WARNING: Major Black Panther: Wakanda Forever spoilers ahead!
Many tears were shed in my viewing of Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. The theater was silent as Marvel’s iconic intro appeared on screen. Yet, instead of the usual lineup of the Avengers, the audience was met with a show of silence when memories of Chadwick Boseman and his iconic character, T’Challa, the Black Panther himself, were seen instead.
But, the emotional rollercoaster had only begun. In the first couple of minutes of the film, T’Challa dies off screen from an unknown illness, with his family desperately trying to save him. This opening moment was just the start of Letitia Wright’s astonishing and heartbreaking performance. Wright, who plays T’Challa’s younger sister Shuri, is one of the many actors who carried this movie. Too focused on the practicalities of life and death, Shuri stops herself from truly mourning her brother, angered by the natural forces that took her brother’s life. By the end of the film, in a montage of beautiful memories, we can see just how much her brother’s life meant to her and how she is ready to navigate a world without him. While all aspects of the movie were enjoyable, it was the characters themselves that made this movie shine. MrDHWong, an online reviewer on IMDB, praises Wright’s performance, in particular. They admire “‘how well Wright plays into Shuri’s insecurities, never once exaggerating her emotions to the point of caricature or melodrama.”’ Her role as a mourning little sister and upcoming protector makes Shuri’s character stand out. But, her character is only one of many that deserves praise.
Both returning and new characters held their own, giving each person a defining role. Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) embodied what it means to be a grieving mother and a powerful queen tasked with ruling a nation without a defender. She taught her daughter, as well as the audience, the value of life even beyond the grave. A new character, Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne), was a light at the end of the tunnel. She was the center of the conflict, as she was responsible for building technology that had the entire world questioning Wakanda’s integrity. Despite the movie’s overarching theme of grief, her snarky, playful personality gives the audience time to laugh in between the saddest moments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Her introduction was a great way to set up her role in Phase 5 of the MCU.
Lastly, Namor (Tenoch Huerta) can arguably be considered one of Marvel’s best villains. Angered by the apathy and the destruction of the world, he and his people were ready to burn the surface world to the ground. His reasons were emotionally-based, as he lost his family to war and violence at the hands of humans. Shuri and Namor were parallels, both angry souls who lost something out of their control. Shuri almost joined Namor in his crusade, but thanks to the teachings of her mother, she was able to walk a noble path. Although his role in future Marvel projects is uncertain, Huerta’s performance made Namor an unforgettable presence in the MCU.
The cinematography was well done, as expected of Coogler. One of the most stunning shots was T’Challa’s funeral, where Wakandans danced and paid their respects to their former ruler in beautiful all white clothing. The costuming and scenery held a cultural impact in parallel to the first movie. Namor’s homeland, Talokan, brought underwater fantasy to life. Although Marvel has its hits and misses in its design and effects departments, Talokan is some of their strongest work yet. User 3xHCCH on IMDB admires the Mesoamerican civilization, from its architecture, costumes, language, and culture.’ The cultural and visual aspects of this film are definitely on par with its storytelling. Together, these features form a world of their own while still maintaining a sense of realism due to cultural references.
All in all, the latest Black Panther movie felt less like a superhero movie and more like a letter to Boseman’s legacy. The love and raw emotion demonstrated by not just the characters, but the actors are hard to miss. With this in mind, Ryan Coogler’s second go with the Black Panther franchise a 9/10.