Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was stuck with an insurmountable task...not only moving forward after the loss of its irreplaceable star, but acknowledging the death of the previous film’s main character in a manner that pays respect to both…all while still giving audiences what they’ve come to expect from a Marvel movie. By and large, it succeeds, though there ain't much in the way of surprises.
The prologue offers some closure in the form of a wake intended for us to mourn both T’Challa and Chadwick Boseman. As expected, it's a moving tribute, mostly dialogue free and aided by a suitably somber score that punctuates a sense of finality: Wakanda has lost its king, the world has lost a hero and a franchise has lost its main character. It’s also the most emotionally engaging part of the movie.
To Marvel’s credit, they didn’t simply stick another guy in a Black Panther suit and charge full speed ahead. There’s a big void to fill here, which the narrative acknowledges as it unfolds. Though T-Challa’s brilliant sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright) emerges as the main protagonist, the film is more of an ensemble piece, which has Wakanda at-odds with Talokan, a water-breathing race led by Namor (Tenoch Huerta Meji). Like Wakanda, Talokan’s society is made powerful by vibranium, the mineral coveted by every other country in the world.
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For the most part, Wakanda Forever is enjoyable, meeting expectations without ever actually exceeding them. The poignant changing-of-the-guard notwithstanding, it follows Marvel's established formula pretty closely. Those who love that formula will have no complaints, but it’s too bad there’s no real attempt to shake things up with a few narrative curveballs. In the end, it’s just another Marvel movie...and a looong one at that.
Still, the film boasts imaginative, colorful production design, especially the sequences depicting Talokan’s underwater kingdom. Elsewhere, the returning characters don't completely fill the void left by T’Challa, but it's nice getting to know them all a little better. And of course, Wakanda Forever bids a heartfelt farewell to a character (and actor) taken away too soon. As for the action and story…well, you know what to expect.
FEATURETTES - Coming of Age; Envisioning Two Worlds; Passing the Mantle.
4 DELETED SCENES
AUDIO COMMENTARY - By director Ryan Coogler, writer Joe Robert Cole & cinematographer Autumn Durald Arkapaw.