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November 15, 2022


written by: Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole
produced by: Kevin Geirge
directed by: Ryan Coogler
rated: PG-13 (for prolonged sequences of action violence, and a brief rude gesture)
runtime: 134 min.
U.S. release date: November 11, 2022


Ryan Coogler had the unenviable task of figuring out what a sequel to “Black Panther” could look like after the surprise death of actor Chadwick Boseman in 2020 from cancer. Not only did the writer/director helm a mega-hit for Disney/Marvel Studios in 2018, but the movie became a phenomenon that superseded expectations, bringing empowerment and representation to the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) in an captivating and confident manner. Boseman as T’Challa, the noble King of Wakanda and mighty Black Panther was one of the main reasons the blockbuster succeeded, easily becoming the charismatic heart of the story. With a sequel being inevitable, the challenge (and question) would be how to do it without the actor.

Recasting would help to continue telling stories featuring T’Challa, but that would undoubtedly be quite daunting for cast and crew, not to mention a likely hard sell for viewers. But, since the first movie was so rich with great supporting characters, the decision was made to pivot and head back to the once-reclusive advanced African nation and focus on loss, grief, and a new threat. The result is an overly ambitious and understandably emotional sequel, that while entertaining is also lacking its heart.



The sequel opens with a determined Shuri (Letitia Wright) working desperately to synthesize the once indigenous heart-shaped herb of Wakanda in hopes of it curing her brother, T’Challa (Boseman), from an unspecified illness. She is devastated when he dies, leaving her and her mother, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), and the rest of the African nation to mourn the loss of their beloved Black Panther.

One year later, the world is watching Wakanda closely, especially after King T’Challa had announced to all nation that he will begin to share their advanced resources, primarily the vibranium, with the rest of the world to benefit all of mankind. Some nations (you guessed correctly) are more impatient than others. In the wake of T’Challa’s death, Queen Ramonda has other thoughts on the promise her son made to the world. She has turned inward, focusing on the healing her family and the rest of Wakanda has needed, thinking less about sharing the otherworldly metal that they’ve used for science, defense, and overall efficiency.

While Wakanda is figuring out a way to move forward, a new threat surfaces in the form of Namor (Tenoch Huerta), the mutant leader of Talokan, an underwater kingdom near the Yukatan Peninsula which has remained hidden from rest of the world. It turns out Wakandans weren’t the only ones gifted with a fallen meteorite that produced vibranium. Namor and his Mesoamerican people have benefited from the resource as well and it has strengthened and sustained his people for generations. After the Talokans dispense a device that can detect that metallic ore on the ocean floor, Namor becomes determined to take out the creator of such a machine, since it would jeopardize all he has pledged to protect.




When it is discovered that the the CIA and the U.S. Navy Seals were behind the device and it was created by a young MIT science student from Chicago named Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne), Namor delivers an ultimatum to Queen Romanda and Shuri: take care of the “scientist” or he will, believing the Wakandans are to blame for introducing vibranium to the world. If they don’t follow through, he will attack Wakanda with his army, because he feels Wakanda is responsible for the rest of the world being made aware of vibranium.

After leaning of the student’s whereabouts from CIA agent Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) – who has ongoing ties with the royal family of Wakanda – Okoye (Danai Gurira), general of the Dora Milaje (Wakanda’s all-female special forces), and Shuri head to the States to meet Riri Williams to find out how she’s been able create such a device. While Okoye and Shuri learn that Riri is indeed a gifted scientist/inventor, having created a suit of armor similar to Tony Stark’s, this introduction doesn’t go unnoticed by the CIA and soon an intense chase occurs, resulting in an intense skirmish between the Riri and Wakandans and the CIA, and in a surprising move, the Talokans.

During the melee, Shuri is taken by Namor’s cousin, Namora (Mabel Cadena) and the Talokanil warrior, Attuma (Alex Livinalli), back to Talokan, leaving a devastated Okoye to face humiliation before Queen Ramonda. Meanwhile, the Queen asks Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) to get involved, finding the former Wakandan war dog leaving the school in Haiti (shot in Puerto Rico) she has taught for the past six years in order to execute a rescue mission. As Shuri becomes a Talokan guest and is introduced to Namor and his people’s way of life, she hopes to find common ground and a more diplomatic resolution. But just as she has a long-standing reluctance towards outsiders, his anger toward the “colonists” that once tried to enslave and destroy his people may make it hard to establish any peaceful negotiations.

That’s the abbreviated version of what transpires in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”, meaning: there’s obviously quite a bit going on in this sequel. There’s also been quite a bit of anticipation for the movie ever since it was announced that Coogler and producer Kevin Feige were going forward after the death of their star. This decision certainly had an impact on how Coogler would approach writing the screenplay (with Joe Robert Cole) and what direction Wakanda would have in the MCU now that T’Challa is gone. Despite handling the loss of Boseman/T’Challa in a compelling manner, there are definitely times when the almost three-hour runtime of “Wakanda Forever” can be felt.



