By Tyler Onna
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever tells an incredible story of overcoming loss with superb acting. It doesn’t fully stick the landing in the end; however, it marks a satisfying end to Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
Making a movie is a difficult enough task to ask of someone. Being asked to make a movie without the person who was the soul of the first when they unexpectedly passed away is nearly impossible. Those were challenges bestowed upon Ryan Coogler while making the sequel to Black Panther. And he mostly succeeds.
The main draw of Wakanda Forever and its strongest aspect, undoubtedly, is the acting on display. Coogler took the genuine grief of these actors and applied it to this movie- the result is some of the best acting in a superhero movie to date.
Angela Bassett gives a performance that will be starting up awards contention. Her regal portrayal of the Queen Mother is even more powerful, and it feels as if she really is leading a nation as a grieving mother. Letitia Wright is fantastic in the film. She gives a standout performance as Shuri, and her raw emotions of grief, anger and vengeance resonate through the screen.
Newcomer Riri Willaims is a welcome addition to the MCU. While she is underused in the movie when she is on screen, Dominique Thorne’s portrayal of her is charming and makes viewers want to see more of her.
The other breakout star in Wakanda Forever is Tenoch Huerta as the antagonist, Namor. The character is equally as compelling as Killmonger. Huerta radiated Namor’s power and compassion as a god to his people. Namor is one of the best villains the MCU has seen in recent memory.
The story Coogler went with for this movie was great. He combined the story of grief and loss in one nation with another nation fearing invasion. And the two go well together. Namor’s army was intimidating and they made the audience genuinely worried about the characters on screen.
A major criticism of the first film from 2018 was the poor CGI in the final battle. Fortunately, history does not repeat itself in this sequel. The visuals in this movie, for the most part, are beautiful. All of the locations and environments look incredible. Some of the green screen could be improved, but compared to the visual stumbles in this phase, complaints are minimal.
With a runtime of 161 minutes, this movie has a mostly excellent pace. For the first two hours or so, the film does a great job of being a grounded emotional story, but the third act was rather disappointing. It was just another Marvel final battle when what we watched for two hours prior was trying to be the opposite.
Martin Freeman makes his return, and he is charming as always as the Wakandans’ “favorite colonizer.” His role in the movie this time around is as damage control. Freeman’s character serves as a way for the audience to remember that the Wakandans have some allies while hinting at setups in future Marvel phases.
There is only one mid-credit scene for this movie, as opposed to the usual two for MCU movies. The scene ensures that the legacy of Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal of King T’Challa will continue in future Marvel movies. This fits right in with the previous movies and shows of phase four of Marvel, as the running theme seems to be passing the torch to the younger generation.
Most who fell in love with the first movie and this world will undoubtedly walk away from Wakanda Forever, getting what they came for. The film has incredible acting and beautifully pays tribute to Chadwick Boseman while paving the way for a very exciting future for the world of Wakanda.