Despite my initial reservations about Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and my struggle to see Letitia Wright as a charismatic lead, I can now happily say that all those doubts have been brushed aside after watching the film earlier this Tuesday. While the film unsurprisingly has both its positives and negatives, one thing I am confident about is that this movie is a beautiful, poignant, and deeply moving tribute to our beloved Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman. With most of the main cast from the first film returning for this sequel including Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke, and Martin Freeman, they were joined by some wonderful new additions such as Dominique Thorne as Riri Williams and Tenoch Huerta as Namor. As one of Marvel’s most powerful entries to date, I’m just going to start off this review by highly recommending you check this one out in theatres while you can. There is so much emotional value in getting to see this one on the big screen.
[Please note there will be spoilers in this review; read at your own discretion]
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever might be the first film to make me tear up within the first thirty seconds of a film. I wasn’t expecting the movie to jump right in the way that it did, so all those sad emotions about losing T’Challa and Boseman really hit you all at once. As a whole, I probably cried maybe five or six times throughout simply because of how emotional I felt watching the film. The beginning got to me especially quickly because the ceremonial funeral was so beautifully shot and I could feel each actor’s personal emotions seeping through their characters. What I loved in particular about the opening funeral scene was despite the deep sadness resonating from everyone, the use of the colour white, the music, and the dancing gave off this sort of hopefulness and resilience that was really touching to see.
My favourite thing about this film was that it really did feel like a respectful homage full of adoration and love for the late actor. I loved the overall direction they went with the story and while I had my honest doubts to begin with, director Ryan Coogler found such a brilliant way to both honour Boseman’s legacy as the titular character and provide new opportunities to tell more stories about the superhero. While many fans have had their own personal opinion on what should be done with the future of Black Panther, after seeing this film, I think everyone’s concerns should be happily forgotten. Besides, the focus shouldn’t be on the future as you watch this film, it should be about honouring and remembering what Boseman accomplished already in this role. I definitely missed his presence in this film and although the actors were fantastic and provided stunning performances, I could tell there’s always going to be a hole without him in the Marvel universe.
But let’s talk about the movie. Admittedly, my biggest concern initially heading into this film was regarding whether Letitia Wright would be able to pull off the role. The trailers essentially gave it away that Shuri would be taking on the Black Panther mantle, and that alone struck a lot of debate online. Is she the best choice? Should Black Panther just be re-casted? But now that I’ve seen Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, let me tell you that I was very impressed with Wright’s acting and she really stepped up to show us a new side of Shuri that felt much more mature and strong. It definitely helped that Wright was supported by an absolutely marvelous cast, so in ways, it was nice to see that the movie felt like a collaborative effort. The cast was able to bring the right amount of charisma and charm to light up the screen, and it was especially cool getting to explore new sides to all the characters.
While Wright was able to succeed as an effective lead in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the actress who really took my breath away was Angela Bassett. I know she’s a talented, highly-acclaimed actress, but still, I was stunned by how wonderfully she acted her heart out. Every word she spoke and every emotion she evoked felt so palpable through the screen. She was just so amazing and whenever she was on screen, she always stole the spotlight with her performance. I was terribly heartbroken to see Queen Ramonda get killed off in this film, but I could see it was an effort to further develop and challenge Shuri as a character. The emotional impact from her death was so incredibly strong though.
As for the story itself, it was certainly an emotional roller coaster ride. It was a good mix between being highly emotional and action-packed. I was personally very intrigued by the conflict between Wakanda and Talocan and Namor proved himself to be one of Marvel’s best antagonists yet (at least to me!). While I did hear that one of my friends didn’t care much about the underwater story, I thought it was very interesting and it felt refreshing to explore a new hidden world within the Marvel universe. I love how serious of a threat Namor proved to be and how it was a genuine struggle for Wakanda to fight against the Talocan. All of this is really thanks to Tenoch Huerta’s performance though. In his first ever big Hollywood appearance, he was able to hold his ground and produce an aura that felt both menacing and sympathetic. He’s such a complicated character and it was especially interesting to see which lines Namor would cross just to make a point or to get what he wants. While he’s not exactly “evil”, his extreme methods and ways truly make him a great new antagonist in the MCU.