Within the first twenty or so minutes, Coogler and company fully address how Boseman’s death will be incorporated into their story. There’s an immediate urgency as Shuri frantically searches for a way to reverse her brother’s illness and knowing what we know, it’s clear how the real-life death will be incorporated into this story. Then, the Marvel fanfare introduction (showing images from past movies and Disney+ television series) is replaced with silence as multiple images of Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther where the traditional music would typically be.

This loss leaves a gaping hole in the grieving lives of these fictional characters, specifically the royal family, and it feels like a form of catharsis for the actors that worked so closely with Boseman, especially Bassett and Wright.  Bassett in particular is understandably given much more to do here than she had in the last movie, and it’s at first hard to determine whether or not hers would be a supporting role here because of the emotional weight the Queen carries in the first half of the story. Bassett excels, reminding viewers why she’s consistently the most memorable part of anything she’s in.

It’s also great to see Winston Duke back as M’Baku, the powerful warrior and leader of Wakanda’s mountain tribe, the Jabari. He has a fun combat scene against Namor, but his highlight is an inspiring moment he gives Wright’s Shuri, in a dire time of need.

There’s also more screen time given to Gurira’s great Okoye character and some new additions to the Dora Milaje, such as warriors, Ayo (Florence Kasumba) and Aneka (Michaela Coel). It’s briefly indicated that these two are in a relationship, but it’s really only hinted at. However, it seems like much of what we see of these strong women are primer for a yet-to-be-announced Disney+ television series focusing on the Dora Milaje.



Same goes for Dominique Thorn, who makes her MCU introduction here as Riri Williams (a character that was introduced in the comics in 2016), and although she is a welcome presence here, it also seems somewhat unnecessary here and adds to the crowded cast and length of the movie. There could’ve been an air of mystery surrounding the creator of this vibranium detecting device and maybe introduce Riri in an end credit scene here, since we’ll see more of her Ironheart character at the end of next year on (where else?) Disney+. At the same time, it is nice to see Shuri, a young scientist/inventor connect with another young black female scientist/inventor, so it makes sense why she was included here.

The other character making an MCU debut is Tenoch Huerta’s Namor, one of the very first characters to be introduced in the comics, way back in 1939, often called the Sub-Mariner. Considered to be the publisher’s very first mutant, the temperamental and arrogant Namor is also considered to be one of the strongest character’s in the Marvel Universe. His super-strength and winged ankles that give him the ability to fly are on full-display here and provide some of the best scenes in “Wakanda Forever”, especially when he leads a surprise attack on the African nation. Huerta is great here, offering a confident and commanding presence, making for a fascinating antagonist with his complex history and motives. His best moments are the quiet ones though, where he’s discussing his past and the Talokan way of life with Shuri in his underwater kingdom. These are the moments where Coogler and Cole understand that the philosophies of these characters are just as important as their actions, if not more.

It should be noted that it’s incredibly bone-headed for Marvel Studios to “introduce” us to the Mexican actor during the end credits. Huerta’s been around for a while, acting in movies such as “The Forever Purge” and television series like “Narcos: Mexico”. Disney/Marvel probably feel as if their MCU fanbase require such an introduction, thinking there’s no possible way we watch anything else. I’m not the only one who feels this way, check out this review by my colleague, Alejandro Riera.

Some of the scenes with Huerta, such as Namor’s night time introduction along a Wakandan shoreline and the spanning camera shots that take us through Talokan seem unfortunately murky and dimly lit, which is quite surprising considering one would expect these scenes to stand out. It could be projection issues at the screening I attended, but I couldn’t help thinking how bright and colorful James Wan’s Atlantis was in his “Aquaman” movie. Oh well, we have a new Avatar movie from James Cameron to make up for it all just around the corner.

Considering the movie’s title, someone has to carry on the mantle of the Black Panther and it should come as no surprise who dons the iconic suit. In fact, “Wakanda Forever” offers very few surprises. The movie’s third act winds up rushing the proceedings of introducing this new Black Panther. It’s still thrilling and moving, but the drama of it all is tied up too efficiently for my liking.

There is one other character that pops up from the last movie that I didn’t see coming and that winds up being a welcome surprise, but by and large there’s so much here that’s set-up for future MCU material, such as the pointless inclusion of Julia Louis Dreyfuss‘s Valentina Allegra de Fontaine character (who was originally introduced in the Disney+ episode series “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”). Sure, she’s the new director of the CIA, but it feels superfluous to give her almost as much screen time as Freeman’s Ross character or mention that they used to be married. That kind of information is prime fodder for an inevitable television series or the upcoming “Thunderbolts” movie.

Overall, Coogler certainly takes as much time as he feels is needed with “Wakanda Forever”, making the narrative feel at times all over the place and with a somewhat indulgent run time. Although its heart is in the right place when it comes to mourning, the movie lacks a consistent flow to the story and the invigorating tone of the previous movie. It remains to be seen what will happen with this new Black Panther and the Wakandan characters in the future MCU entries, but hopefully move beyond that emotionally manipulative end credit scene.



RATING: **1/2




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