New from Kevin Wozniak on Kevflix: Movie Review: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

 

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a movie that looks at the importance of a legacy. It looks at the legacy of the characters in the film and how important they are to their nations and the people of their nations. It looks at the legacy of its actors and how significant they are or were to the franchise and to the film community. And it looks at the legacy of the film and its place within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The first Black Panther, released in 2018, built a huge legacy. It is one of the ten highest-grossing films of all time at the domestic box office. It was met with critical and audience praise upon its release and is considered by many to be one of the best movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and one of the best comic book movies ever made. Black Panther also made history becoming the first comic book movie to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. It even went on to win three Oscars that year, the most ever by a comic book movie. But its most impactful legacy was how important the film was for Black creatives and audiences. Black Panther is far and away the most successful movie with a predominantly Black cast and will forever be known for its accomplishments.

But when Chadwick Boseman, the beloved actor who starred as King T’Challa/Black Panther, passed away in 2020, it had many of us wondering what they would do with the next film. Would they recast T’Challa? Could the franchise move on without Boseman and the importance of him playing T’Challa? Despite arguments on both sides, the filmmakers decided on the latter. They made a movie where the character of T’Challa dies, which we see happen in the harrowing opening scene of the movie as we see Shuri (Letita Wright) frantically trying to find a cure for her brother’s unidentified sickness before he is sent to the Gods. She fails, and now Wakanda is without its king.

But as Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) tells Shuri later in the film, “just because he is dead, does not mean he is gone.” The spirit of T’Challa and Boseman loom throughout director Ryan Coogler’s epic sequel, which finds Shuri, Ramonda, and the rest of Wakanda trying to move on from the death of T’Challa and maintain Wakanda’s status as the most powerful nation in the world, despite pressures from the rest of the world to share their Vibranium. It gets even more complicated when Wakanda is attacked by Namor (Tenoch Huerta) and his legion of aquatic soldiers, all of who live underwater and have built a sustainable life for themselves thanks to Vibranium. Namor wants to partner with Wakanda to become a superpower that the humans and the rest of the world would be unable to stop. As the nation is in crisis, Shuri and Ramonda must navigate what is best for Wakanda and its people in the wake of unspeakable tragedy.

Tenoch Huerta as Namor in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Tenoch Huerta as Namor in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Disney)

The loss of Boseman to the world and the franchise cannot be overstated and Coogler knows that. We are constantly reminded of his loss and how important of a figure he was to everyone involved in making the film, while also reminding us that we lost a generational talent too soon. As viewers, we must move on knowing Boseman will never be in the Black Panther suit again, but his impact will never be forgotten. And at the same time, Wakanda Forever ensures that the franchise and Black Panther’s place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is in a good place and that Black Panther will live on.

The same can be said for the people of Wakanda. The loss of T’Challa has shaken the entire landscape of Wakanda and the nation must decide its next move. The decisions Ramonda and Shuri make will decide the safety and the legacy of Wakanda for years to come. They know how important Wakanda is and the decisions they make will represent who they are and who their nation is. This is also the case for Namor and his underwater nation of Talocan. Namor has protected his nation for centuries and built it to become a powerful nation. They look to him for leadership and answers. What will their partnering with Wakanda mean? What will happen if they don’t partner with them? Wakanda Forever looks at the importance of leadership in a time of crisis.

Despite its nearly three-hour runtime, the film flies by with exciting and explosive action sequences that take place on land and on the water and a top-notch ensemble, led by Wright and Bassett, who should get awards consideration for her powerful and emotional turn as Ramonda. The visuals are beautiful, though some of the night sequences are very dark to the point where I was squinting to see what was happening on screen. The score, costumes, and production design are stunning and Ludwig Goransson’s score is excellent.

Coogler had a lot to handle with Wakanda Forever, but he balanced it all well. He had to deal with a lot of complicated themes and emotions, and he did so in a smart and spectacular way. This is a big movie with big ideas about grief, leadership, and the legacy you leave behind. Wakanda Forever beautifully captures the legacy and spirit of Chadwick Boseman, the importance of T’Challa in the film and outside the film, and puts the Black Panther series in a good place so that the hero and the film series can live on for years to come.

 

 

 

 

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