the eventual show centered around her, but her importance to the story will not go unnoticed and will certainly leave you wanting more of her.
The near three-hour run time will make audiences cautious to enter the theater this weekend, and that’s reasonable as it does take a lot of time and devotion to properly get invested into the story.
The first hour is paced slowly, bouncing from many different locations and characters that it will be surprising that there is still a large chunk of the film left. Fortunately, everything within this first hour is so entertaining that I believe most of the audience will be content with a slower start.
When leaving the theater, audiences will be left with a Marvel film that will offer more than what they go in to expect. A compelling cast of characters with plenty of runtime to explore them and the heavy themes they experience will leave you with the best tribute to Chadwick Boseman the cast and crew could have done.