Warning: Spoilers for Wakanda Forever

The amount of pressure placed upon this film was almost insurmountable. How could you possibly make a Black Panther movie after Chadwick Boseman’s death? Do you recast T’challa, or do you pass the Black Panther role onto another character? How can you make this movie and simultaneously honor Boseman? While Wakanda Forever didn’t completely blow me away, I was very impressed with how well the finished product did work. It managed to effectively pay tribute to both the character and actor, and deliver an engaging and moving story. But, despite its runtime of two hours and forty-one minutes, I still found the film to be lacking something. Some of the emotional moments work very well, and I quite like the overall story and idea behind Wakanda Forever, but I think that there are a few things holding it back.

The death of Chadwick Boseman was absolutely devastating to many, including myself. Although it seemingly came out of nowhere, Boseman died in 2020 after a four year battle with cancer. While Marvel already had a script written for a Black Panther sequel, they made the right move by completely rewriting the entire movie instead of recasting T’challa, or just scrapping the project. Like I said, I found the overall story to be very well done. I enjoyed the way it focused on Wakanda’s grieving process, and showed characters such as Shuri, Nakia, and Okoye having genuinely sad moments on screen. It’s rare that a Marvel movie actually makes me feel something- the only other two that I can think of are Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Avengers: Endgame. The main reason for this is the fantastic performances. It’s very impressive, as the main cast consists of what are essentially the side characters from the first Black Panther. Angela Basset’s portrayal of Queen Ramonda is superb, as is Letitia Wright and Lupita Nyong’o as Shuri and Nakia. My personal favorite character is Danai Gurira as Okoye- maybe I’m just too much of a Walking Dead fan. This extremely strong cast combined with a very well written story makes for a Marvel movie that doesn’t really feel like a Marvel movie. Don’t get me wrong, it still fits with the rest of the universe, but it doesn’t feel like a studio mandated project- it feels like Ryan Coogler and the rest of the team actually wanted to make a movie. Much of Marvel’s recent output has felt like they’re just going through the motions; so much Marvel content is being produced yearly that it’s easy for some of them to blend together. I think that it deserves a spot on the list of ‘superhero movies that just feel like well made movies’, among things like The Dark Knight and Logan.

The main antagonist is one of the best in recent Marvel memory- while Namor isn’t quite as effective as the first movie’s Killmonger, he is still a great villain. Just like Marvel has done many times, they turned an admittedly goofy character from the comics into an actual threat. Associating Namor and the underwater city of Talokan with Aztec mythology was a very interesting choice, and made him a much better villain. There is no way that they could ever adapt the comic version of Namor to screen; his character just wouldn’t fit, and he would be made fun of more than Aquaman. I always enjoy when the ‘sympathetic villains’ actually work, and Namor definitely does. You don’t necessarily agree with him, but you can understand where he is coming from, to an extent. He tried to be friendly with Wakanda, but Nakia entered Talokan without permission, and attacked two guards. She thought that she was rescuing Shuri, but was really just escalating the conflict. I hope to see him return in future MCU movies; Wakanda Forever‘s final moments showed that his story is not over with.

While there aren’t many of them, the action scenes were surprisingly good, and are much better than the awful final battle in the first Black Panther. Four years later, and I am still in disbelief that this scene actually made it into the final version of the movie- it looks like a cutscene from a video game that came out in 2012. Wakanda Forever‘s action is well choreographed, and some of the best action in any of these movies. Okoye’s fight on the bridge stands out as the best one in the movie; it is legitimately tense, and I was beginning to wonder if somebody was actually going to die. If you’ve seen as many of these movies as I have, this was a nice surprise. It’s a good thing that the action scenes are as few and far between as they are. Wakanda Forever is meant to be a much more slow and gradual story than your average Marvel movie. I was very satisfied with the amount of action there was, and how well it was done. The same goes for the humor- many Marvel movies consist of far too many jokes that do not land, but this movie has very few jokes that are often funny. It was nice to see this movie break the standard Marvel formula to deliver a more genuine story, especially after the last movie, Thor: Love and Thunder, put many of the problems with the MCU on display.

My problems with Wakanda Forever begin with everyone’s favorite Black Panther character, Everett Ross. His subplot really felt unnecessary, and was the only part of this very long movie that dragged. Most or all of it could have been cut out and replaced with more time focusing on the other characters. It surprised me how quickly the film rushed into the final battle, as the rest of it was very patient and methodical. Shuri defeated Namor and his army much too quickly. Talokan was shown to be extremely powerful, as they had already destroyed much of Wakanda without any struggle. That’s not to say the final battle was bad, just too quick. I really like the way that Shuri stopped Namor- instead of just brute strength, Shuri and Riri have to use their minds to create a plan that weakens Namor before he can be stopped. I also appreciate Shuri letting Namor live, as she was able to achieve the outcome that T’challa wanted for Killmonger. If the Ross portion was shortened, I believe that the movie would have taken more time to focus on the moments before and during Wakanda and Talokan’s showdown, which is exactly what it needs.

Despite my issues with the film, Wakanda Forever left me feeling very satisfied. Even if it wasn’t my favorite MCU movie, it’s very impressive that it turned out the way it did. Chadwick Boseman was honored in the perfect way. It played a large role in the movie, but the emotional moments weren’t forced. The role of the Black Panther was passed onto Shuri, which was the best choice, and we are shown T’challa’s son, who will one day become king of Wakanda. Marvel was able to completely rewrite an entire movie, and make it better than most of their recent projects. It’s fantastic to see a movie that features a primarily black female cast do as well as it has; it’s only been out for a week, and has already almost surpassed Black Adam‘s worldwide gross of $352 million. I would definitely recommend you see it- if you’ve been affected by the ‘Marvel fatigue’ me and many other fans have experienced recently, it will be a nice change of pace. My score may go up once I watch it again, but currently, I’d give Black Panther: Wakanda Forever a 7/10.

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