The people of Wakanda fight to protect their home from intervening world powers as they mourn the death of King T’Challa.
‘Black Panther’ remains one of Marvel’s best movies and it was incredibly popular with audiences and critics alike – even managing to nab a rare Best Picture nomination at the Oscars for a superhero movie. A sequel was an inevitability, but how that was likely to manifest became more complicated with the sad passing of its star Chadwick Boseman, who played the titular superhero whilst also ruling the kingdom of Wakanda as T’Challa. That required a rethink on the part of Marvel and director Ryan Coogler, and their choice was to not recast the role, instead focusing on the impressive supporting cast of the first movie to lead a new story set in this vibrant corner of the MCU.
‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ addresses Boseman’s (and by extension T’Challa’s) passing in the opening stages and whilst his presence hangs over the movie, it fairly quickly gets into the core story that this sequel wants to tell. It tells the story of an impending war between Wakanda and a hitherto unknown underwater kingdom called Talokan, which comes about due to a misunderstanding when the CIA discover that Talokan, like Wakanda, also has a large supply of the rare and powerful metal Vibranium. This tests those left behind by T’Challa’s passing, namely his sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) and his mother Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), and they are forced to make difficult choices to protect their people and their country.
It was always going to be difficult to follow such a success as ‘Black Panther’, and I think this movie struggles from many of the same problems that have plagued recent Marvel efforts (they’re still making lots of money, but I think it’d be fair to say they’re in a creative slump). It is far too long and the world building of Talokan, whilst clearly aiming to replicate the success of our introduction to Wakanda, never comes close to meeting that standard. Nearly every sequence in the underwater kingdom doesn’t work because it is inherently ridiculous – something that ‘Aquaman’ (possibly the best recent DC movie) understood and really leant into.
The film’s pacing moves slowly between quiet, character building moments and action sequences, and it’s in these character building moments that ‘Wakanda Forever’ is at its best. That is primarily because it provides an opportunity for the strong cast to shine before we return to the CGI laden action sequences which are mostly quite forgettable, as impressive as the visual effects often are. The movie builds towards a conflict between Shuri’s Wakanda and Namor’s (Tenoch Huerta, who is good) Talokan, but it falls a bit flat with the filmmakers never appearing sure how to create a compelling battle between the underwater people of Talokan and the overland Wakandans.
‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ attempts to set a new course for this aspect of the MCU with middling results – there is still promise in Wakanda but I thought it was unfulfilled in this sequel.
Directed By: Ryan Coogler
Starring: Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyongo’o, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke, Florence Kasumba, Dominique Thorne, Michaela Coel, Tenoch Huerta, Martin Freeman, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Angela Bassett