Black Panther: Wakanda Forever review – A worthy successor

In our recent review of Thor: Love and Thunder we lamented on the fact that the previous movie in the franchise – Ragnarok – set up massive expectations that were not met with that particular sequel.

Going into Black Panther: Wakanda Forever that pressure to succeed was even greater. The first Black Panther movie from 2018 became an almost instant cultural icon and turned yet another Marvel superhero into a household name overnight.

It was also surprisingly nuanced, touching on many real-world issues, and it featured the villain Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) who many still hold as their favourite MCU antagonist.

Wakanda Forever also has to navigate the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman. As the titular character of this franchise and a beloved personality the world over, there was a lot of pressure on the cast and crew of this follow-up.

Thankfully, unlike Love and Thunder, Wakanda Forever has masterfully dodged and weaved its way through all these obstacles and expectations to deliver an experience that is exceedingly fun, surprisingly restrained and incredibly thoughtful throughout.

Much of this is thanks to the great story which, like all our reviews, we won’t be spoiling.

We can, however, give you a rundown from officially-released sources like the synopsis and the trailers you can watch on this page.

T’Challa (Boseman), the Black Panther, has died, leaving Wakanda without a leader and without its main protector. While Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) has taken up the leadership position, there is no Black Panther to replace T’Challa as the power-giving Heart-Shaped Herbs were all destroyed by Killmonger.

The nations of the world start to view Wakanda as an easy target as they continue to covet Vibranium. This situation is then made much worse by the reveal of Namor (José Tenoch Huerta Mejía) and his nation of Talokan which, mysteriously, seems to be able to stand toe to toe with the power of Wakanda.

As you can tell this is a powder keg situation that eventually explodes with the returning Shuri (Letitia Wright) and newcomer Riri Williams / Ironheart (Dominique Thorne) at the centre of things.

This is a situation where the real genius of the story can’t be discussed without spoilers so we’ll just say that, even though this is an almost three-hour movie, we were engaged throughout, having fun at every turn.

A lot of the elements of the story are easy to guess and predict as time goes on, but just because the core of a tale is simple doesn’t mean it isn’t engaging. There are plot contrivances, MacGuffins and forced conflict aplenty, but none of it felt manufactured or cheap.

The cast did a great job with Bassett likely the standout as a character that has suffered so much loss trying to do the best for her people in deeply troubled times. Wright ends up with the most amount of screen time and her performance was also good, but we were constantly thrown off by her fake-sounding accent for the character.

Mejía also gave an interesting performance in this very different version of Namor. This classic Marvel character has been reinvented for the MCU and while we can see how older fans may not like these choices or the performance from Mejía, we do think that the essence of Namor was maintained.

Mejía does a good job as an all-powerful demigod who is sure in his actions even when they involve great violence.

When it comes to that violence you can’t have a superhero movie without some fights and, eh, they’re okay here.

As you can tell from the trailers there’s a lot of larger-scale conflict with hundreds of characters in the mix and it can be a bit hard to really care about what amounts to endless CGI clashing against itself.

The CGI was on the better side of recent Marvel fair but we always looked forward to scenes with fewer characters both for slower scenes and the fights.

The art design is fantastic on top of this, a fact that won’t surprise many who saw the first movie and the nation of Wakanda realised using many actual African cultures as inspiration. Similarly, the underwater Talokan and its Mayan influences are fantastic to see every time they appear on-screen.

In terms of audio-visual entertainment, the audio also brings a very welcome dimension to the experience, though we do wish that it was used less. The music can drown out what is happening in certain scenes and it isn’t needed all the time, and in some of the worst cases, it’s antithetical to the point of the scene.

If a scene is sad we don’t need to be beaten over the head with extremely loud sad music too – a problem that pops up several times.

On the topic of annoyances, there are several scenes focused on American characters that could have been cut entirely with no impact on the overall story. It seems these were simply forced in because Americans will explode if they are not represented in a movie.

We always love seeing Martin Freeman and his character of Everett Ross, but there’s no compelling reason for him to be in this version of the movie.

These, as you may have surmised, are just nitpicks. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was a real surprise not just for its outright quality, but also for the clever ways it tackled its expectations and roadblocks that would have surely derailed many other movies.

There are very few people we can imagine sitting down for this movie and not enjoying it, and it comes as a welcome respite from the recent spate of lacklustre Marvel films and shows.


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