In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the sequel to 2018’s Black Panther, the placement of the plot has mainly two intentions. One is to press the reset button as there is a need for a new leader. The second is to be a tribute to Chadwick Boseman and the aura of the first movie. While the film works immensely as a tribute to Boseman, the core story that happens here is struggling to crack the right balance of over-the-top fun and political statements, which the first movie did with finesse.
King T’Challa dies of an unknown disease, and his sister Shuri can’t come to terms with that reality. A year later, Wakanda was under pressure from the UN as nations wanted them to share the Vibranium resources. The quest for Vibranium by other countries led to the distress of an underwater civilization named Talokan, which also had access to Vibranium. Since the Wakandans were responsible for exposing the possibilities of Vibranium to the external world, a conflict arose between Wakanda and Talokan. The consequences of that conflict are what we see in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
Ryan Coogler is aware of the fact that he can’t make a movie that solely focuses on the likeability of T’challa. So after a point, he takes that drastic turn to take the story forward. The fact that the antagonist here has a solid history which has the political texture one associates with Black Panther movies makes the conflict all the more exciting. In fact, the entire film is set up as a tussle between two communities that respect culture and nature. But the uneven pacing and the way it lingers on to certain episodes reduces that emotional high one would anticipate. Since most of the characters are fighting an internal battle, the screenplay generally has a predictable nature and a slow tempo.
Letitia Wright is not burdened with the heavy lifting in this sequel, as Coogler has given equal importance to almost every female character in the movie. As the conflicted Shuri who had to go through multiple losses, Wright delivers an earnest performance. Angela Bassett, as Queen Ramonda, performed her part very elegantly. Lupita Nyong’o returns as Nakia and has an extensive role in this movie. Winston Duke as M’Baku was fun to watch. Danai Gurira as Okoye gets a new avatar this time, and she gets a better space in this film to perform. Dominique Thorne enters the MCU as Ironheart in this film, and it was fun to see that recreation of the Oxygen level zero scene. Tenoch Huerta Mejía as Namor was impressive, and much like Killmonger, Namor wasn’t conceived as an outright bad person, and Mejía was able to make Namor that protector.
It is true that most of MCU’s phase 4 films haven’t aged well, while most garnered an instant appreciation for their entertainment quotient. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, somewhere, has an opposite structure as it is not trying to make it an overwhelming visual experience through its set pieces and scale. The moments where you will feel like whistle or clap are extremely limited in this movie, and like I already said, there is that intent to press the reset button to move the franchise forward. The conflict that got established between Wakanda and Talokan in the early part of the movie goes to that ultimate face-off in the final act, but somewhere I felt it got dragged far too much, and the outcome of that battle doesn’t feel like a surprise. The drop in visual effects quality is evident even in this film. Namor’s solo flying shots during his attack on Wakanda looked pretty tacky.
The most memorable and rewatch-worthy superhero films are actually a good blend of popcorn fun and emotional connections. Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever isn’t really trying to be that sort of a film, as the enthralling moments are very few in number. With performances managing to maintain the Wakanda Forever energy we saw in the first film, this one is a watchable sequel that never becomes insignificant.
With performances managing to maintain the Wakanda Forever energy we saw in the first film, this one is a watchable sequel that never becomes insignificant.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended