Wakanda Forever

Wakanda Forever

SPOILER ALERT: You have been warned – if you are reading this review – you can’t blame me when certain minor plot points are revealed. You can only blame yourself.

Acting: 5 ☆ / 5 ☆

Plot: 4 ☆ / 5 ☆

Humor: 3 ☆ / 5 ☆

Action: 4 ☆ / 5 ☆

Overall Rating: 4 ☆ / 5 ☆

A blank black screen and a voiceover. How many movies start like this? This stark unconventional first scene foreshadows the tone for the rest of the movie—they were never going to stick to the formulaic Marvel movie. After all, the actor Chadwick Boseman, who played the Black Panther in the original “Black Panther,” died of Stage 4 colon cancer on August 28, 2020. This left questions as to how the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) could possibly move forward with the sequel. 

Who became the new Black Panther in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”? I’ll just cut to the chase (THIS IS WHERE THE SPOILERS BEGIN—YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED): Shuri. Yes, you heard me right. T’Challa’s sassy technology-obsessed little sister. When I watched the trailer, I was upset that Marvel executives chose Shuri as the new Black Panther, and thought that General Okoye of the Dora Milaje or one of the other “warrior types” would have been a better choice. After seeing the movie, I have to admit…maybe I was wrong. It takes almost the entire movie until Shuri takes up her brother’s Black Panther mantle, and the increased time frame leaves time for Shuri’s transformation from nerdy sister to the new Black Panther. 

The story picks up with T’Challa, the original Black Panther, dying of an unnamed illness while Shuri attempts to save him by artificially re-creating the heart-shaped herb that was destroyed in the original “Black Panther.” She fails and T’Challa dies, leaving T’Challa’s mom Queen Ramonda. The rest of the Marvel film revolves around Wakanda’s conflict with the Mayan-inspired Talokan people and the misunderstood villain, Namor. 

I wondered how the film would depict grief and loss and… I was disappointed. First of all, to give credit where credit is due, Letitia Wright as Shuri and Angela Bassett as Queen Ramonda had standout performances. Also, the movie sprinkled in montages of Chadwick Boseman (like in the Marvel logo) that had me misty. However, I never cried. I am an emotional person, I cried twice in “Spiderman: No Way Home”! Instead of skipping to one year later early on in the film, I wish the movie had given more screen time to the emotional scenes. 

Traditional Wakandan drums made the funeral all the more tragic, but were largely underutilized during heated moments. Headlined by Rihanna’s songs Lift Me Up and Born Again, the score instead focused on elevating the fight scenes with a mix of modern hits and indigenous music that truly conveyed the passion of the combat.

Director Ryan Coogler went for quality over quantity in the jokes with the overwhelming shadow of Chadwick Boseman’s death hanging over the movie, so the movie comes off as not as over the top as the typical Marvel movie (looking at you, “Thor: Love and Thunder”). The comic relief heavy-lifting mostly falls on Riri Williams who plays the stereotypical “naive character” in Wakanda as the technology genius from MIT who designs her own “Iron Man” suit. Known in the comics as Ironheart, Williams makes a cameo in this movie ahead of her upcoming Disney + TV show. Aside from Williams, Everett K. Ross, the likable Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agent played by Martin Freeman from “Black Panther” makes a return and has some hilarious one-liners. 

Humor can be fun, but easter eggs make the Marvel experience special! Here we learn something new about CIA director Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, first seen in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” and later in a post-credits scene of “Black Widow.” We find out that she divorced Ross. Also, stick around for the post-credits scene for a memorable last scene that explains a key plot point!

Overall this is a very good movie and addition to the Marvel cinematic universe and more than met my expectations. From “Thor: Love and Thunder” to “Dr. Strange: Multiverse of Madness” to “She Hulk: Attorney at Law”, recent Marvel movies and TV shows have disappointed me. This one gives me hope as to the future of the MCU and expertly shows respect to actor Chadwick Boseman while moving the story forward with a new heroine.