“They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it. Death cannot kill what never dies.” – William Penn
The mystery of where this franchise would go, if anywhere, after the untimely death of Chadwick Boseman was a whirlwind of rumors and mistruths from the moment the news broke of his passing. Word of recasting was quickly shut down as director Ryan Coogler opted for a more powerful story of acknowledgment rather than denial.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a celebration of life, an acceptance of loss and a dream of what could be. The characters of Wakanda are a thriving people but find themselves stalled in grief as their beloved king is lost to the randomness and callous nature of illness. As the royal family tries to carve a future without their son and King, a mysterious being emerges with threats of world ending ambitions. As they demand an alliance against the outside world, the Queen and Princess of Wakanda must decide the future of the kingdom now left vulnerable and subject to invasion for their most precious commodity, the ultra-rare Vibranium.
So often movies about superheroes have been accused of being nothing more than empty vessels. They are cash grabs with soulless aspirations. Martin Scorsese is my favorite director but I couldn’t disagree with him more on the subject of these kinds of movies. They have their place just as his movies do. While many can unfortunately fall under that umbrella of garbage cinema (DC) there are the ones that reach for more, Wakanda Forever undoubtedly being one of the latter. While focusing on the world of one character from the MCU, this feels as epic and fantastic as any one of the adored Avenger films featuring dozens of hero characters.
What Wakanda Forever does best is showcase the power of a united people determined enough to stem the impending wave of aggression facing down on them. As much as it is a journey for T’Challa’s sister and Princess of Wakanda, Shuri, to find her place in a reality where her favorite person in the world is taken from her, it’s about the celebration of a life lived in grace and inspiration. The villains of their present story are an unrelenting example of life moving on despite such desperation for the opposite. As they mourn and these moments are stolen from them by an outside sinister force, their grief turns to vengeance potentially ending in self destruction.
Wakanda Forever is both an adventure of worldwide scale but a personal epilogue of profound loss and gleaming potential for a future temporarily hidden by the fog of despair. With all the action and fortitude is a cast of immeasurable talent. The naïve but emboldened princess is guided by Letitia Wright as her journey is replete with literal blood, sweat and tears. Scene stealing Queen Ramonda, played brilliantly by Angela Bassett, is a force to behold. If the awards consideration wasn’t so anti-superhero, she should be heavily considered for her turn as the brittle but somehow everlasting Queen of Wakanda. She truly is something special here. Another character brilliantly portrayed is Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakia. While Bassett demonstrates an unwavering mental strength, Nakia is a pure assassin, a spy deep within enemy territory. To put it simply, Nakia is an absolute badass. Alongside her Wakandan warriors they are a formidable presence that produce some genuinely stellar action sequences.
Something often overlooked with these kinds of movies is the soundtrack. The score of Wakanda Forever is an element as powerful as its characters. It evokes feelings of immensity and strength. It encapsulates heartbreak and healing as it honors its particular heritage of African inspired characters. While it may pertain to a certain group of people, the impact felt is in no way lessened. Much like the visuals demanding the biggest screen possible, the sound of such an epic score demands the best sound system available. Often I was reminded of the tragic portrayal of real events in the war story, Black Hawk Down. It’s a mixture of tragedy and triumph much the same as the story that is Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
So much about Wakanda Forever surpasses the original. While the villain of this story is well-rounded, entertaining and humanized, making him one of the better recent MCU antagonists, Michael B. Jordan’s performance as Killmonger in the first Black Panther still stands above the rest. But not surpassing that performance is in no way a damnation of the current foe barreling down upon the broken kingdom of Wakanda. I quite enjoyed his performance and found him to be a worthy adversary for our heroes to overcome.
With a hefty runtime, every minute is utilized to create a brilliant world of superheroism and normal human feats of strength all in the face of villains and enormous loss. It is a celebration and mourning of a real man who was battling his own demons while somehow managing to play a character of unnatural strength and agility. Chadwick Boseman was a special human being and his demonstration of strength in the face of such adversity is nothing short of heroic, all without the aid of a supersuit. In every mention of T’Challa’s name, it could easily be replaced with Boseman’s. I imagine that was by design. His absence is felt throughout the movie but so is his presence. At every turn you expect to see his face, yearning to spread an otherworldly kind of advice only someone as eternal as him could convey. I think each in our own way mourns his loss. Let this movie be the ultimate celebration of such a profound soul.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is one of the MCU’s best. Arguing against it doesn’t change such a fact.
(If your “I’m not racist but…” biases are in any way going to impact your thoughts about this movie and you feel you must share these ignorances with the world, please don’t. Keep that absurdity to yourself. Yes this is a predominantly black cast and roughly eighty percent female led. Deal with it.)
Rated PG-13 For: sequences of strong violence, action and some language
Runtime: 161 minutes
After Credits Scene: Mid-credits. Nothing after.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
Starring: Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett, Tenoch Huerta, Danai Gurira
Directed By: Ryan Coogler
Out of 10 Nerdskulls
Story: 9/ Acting: 10/ Directing: 9/ Visuals: 10
OVERALL: 9.5 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes.
Check out the trailer below:
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