It has taken me a while to write a review of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) because I find myself getting stuck on what I want to say. I watched the film opening day on November 11, and instantly thought it was such a deep and culturally impactful film. Most times I can formulate my thoughts on a movie and convey them with ease. However, with Wakanda Forever, there is an immense number of layers and weight that surround the film as a whole.
Being a sequel to the critically acclaimed Black Panther (2016), the movie needs to effectively build on the last film and evolve the world of Wakanda and its lively characters, while also managing to live up to the massive expectation put in place by the last installment.
Furthermore, Wakanda Forever must also fit within the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe, that has started to become more and more critiqued post Avengers: Endgame (2019). Most fans seem to be unsatisfied with many of the newer MCU films and television series. While I agree with many of the critiques regarding the MCU formula growing stagnant and stale, I find many of these people who are critiquing Phase 4 of the MCU to perpetuate hateful ideologies. For instance, it seems many of these “fans” that hate She-Hulk (2022) and Ms. Marvel (2022) are actually just toxic men who are irrationally angry and criticize the show for baseless reasons. This increase in toxicity within the MCU fandom discourse has bled into Wakanda Forever. Much of this toxic hate stems from problematic views surrounding underrepresented minority groups such as the LGBTQIA2S+ community, women, and people of colour. Therefore, a film like Wakanda Forever, that prominently features each of these communities will be targeted with unwarranted hate.
Additionally, amid the challenges COVID-19 presented to the film industry, Wakanda Forever also had to navigate through controversy surrounding lead actress Letitia Wright’s alleged anti-vax position.
And finally, the heartbreaking passing of Chadwick Boseman who played King T’Challa, the Black Panther deeply impacted the production of this film. Originally, the movie was written around Boseman and his depiction of the Black Panther. But, after Boseman’s tragic death, Ryan Coogler, the writer and director of Wakanda Forever had to completely rework the film to pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman, and address the absence of T’Challa from the story.
Personally, all these factors wrapped Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) in layers of complications that had me worried. However, I am greatly happy to say that this film not only lives up to the first film, but in my opinion surpasses it.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) is able to achieve this by continuing to explore many of the themes that underlie Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Most, if not all of Phase 4 has been touching on the grief that many characters possess because of the personal losses they experience (ie: Wanda Maximoff in WandaVision, Peter Parker in Spider-Man: No Way Home), the pressure a superhero legacy inflicts on the individual (ie: Sam Wilson in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier), and shared trauma within a community (ie: Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk). Wakanda Forever, thematically explores each of these elements. This is on display in the profound conversations the main antagonist Namor, played by Tenoch Huerta Mejía has with other characters. Namor can serve as a foil to our heroes while also challenging their beliefs around grief, legacy, and shared trauma, which solidifies him as one of the best antagonists in an MCU film. This exploration of themes the MCU explored in Phase 4 makes Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) a beautiful conclusion to this chapter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
This film also features some of the most breathtaking visuals and settings in the MCU. Since audiences were introduced to Wakanda in the first movie, it has gone on to become an important cultural moment in film history. Practically everyone knows the “Wakanda Forever” salute. And many people can now recognize the iconography of Wakanda. With all this in mind, it was absolutely amazing to witness the sequel able to effectively deepen audiences’ connection to Wakanda by exploring more of their culture. Moreover, this film introduces a whole separate culture with the underwater kingdom of Talokan, and their radical leader Namor. Their society and culture are given an immense amount of development which strengthens these two warring nations conflict.
This film was essentially a tribute to Chadwick Boseman, and the palpable sense of loss the black community, MCU fans, and his friends and family experienced. Therefore, the cast had to provide some of the most powerful performances I have ever seen. The character interaction between Letitia Wright as Princess Shuri, Danai Gurira as Okoye, Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, Winston Duke as M’Baku, Dominique Thorne as Riri Williams, Tenoch Huerta Mejía as Namor, and Angela Bassett as Queen Ramonda were all massive highlights.
Overall, the film was brilliant! Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) had the impossible task of making a movie that could live up to the legacy of Chadwick Boseman. I personally thought that the cast and crew did a fantastic job, and I loved every second of the movie.