Thursday, November 10, 2022

Wakanda Forever

More Shakespearean tragedy than super-hero film, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever wears its bruised heart on its sleeve mourning the loss of King T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman). Taking the idea of arrive late, leave early, to extreme, we open with the death of T'Challa (off-camera and from causes never fully explored). After glimpses of his funeral, we advance a full year to look in at the state of his family and his country in the world still mourning their lost hero.

Bringing back most of the cast from the first film, the sequel relies on the strength of the women of Wakanda particularly Shuri (Letitia Wright) and her mother Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) along with warriors of the Dora Milaje: Okoye (Danai Gurira), Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o), and Ayo (Florence Kasumba).

At 161 minutes, the film does drag at times and there are certainly segments which could be cut including every scene involving Julia Louis-Dreyfus who is just awful reprising her role of Valentina Allegra de Fontaine in sequences that feel shot for an entirely different movie. Her inclusion is one of a couple noticeably shoehorned attempts to closer tie-in the MCU's Phase Four into a film whose primary purpose is to honor the late Chadwick Bosman and allow the supporting characters of the first film to take center stage and fill the gap left by his passing. In a film driven by emotion, these scenes feel increasingly out of place. And while it's fun to see Martin Freeman as well, he serves little purpose. Cutting them both out of the film would save nearly a half-hour and tighten up the weakest aspects of the script considerably.

Making out better are Tenoch Huerta in the role of underwater leader Namor, who proves quite interesting despite the most ridiculous aspect of any Marvel movie being CGI-grafted to his feet, and Dominique Thorne as the talented Riri Williams who I'd expect to see much more of in the future filling an important void left in the MCU after the events of Avengers: Endgame. While here inclusion also feels a bit like orchestrated world building as well, her character does fit into the larger narrative at play unlike Freeman or Louis-Dreyfus becoming a strength of the sequel rather than a distraction.

The fact that Black Panther: Wakanda Forever isn't first and foremost an action film may turn off some viewers. Instead it's a film about grief, loss, and how each of our main characters deal with a world without T'Challa. There is plenty of action, but its mostly supplemental to the larger story including introducing an entirely new world under the oceans of the MCU, at least until the end where such a lengthy action sequence between Wakanda and and Namor's warriors of Talokan does feel a bit much.

With the ghost of Chadwick Boseman felt in almost every scene, it's Letitia Wright who steps up to become another star for Marvel and Disney. Circumstances forced Marvel into a very different movie than they planned for a Black Panther sequel, but it's easy to see how the threads between Wakanda and Talokan, and Wakanda's role in the world following the reveal of their technology, were likely threads from the original script. While those threads aren't as strong as the plot of a world without the Black Panther, where the two weave togehter through the character of Shuri, her grief, and her rise, are where Wakanda Forever truly shines.

Watch the trailer
  • Title: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
  • IMDb: link
  • Title: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
  • IMDb: link

No comments: