BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER Review; "An Emotional, Uplifting, Tour De Force Of A Blockbuster"

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is now in playing in theaters, and we're now weighing in with more thoughts on what makes Ryan Coogler's emotional and epic sequel so incredible. Some minor spoilers follow!

Reviews Opinion

Black Panther was released in 2018 to widespread critical acclaim and ended up becoming not only a box office hit, but something of a cultural phenomenon. Following such an impactful movie was never going to be an easy feat for Marvel Studios and filmmaker Ryan Coogler, and the tragic death of Chadwick Boseman only served to add even more pressure to get this follow-up, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, right. They’ve succeeded, though you should be prepared to strap yourself in because this action-packed, astounding blockbuster also happens to be the most emotional, and occasionally even gut-wrenching, MCU movie to date. 

Beginning with T’Challa’s funeral in Wakanda, the entirety of this sequel serves as a beautiful, fitting tribute to both that character and Boseman. There are a whole multitude of scenes you’ll watch with tears in your eyes, and Coogler crafts a rich and heartbreaking narrative that makes us feel the loss of both the character and actor all over again, albeit through the eyes of those who knew and loved him. That’s not to say Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is overly morose or glum, because this is also an uplifting and inspiring tale, with plenty of gripping fight scenes, exciting character developments, and a wholly appropriate amount of humour. 

At the heart of the story is Letita Wright’s Shuri and Angela Bassett’s Queen Ramonda. The former, who was unable to save her brother, reacts to his death by lashing out at the world, and the carefree teenage genius we met in Black Panther now finds herself forced to grow up fast as she struggles to overcome her grief. The Queen, meanwhile, is doing what she can to protect a nation coming under siege from all directions, and both actors deliver work here that, quite frankly, has to rank among the best performances of their respective careers. Wright proves herself a worthy successor to Boseman (we can’t even begin to fathom the pressure she must have felt approaching this role), while any Oscar buzz already surrounding Bassett is entirely deserved. 
 


Equally deserving of praise is Tenoch Huerta as Namor the Submariner. He now sits alongside the MCU’s handful of truly great villains, and is comfortably up there with the likes of Thanos, Wenwu, and the Green Goblin. Given a fascinating new backstory, K'uk'ulkan is every bit the complicated antagonist as his comic book counterpart and Tenoch finds the right balance of charm, ferocity, and pure power to do this character justice. Dominique Thorne is another big addition to this shard world, of course, and while Riri Williams is essentially a MacGuffin, it’s a decent introduction that’s enhanced the talented performer’s work. If the goal was to get us excited for the Ironheart TV series coming to Disney+, bravo. 

Winston Duke, Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong'o, and Michaela Coel are all also excellent, a relief when it occasionally feels like Black Panther: Wakanda Forever might be trying to service one too many characters. Still, with a much better runtime than Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Thor: Love and Thunder (both of which tried to cram far too much into two hours), the movie gives its story a chance to breathe and successfully fleshes out the characters who need the maximum amount of screentime. This doesn’t really feel like a sequel and works well as the opening chapter in what looks set to be a new era for the Black Panther franchise. A little more M’Baku next time would be welcomed.

With great visuals, another tremendous score from Ludwig Göransson, and fight scenes that are intense, surprisingly brutal, and never bogged down by too much CGI, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a movie that hits all the right beats. However, there’s so much more to it when you look beneath the surface, and it’s the thought-provoking themes and hard-hitting emotion in Coogler and Joe Robert Cole’s screenplay that really singles this movie out as being so extraordinary. The former also ups the ante as a filmmaker, with bigger set pieces, grander ideas, and some absolutely phenomenal shots (even if cinematographer Rachel Morrison is missed) that prove he’d be nothing short of perfect to take the helm of Avengers: Secret Wars.

Whether Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is better than its predecessor will likely be hotly debated, but it’s certainly on par with it. An ambitious superhero movie in its own right, this follow-up also explores what it means to grieve and makes us empathise with its villain, all while telling this story in a way that means you'll truly feel the emotions of its leads. Only faltering when it starts setting up the MCU’s future (in a very awkwardly inserted subplot involving Martin Freeman’s Everett Ross), the sequel has all the makings of an instant classic and is a pitch-perfect note to end what’s proven to be a somewhat hit-and-miss Phase 4 on. Wakanda Forever, indeed. 

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever ranks among Marvel Studios' best movies, and is an emotional, uplifting, tour de force of a blockbuster. Letitia Wright delivers a powerhouse performance, while Angela Bassett’s majestic work will leave you reeling.

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