10 November 2022
With the official release of Wakanda Forever on 10 November in New Zealand, I was dying to watch it.
When “Black Panther” was released in February 2018, many of us viewed this as a cultural reset. An all-Black and African American cast with a storyline based in an African country that held on to traditional practices but with the most advanced technology in the world was representation that minorities could only dream of. Not to mention, the elite soundtrack with the artistic talents of Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Future, Sza and Jorja Smith to name a few. It was labelled an example of Black excellence, and I personally had a shiver run down my spine with the end credits rolled and Sza’s slightly raspy yet still silky smooth voice started singing that all the stars were closer.
“Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever” was no exception. Serving as a tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman, this movie was a breath of fresh air into the recent mass production that the MCU has been churning out. As a Marvel Comic fan, I have kept on top of all releases (both movie and television) since “Avengers: Endgame” and the death of some of the characters that we grew to treasure over the early 2000’s.
It seems like recently the content type has evolved into a reflection of the director’s style as opposed to following a traditional MCU movie archetype e.g. “Doctor Strange Multiverse of Madness” was a Sam Raimi horror/thriller-esque film bringing a much more dark aura to the MCU whilst “Thor Love and Thunder” in Taika Waititi’s style was comedic and light-hearted (to an extent which in my opinion was exhausting at times and lacking in real depth).
“Wakanda Forever” was thoughtful, artistic, and felt intentional. Overall, a great movie, it came at the right time in the middle of other releases (“She Hulk” which was silly, unpacked the MCU’s tendencies to repeat plot lines and served as a great origin story for Jen Walters, but right before “Antman and the Wasp’s Quantamanaia” which will see the start of the Kang Empire and likely the destruction of the remaining heroes as we know them). Despite being almost 3 hours long, it was compelling, captivating and featured a very likeable villain whose plight you strongly empathised with.
After King T’Challa passes away from a mystery ailment, the movie follows Shuri and Queen Ramonda as they are left to pick up the pieces. Director Ryan Coogler does an incredible job of incorporating Chadwick Boseman’s passing after a battle with cancer in a way that’s respectful, well thought out and picks up from the point of impact at the end of the last movie; T’challa revealing Wakanda and its possession of vibranium. The decision to not re-cast T’challa is one that I find immensely heartfelt despite the fact that Boseman’s passing derailed the initially intended trajectory of the Black Panther franchise.
The film’s story progresses such that the revelation of vibranium being the strongest metal in the world, and Wakanda’s lack of a King invites nations around attempting to both attack Wakanda for it, and to search for Vibranium internationally, including at Sea. This uncovers a whole new secret underwater society, which like Wakanda, was created as a result of colonisation and their attempt to flee from it. This underwater nation Talukan has a god Namor, whose motives you empathise and align with more than Shuri at times in this movie as his extremist and revolutionary thinking in attacking all the other nations is justified when considering his motivations to protect his people and his hidden underwater kingdom. The theme of being afraid of colonisation and oppression of your resources is again one which resonates with minority communities strongly.
The film is also anchored around multiple strong and resilient women at its core. Characters such as Ramonda, Shuri, Okoye and Nakia are central to the story and to the fight, in a reinforcing notion that the show must go on despite the nation losing their powerful king. The new black panther, Shuri, attempts to do the right thing.
In a story that embodies grief, but hope for recovery and a new beginning (with the post-credits scene showing T’challa’s secret son with Nakia, prince T’challa!), this movie is a must-watch regardless of your affinity toward Marvel; serving as a heartfelt tribute to the late Boseman and in setting up and introducing new characters for the next phase of the MCU.