Ryan Coogler was handed the most impossible task imaginable for a filmmaker with the loss of Chadwick Boseman. Having written the entire script for the sequel, only to find themselves grieving the loss of the King of Wakanda and needing to restructure the movie entirely. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is a nearly flawless sequel that follows the Wakandans a year after the death of their protector, and Princess Shuri accepting the death of her brother, T’Challa. “Black Panther” was a phenomenal achievement in the comic book genre, and while the sequel doesn’t have the game-changer effect, it most definitely doubles the emotional impact.
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is the first MCU sequel in a long time where the only other film you need to see to appreciate it to the fullest is the predecessor. I am one of those who believe not recasting T’Challa was the correct decision. T’Challa is certainly a major character, but the Black Panther can live on without him. Knowing that the cast and crew were going through the exact same experience that the characters in the film were was devastating. The standard MCU criticisms are almost absent here due to how “real” the film gets.
The action sequences are visually stunning, and the visual effects are a massive improvement to the original film’s look. It is hard to believe Ludwig Göransson’s Oscar-winning score could get any better, but this felt so cinematic it gave me chills; “We Know What You Whisper” and “Wakanda Forever” most of all. The cinematography is fantastic as well, with so many vibrant colors assisting with the additional worldbuilding of the underwater kingdom of Talocan on top of furthering the development of Wakanda.
Rarely are comic book films appreciated for their performances, but with Phase Four, I feel they are standing out more than ever. In “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” there is not a weak link among the cast. Letitia Wright is incredible in taking on the mantle of the Black Panther. She packs one hell of an emotional punch multiple times throughout the film after how much she loses. In the end, she becomes the Black Panther, and her entrance into the Jabari gave me chills.
Tenoch Huerta is menacing as Namor, who is now one of my favorite characters in the MCU. Initially, I was not a fan of how rushed the final battle wrapped up, but looking back to T’Challa dealing with his father’s death, it is very similar. Shuri refused to let vengeance consume her after Namor killed her mother, and eventually, they came to a truce. That fight was brutal to watch and ripped straight from the comics.
Going into Queen Ramonda, Angela Bassett delivered the hell out of this character to a degree unlike I have ever seen before in the MCU. Her monologue directed at Okoye following the kidnapping of Shuri gave me goosebumps. I am not necessarily expecting an Oscar nomination, but she even undeniably deserves to win it this year. Her death scene is just as devastating as the film’s bookends, especially because of Wright’s performance.
Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong’o, Dominique Thorne, and Winston Duke are all amamzing as well. I think Michaela Coel was underused, but I enjoy seeing her in the MCU. These characters don’t get as much to do, but they all shine in the action sequences. I loved the opening Dora Milaje fight in the ocean. One thing I didn’t like was the design of the Midnight Angel armor – not everyone needs an Iron Man suit now. I respect they had the guts not to make the end credits scene a tease for the next project, instead being closure as a whole.
I don’t think Martin Freeman needed to be in this movie at all, and it felt like every one of his and Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ scenes were added in reshoots for upcoming projects like “Secret Invasion,” “Ironheart,” and “Thunderbolts.” Louis-Dreyfus fits so comfortably here, and she plays the hated governmental operative very well.
With the nearly three-hour-long runtime, I did not find issues with a bloated and overstuffed story and certain underdeveloped subplots as most people have been saying. The weakest aspect is the focus on setting up additional projects, but I felt that it flowed nicely otherwise, and that is not at all unusual for an MCU film, and we are going to have to accept it.
Phase Four has had its ups and downs, but the common theme of it all has been about characters in their times of grief. I found “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” improving upon the first film’s faults and doing even better at what it already did successfully. Ryan Coogler continues the story of exploring Wakanda while at the same time celebrating the legacy of Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa. If you don’t cry during the opening scene, then you are bound to cry during the closing one.