Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is the sequel to Black Panther (2018) and does in fact address the sad unfortunate death of Chadwick Boseman, whom the film is dedicated to. As my film critic colleague mentioned before the screening, “Forever is in the title because the film is almost 3 hours long” and you will feel every single second of this runtime. Despite an extremely slow paced setup, director / screenwriter Ryan Coogler has enough beauty and tragic intrigue amongst invigorating action that will appeal to Marvel fans.
After the death of T'Challa, the kingdom of Wakanda (helmed by Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett)) is attempting to make peace with other nations who are wary of Wakanda’s exclusive access to vibranium. Meanwhile, the powerful King of Talokan, Namor (Tenoch Huerta), emerges as a new threat to the entire world but welcomes Wakanda to join him; will Wakanda be able to defeat this foe? Or will they succumb to the power that Namor holds? Shuri (Letitia Wright) teams up with others to find the most effective way to deal with this new enemy.
The first hour of the film is so much setup. The film showcases the events leading up to / immediately following the death of T’Challa, introduces government characters who don’t trust Wakanda, introduces an MIT student / scientist named Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne), and introduces an antagonistic set of characters led by Namor. It is a timely challenge to learn who all these characters are and understand each of their motivations; if this premise doesn’t catch your attention, your patience will be fully tested, as was mine.
After the first hour and a half, the film slowly begins to show signs of a payoff. Instead of having a hollow stock villain, Namor’s backstory clearly shows his motivations and why he has become an evil jerk with trust issues. I am delighted that we get the backstory (because this character makes sense and we can understand his choices) but the way that backstory is delivered to the audience is spoon fed with b-roll over narration by present day Namor, who is telling a character / us the audience about his entire life. That character he’s telling this all to even replies, “Why are you telling me all of this?” which I laughed out loud because it felt so hokey for a character like him to just share his entire life story. This mucky delivery contributes to the slow pacing but once you get who this antagonist is and you see the havoc he causes (which is significant) I was on board to see how Wakanda would respond to Namor. The movie starts to become interesting during the last hour when character choices truly begin to move the story along.
Angela Bassett gives a wonderful performance, showcasing grief and pressure to do what is right for the kingdom of Wakanda. Letitia Wright has many scenes that demand emotional responses from her and I truly felt empathy for her character. She struggles to do what is right and what will also not bring harm to anyone, while also managing grief (which is a giant theme the film focuses on). Additionally, Wright is forced to develop technology that can stand against her enemies and one of the takeaways I took from her rapid development of this technology was, “Pain and struggle will expedite any goals one has”. Wright and Dominique Thorne (Shuri and Riri, the MIT student) share great chemistry with each other, working together as co-warriors. Danai Gurira portrays Okoye who is a warrior that endures hardships based on decisions that don’t go the way she intended. Lupita Nyong'o plays Nakia, who has been separated from Wakanda for a few years and this aspect explores how conflict can bring you back to a family you were separated from.
There’s much to appreciate and if you have patience to endure a lengthy setup and story aspects that may have been able to be refined to flow more smoothly, there’s a solid story underneath it all to appreciate that is well-acted and explores grief deeply.
|Final Verdict:||Despite an extremely slow paced setup, director / screenwriter Ryan Coogler has enough beauty and tragic intrigue amongst invigorating action that will appeal to Marvel fans.|