I’m sure one thing you’re all wondering is whether the CGI for this film vastly improved since the first Black Panther movie. Let’s be honest here, one of the biggest criticisms for the original film was the horrendous CGI and the poor video game looking final fight sequence. While I did have a bit of that fear coming into Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, I did feel hopeful that they learned and fixed their CGI mistakes. Overall, what I will say is that this sequel definitely has better CGI and visuals than the first. While it’s nowhere near perfect and at times, the visuals did look a bit choppy and incomplete, I can’t complain. With this movie fully exploring two completely fictional worlds (Wakanda and Talocan), imperfect animations is a given. Sure the final fight sequence with Shuri and Black Panther did have its fair share of poor visuals, but at this point, it’s expected out of a Marvel film. But instead of complaining about the CGI not being up to par, what I do want to mention is that this final battle seemed incredibly rushed and overall a bit too messy for my liking. As the big climax to such a grand movie, I was hoping for something a bit more epic and thoughtful.
I guess that leads me to my main complaint with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever: the pacing. With a 2h 41m runtime, the movie is definitely one of Marvel’s longer films and is generally considered a long movie. While I’m not really here to complain about the runtime because I know there was a lot of story to unpack, my issue is more so with the pacing. The ending felt far too rushed while some parts in the middle felt far too long and way too drawn out. In all honesty, there were a couple moments in the theatre where I did notice how long the movie felt. Although I had a great time and enjoyed the film, I did start feeling a bit antsy (particularly in the mid section of the film) which is something you never want to feel in the theatre.
For what it’s worth though, I thought Coogler was able to wrap up the film in a really beautiful way that I deeply appreciated. I loved seeing Shuri finally getting time to herself to grieve and process her losses because boy, did she lose a lot in this film. It was such a beautiful and emotional scene and Wright did fantastically in bringing forth all that pain from within. I especially liked seeing how Black Panther: Wakanda Forever ended with a focus once again on Boseman and all that he’s done for the franchise and the world. It was certainly a nice touch seeing all those memories of him from his various appearances across the years.
The mid-credit scene was one of my favourite parts of the film as a whole. Coogler found the perfect way to carry on T’Challa’s character and legacy without the need to recast, letting the cast and audiences have time to grieve the loss of Boseman. It was such an adorable but moving scene, but most importantly, it carried a lot of hope. Overall, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was a wonderful entry to the MCU, but as a movie itself, I was pleased by how powerful the story was. The cast was nothing short of superb, and Huerta is a wonderful addition to the plethora of Marvel antagonists. I’m excited to see what the future will bring. With all this in mind, I’ve decided to give Black Panther: Wakanda Forever an 8/10. While it has it’s share of faults and flaws, what stood out to me the most was its beautiful message and tribute. This is one you should definitely check out in theatres.
Spoilers here as well – I liked the fact they dealt with Boseman’s passing right away, and thought they straddled the line perfectly between too little and too much honor paid. The villain was one I enjoyed because you could almost see his side of things and to some extent have empathy for – complex and intriguing. I do agree the pacing and run time needed work. One complaint I have, and I haven’t thought through how I would have written it…the mid-movie battle in Wakanda itself had way more higher stakes and potential targets, chaos, etc. I would have put that attack at the end of the film. The ending with the simultaneous fights at sea and on the desert just didn’t work for me after that Wakanda face-off. I enjoyed it, and I am looking forward to many more views of it down the road. (The mid-credits scene…awesome!)
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Glad you enjoyed it Bruce! It surprised me a lot more than I thought it would but in a good way 🙂 That’s an interesting point about the mid movie battle though and thinking back on it now, I do agree and see your point. It felt much more like a climax than the actual final battle!
Loved how this film was able to spark new interest with the franchise. Can’t wait to see what direction they’re headed and hope Coogler returns for more! 😀
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Cathy, just wanted to check in and wish you a happy holiday season, and the best for you and yours in the New Year!
I watched this film on its opening night, and it was the quietest I’ve ever heard in a screening for a MCU movie, but for a good reason! Everyone was so encapsulated from the first second, I thought they handled the situation the best they could and think they honoured Chadwick Bozeman beautifully. It’s interesting to see how Black Panther will be revisited after the mid credits – possibly hinting at the young avengers again?! 😆
Now I can create time to watch the movie.
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