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Film: "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever"
Black Panther Wakanda Forever is the next film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase Four and the sequel to 2018’s Black Panther.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), as well as the entire cinematic landscape, received a heavy blow in late 2020 when actor Chadwick Boseman unexpectedly passed away. Boseman had starred in a number of films, but he was most well-known for his performance as T’Challa in 2018’s wildly successful Black Panther. As Hollywood and film fans collectively mourned his death, discussion about how to navigate this roadblock for the Black Panther sequel began to spread. Many clamored for Marvel Studios to recast Boseman’s role, while others believed that course of action would be disrespectful to his legacy-advocating instead for the studio to shift its focus onto the first film’s supporting characters. After having seen this movie, I believe the situation was handled about as perfectly as it could have been,given the circumstances.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is the next film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase Four and the sequel to 2018’s Black Panther. When the underwater nation of Talokan, led by the mutant warrior Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejia), is discovered to be a threat to the nation of Wakanda, their leaders and warriors must assemble to defend their country while mourning the recent loss of their king, T’Challa (the late Chadwick Boseman).
There’s a lot about Black Panther: Wakanda Forever that is worth praising, but to me, the film’s biggest strength lies in its emotional impact. Director Ryan Coogler had a seemingly impossible task in directing this film, given the passing of its predecessor’s lead actor. However, I believe the way he handled it in this movie is both smart and respectful. The loss of Boseman is felt heavily throughout this movie, but I love how the characters are used to explore the grief that came with it. Every lead character is mourning the passing of T’Challa in one way or another, and throughout the course of the movie we see how they wrestle with their pain, slowly but surely growing closer to acceptance. It’s a beautiful thing to witness, and the way the movie ends forms one of the most powerful moments I think we’ve seen across the entire MCU.
It is this undercurrent, I think, that helps everything else in this movie work as well as it does. The action we see here does a great job of engaging the viewer, and while the big-picture stakes might not feel quite as high as they have in other MCU installments, the movie makes the right call by focusing more on interpersonal conflict. This, I think, allows the battles to hit a lot closer to home- by rooting them in its characters and their respective arcs, the movie ties it all together and gives it a purpose. The visuals are beautiful to take in, and I absolutely love the score- it’s perfectly contemplative and musing when it needs to be, and it isn’t afraid to take a more bold, heavy, or darkly triumphant approach during the action beats.
Across the board, the performances in this movie are excellent. Letitia Wright, who plays T’Challa’s sister Shuri, mainly stands out to me. The grief her character feels over losing her brother is incredibly palpable from an audience member’s perspective. Wright portrays it all in a very human way, showing multiple sides to her experience which allows the audience to connect and empathize with her character. Angela Bassett, too, is outstanding in this film. She commands the screen in every scene she is in, delivering a very graceful, yet broken, turn as a mother grieving the loss of her son while trying to manage a nation beset by threats on all sides. Danai Gurira is every bit the same strong, confident general she was in the first film, and Tenoch Huerta Mejia does a fantastic job of playing a villain who can be menacing when he needs to be, while also bearing a more sympathetic, understanding side.
I don’t think Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is perfect, but it’s something I’d recommend watching. If I were to levy one criticism against this movie, it would be that there’s a fair amount of narrative that could have been removed. There are a few subplots that don’t provide as much to the overall story as I feel they needed to. That being said, I do think Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a great movie that’s absolutely worth a trip to the cinema. It’s engaging, thrilling, and emotionally resonant in all the right ways, and I think it’s an experience everyone needs to have.
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