Director: Ryan Coogler
Writer: Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole
Cast: Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke, Dominique Thorne, Tenoch Huerta, Martin Freeman, and Angela Bassett.
Running time: 161 minutes
Four out of five stars.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has explored many unorthodox heroes and unique conflicts — but none quite as unique as that in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. For it is Wakanda itself that is the protagonist in a conflict that's not so much about superheroes — but supernations. It's not a story about war (there is one, of course) but rather, a clash between two superpowers (in every sense of the word). And when battles between superheroes can shake the planet, what more battles between supernations?
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is the sequel to 2018's Black Panther and the 30th film in the MCU. It serves as the final film in Phase Four of the MCU. It sees the nation of Wakanda reeling from the death of Black Panther, even as it struggles against a powerful, hidden nation much like itself — the underwater country of Talokan. If Wakanda is to survive, it must pull itself together and rise up, stronger than ever.
As a story about a supernation, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever doesn't quite focus on one character. Instead, it presents an ensemble of characters as the protagonists of the tale — creating the idea that this conflict is so much bigger than one just person. And that's where it shines, in making Wakanda the most important character of the movie itself. It's a fitting approach to take, given that it also honours the legacy left behind by the late Chadwick Boseman (who played Black Panther/T'Challa).
In the film, Black Panther's passing is established within the first few moments, setting the tone for rest of the movie. It follows the grieving process of T'Challa's family — his mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) cope with the loss in different ways, as well as Dora Milaje general Okoye (Danai Gurira) and his former lover Nakia (Lupita Nygong'o). It acknowledges the impact of Black Panther's legacy and loss, while still giving the characters room to carve a new path and start a new legacy for Wakanda. The passing of T'Challa, and by corollary, Chadwick Boseman, is done with respect and gravitas.
As a result, the main theme of the film is about letting go — and not just about those who've passed on. It's about letting go of blinding prejudices, crippling fears, and the demons of the past. It's painful — what grieving process isn't? — but necessary for growth. And ultimately, that's what happens in the film. As par the course for a Marvel movie, it happens just in time for the heroes of Wakanda to face the threat of Namor (Tenoch Huerta) and his army of super-powered marine soldiers.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever's depiction of Namor and Ironheart/Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne) is rather unexpected, especially if you have preconceived notions of what they're supposed to be like from the comics. In a way, it's positive (in that it avoids depicting Namor and Talokan in the same way that Aquaman and Atlantis has been portrayed), but it can also feel awkward, especially when it comes to Ironheart's portrayal (she doesn't sound quite as smart as she's supposed to be, nor is she suitable fleshed out in the film). It's clear that Ironheart's appearance is a setup for something much larger down the line (probably the upcoming Armour Wars series), but it does leave you feeling a little wanting.
And the biggest question of all — is there a new Black Panther? — is answered in the film itself. Eagle-eyed fans will probably have deduced the answer from certain media, so the resolution to this doesn't defy any expectations. However, Wakanda is still the true hero of story, regardless of whether Black Panther exists or not. And since it's ultimately a story of battle between supernations, it works well.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever explores a different conflict and brings several major new players to the MCU, just in time to round out Phase Four. Wakanda is no longer the only supernation on the planet, and we're beginning to see the fantastical vistas and corners of the MCU that was promised. It has only one post-credits scene, but it'll hit you in all the feels.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever opens in cinemas:
- 10 November, 2022 (Singapore)
- 10 November, 2022 (Malaysia)