Wakanda Forever is not a film to mince its sentiment. Given the sad departure of Chadwick Boseman, who previously played Black Panther, director Ryan Coogler addresses this issue head-on. Before the titles, the music or even the first frame hits the screen, his passing becomes front-and-centre the focus of Wakanda Forever.
And launching itself into a sensitively-paced first act, the film does a brilliant job of addressing this sense of grief whilst also introducing some new faces for the story to come.
... Wakanda Forever is one seriously portentous movie.
In short, after the demise of Black Panther, the world’s other superpowers are desperate to get their hands on Wakanda’s vibranium to fuel another global arms race. However, in one (of her many) very fine speeches, Angela Bassett as Queen Ramonda tells them, in not-so-polite terms, to go and sling their spider-web. Yet, soon after that, the US has manages to uncover some vibranium under the sea, aided by science student Riri Willams’s one-of-a-kind tracking machine. And if that wasn’t bad enough, it turns out that there’s a whole undersea kingdom ruled by Namor (Tenoch Huerta) who’ve had vibranium for years and are threatening to wipe our Wakanda unless they help him in his conquest of the world above.
And so, there you go. It’s a kind of cart and horse style plot-line where the very serious matter of T’Challa’s passing is beautifully handled, whilst tacking on some kind of global threat that calls for the re-emergence of … you know who… in an updated suit.
So, whilst the feuding-brothers-scrapping-over-a-vacant-throne plotline has thankfully been put to bed, the real difference here with this film is its tone. Wakanda Forever is one seriously portentous movie. Whilst mercifully not descending to Zak Snyder’s Man of Steel‘s level of brow-furrowing, it has to be said that this sequel is not the multi-coloured vista that Black Panther was.
If anything the real treats this time are how Wakanda Forever lets its supporting cast flesh out their roles, and in this regard, Danai Gurira as Okoye: The head of the Dora Milaje, has a ball. It’s not just that she owns every scene she’s in, but there’s a real risk she could own the movie too. That would’ve been unless Angela Bassett didn’t bench her halfway through – although don’t worry, she’ll be back for the punch-up at the end. Also impressive in this sequel is May I Destroy You‘s Michaela Cole. Sadly only given a handful of scenes, she’s a welcome inclusion as are a couple of other surprise additions who’ll arrive later on. Martin Freeman also returns as Wakanda’s friendly CIA hook-up, all of which safely leaves the stage clear for Letitia Wright as Princess Shuri (aka Black Panther’s sister). Building on her whip-smart scientist role from the first film, Shuri gets plenty of nice banter with spiky science-nerd Dominique Thorne as Riri Williams. However, when it comes to the more dramatic fare of her kingdom being under threat from Tenoch Huerta‘s Namor, things start to get seriously bland fast.
Whether it’s the tiny wings on Namor’s ankles that are supposed to make him faster than a fighter jet, or Shuri’s sketchy thirst for bloody revenge, Wakanda Forever dips in the middle when it did so well in the beginning. In the end, what remains, is only what you’d expect. There’s a huge fight and torches get passed in readiness for a rematch (aka Black Panther III) and that’s it. Also, sadly, in the pre-credits cut-scene, the film loses its nerve when it could have really broken from tradition. Whether this was always its intention or just a last-minute switch back to typecasting, internet forums may well be blazing about it for weeks to come.
So, how will Wakanda Forever fare at the box office? Well, despite its non-taxing storyline, it’s still a close equal to Black Panther. That said, in the very near distance is another big-budget sequel with blue, undersea-dwellers who fight with the folk above the waves. All of which begs the question – is there really space enough in the multiplexes for two hotly-anticipated sequels? Well, possibly. Given the fact there are hardly any other films coming out (hence the lack of podcasts – and apologies for that), it seems that most of the other studios will release their movies in 2023, whilst James Cameron and Ryan Coogler duke it out for the Christmas popcorn.
Should you go and see Wakanda Forever now? -Yes, absolutely. If you liked the first Black Panther movie then this is a sequel that has been expressly made for you. If you haven’t already seen 2018’s Black Panther then that definitely should be your first stop before buying a ticket.