Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Review


Jack Armstrong, Staff Writer

The passing of Chadwick Boseman on August 28th, 2020 was unexpected and a tremendous loss to Hollywood. Pioneering the film adaptation of Black Panther, starring in films like 42, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Da 5 Bloods, and becoming a true hero for racial equality in Hollywood, Chadwick Boseman was truly an inspiration for all who watched and enjoyed his films. He was an incredible actor, superhero, and is still missed to this day. The legacy that he left behind was something to really be impressed by. Black Panther, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe film to headline a black actor, was critically acclaimed and beautifully represented black actors, directors, filmmakers, and many more in a superhero film that set the standard for many other superhero films. So much so, Black Panther is the only film in this thirty film franchise to win an academy award. In fact, it won THREE academy awards! Needless to say, the world was waiting for the follow up to this juggernaut of a film. Yet, after Chadwick Boseman’s passing, no one really knew what to think. Should they recast? Should they cancel the sequel? Should they move forward with the franchise without Boseman? Everyone was divided.

I really didn’t know what to think at the time. One thing that was respectful however was that no one really questioned what would happen to Black Panther until much after Boseman’s passing. Instead of bombarding the internet with the next Marvel film, everyone collectively grieved the loss of an amazing person. Yet, this was a question that had to be addressed at some point. Unfortunately, I started to get worried about what would happen to the next Black Panther film. Seeing how I was very unimpressed with everything the MCU had to offer after Avengers: Endgame, I was worried that the eventual sequel to Black Panther would be another cash grab without truly honoring the work that Chadwick Boseman put into the character. Movies like Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and shows like Moon Knight felt perfectly average. But that was what was so awful about these new Marvel films. None of them felt like movies. They felt like slapped-together, studio-driven commercials to sell toys, not tell stories. What did this mean for the Black Panther sequel? I have no idea. But I felt frustrated even thinking about it.

But then the trailer came out.

Watching the trailer for the now titled Black Panther: Wakanda Forever movie was an experience that was relieving and a little worrying at the same time. The trailer was great. To me, nothing about it felt like it was a Marvel movie. It felt like there was legitimately a director behind this project that wanted to tell a story. A three minute trailer which showcased albeit not a lot of information was enough to make me feel like this project was headed in the right direction. Yet, a small, pessimistic side of my brain questioned how much of this film was actually going to be like this and how much was there to just grab our wallets. But I felt optimistic; something I haven’t felt about a Marvel movie in a very long time.

After a group of friends and I drove out to see the movie in theaters, I can say that Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was easily the best Marvel Cinematic Universe project in a very long time. If I could sum up this film in one word, it would be “refreshing.” Finally, after years of computer generated messes and lousy acting comes a movie that reminded me why I really loved superhero movies in the first place. Ryan Coogler returns from the first Black Panther movie to deliver the audience a story about remembering those who came before us and paving the way for the future. Shuri, T’Challa’s younger sister, is overcome with grief and vengeance after the death of her brother. Now with the discovery of vibranium in other parts of the world aside from Wakanda, Shuri and the many other characters in Wakanda are forced to carry on the legacy of T’Challa and defend the place they call home. It was a narrative that excited me from the beginning. One of my worries was the film was really going to harp on T’Challa’s death, leaving it to be the only real plot point that the characters had to overcome. And while his death played a role in the overarching story, it never felt like it was in the forefront. Watching Shuri, Okoye, Nakia, Riri, and the many other characters shine on their own was where the camera was focused on and it was great.

To start, the acting in my opinion was stellar the majority of the time. Particularly from Angela Bassett portraying Ramonda, the mother of T’Challa and Shuri, and Tenoch Huerta who portrayed the main antagonist of the film, Namor. Namor’s character felt so fleshed out that I couldn’t help but feel a little angry that very few villains in the MCU received this kind of treatment. His backstory, personality, powers, and actions were done very well. Bassett’s acting is on a completely different level compared to everyone else. Every single scene she was in, she stole the show. Even with moments where Shuri was supposed to be the main focus, Ramonda was the one I really fell in love with during this movie. Her arc, actions, and acting were something I aspire to be able to achieve in my career. Lupita Nyong’o always brings her A game as well. After watching her in Jordan Peele’s Us, I finally began to understand the hype surrounding her. And after watching her in this movie, it only further defined my thoughts on her as an actress. Letitia Wright’s performance in this movie impressed me as well! While she was not my favorite character in the first Black Panther movie, she really shined in this movie! Wright, being the main focal point of the majority of the scenes, did well in keeping the audience motivated to see her succeed. Her arc in this film was also fantastic, seeing how she is the one grieving T’Challa’s loss the most.

The cinematography in this film felt… well… like a film! Some of the shots in this movie feel cheap, like the majority of Marvel movies that preceded this one. But a lot of the shots felt like they had purpose and flare. The underwater scenes and the sprawling shots of Wakanda were not anything to scoff at. They were done very well.

One of my biggest complaints with the movie, like all modern Marvel movies, was the CGI. I’ll admit, some of the CGI in this movie really looked good with characters and action where it didn’t feel like CGI at all! However, when the CGI is noticeable, by god is it noticeable. Some of the CGI in this movie was on the same level as the effects found in Thor: Love and Thunder, one of my least favorite movies of the year. It is very hit and miss a majority of the time. When it hit, I was in awe at how great it looked. When it misses, it completely takes me out of the story.

One more complaint I had with this movie was the runtime. This is a nearly three hour endeavor. Which, before entering the theater, I felt was probably warranted. There was a lot that needed to be said and done about the future of these characters. These characters truly needed the time to grow in this film in order for it to be good. However, I can’t help but feel like that it could have been nearly as, if not more, effective if the filmmakers shaved off a half an hour or more from the runtime. It isn’t a major complaint, but it is one nonetheless.

Do I recommend Black Panther: Wakanda Forever?

Is the sky blue?

Wakanda Forever is a film that is not worth missing. With a great story, engaging subplots, fantastic character arcs, and more, this film made me care about the future of the MCU again. I didn’t even think that was possible! Ryan Coogler created a film that made you learn and grow along with the characters. It’s a movie that had a voice in a sea of other Marvel movies that don’t. Coogler created this as a love letter to Chadwick Boseman and the character of Black Panther. It is worth everyone’s time to check out the new Black Panther movie in theaters if you have the time, especially after finishing the first round of college applications!