Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a powerfully emotional film that openly embraces loss and grief and begins the journey forward.
The end of Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is upon us with the sequel to one of the biggest films the world has ever seen, Black Panther. The long-awaited and highly-anticipated sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, is finally available for the world to experience. Fans can’t wait to see the introduction of Namor and the Talocans, Riri Williams, and to be reintroduced to the Wakandans. But fans are also curious about how the world moves on without T’Challa, personified by the late great Chadwick Boseman.
Despite knowing his character will not be in the film, thanks to the trailers, fans will soon discover T’Challa and Boseman’s presence is very much still present in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Embraces Our Loss and All the Different Colors of Grief
Chadwick Boseman’s passing was a shock to the world. One that profoundly affected many. Rather than work around the loss, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever embraces it and makes it a part of the film. Losing their colleague, friend, and brother is felt throughout the film. The world is shifted because of the news, and the realities of the characters are shattered. However, it is not all sadness, as there is a lot of beauty in the full spectrum of emotions experienced and shared among the characters in the film and with the audience. Producer Nate Moore sums it up best when discussing how the film incorporates all the colors of grief.
The emotions are powerful in the film and tissues are highly recommended. But it is not just from the pain and sadness of loss. In fact, it is much more the celebration of life. The film does the seemingly impossible and makes the loss acceptable. It doesn’t detract a sliver from all of the bad and negative emotions, it just also makes it okay to feel all of the good and positive ones as well. While the pain of the loss is prominent and profound, the required continuing on is made okay and encouraged.
This is most evident in the film with Shuri, but in a profound way, it feels permission is being granted for the audience to grieve and continue.
The Leaders of Wakanda
Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira, and Angela Bassett are incredible in the film. The emotional journeys of their characters is intimately followed throughout the entire film and will have audiences crying, laughing, and breathless throughout its nearly three-hour runtime. Angela Bassett as Queen Ramonda is burdened with duty as she is the reigning figurehead after T’Challa’s passing. She has to remain strong and steadfast as the leader of her people and the eyes of the world are upon her waiting for her to slip. Bassett radiates regalness and graciously goes from a steadfast world leader to nurturing mother, and mother in grief.
Danai Gurira’s Okoye is also put through the wringer. As the general of the Dora Milaje, she is at the forefront of the physical conflict while having to also deal with her emotional and personal ones. Gurira makes taking on super-powered new enemies look easy, while fully embodying the emotional weight of loss and carrying on through it. Basically, she’s the person who goes right back into work after losing someone. Everyone wonders why she’s at work she needs some time, but she’s still the best at the job so we keep quiet. But even though she is the best, she’s not at her best, and Gurira shows us just how much that small difference makes.
Letitia Wright is playing an almost entirely new character. While she is still undoubtedly Shuri, we are seeing a Shuri forced to mature into someone she is not choosing to be. The joy and enthusiasm of the Shuri audiences know from Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War is gone. Wright masterfully captures the transformation and powerfully guides the audience through the emotional journey Shuri goes through. It’s a painfully wonderful adventure through grief that will resonate with audiences long after the credits stop rolling.
Tenoch Huerta is perfect as Namor. He embodies a true king, one that is beloved but wisely also feared. He is for his people, and his people are for him. While he is the antagonist of the film, it is objectively wrong to say he is a villain. His actions are that of a great leader protecting his people, with the knowledge and wisdom of centuries guiding his decisions. He is terrifying when needs to be, but an absolute charmer immediately after. Huerta controls the perception of Namor the same way Namor controls the seas. It’s a truly spectacular performance, and hopefully, the first of many to come from the actor and the character.
Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Dominique Thorne, Florence Kasumba, Michaela Coel, Martin Freeman, Mabel Cadena, and Alex Linvanalli are all terrific in the film. Though I will not be focusing on them much, please know that they all deliver amazing performances. Thorne will have audiences clamoring to see the Iron Heart series after Wakanda Forever. That is guaranteed. They’re performances are on the same level as the four I spoke about, but it’s also centered around those four’s characters. It’s really hard to talk about their significance to the film and heights of their performances without giving a lot of the movie away and still be meaningful.
Wakanda and Talocan
The last thing outside of the performances and emotional impact of the story I want to talk about is the visual wonders of both of these cities. Wakanda is the most advanced nation in the world, and we get to see a lot more of it in Wakanda Forever. The way the city work with nature rather than instead is likely what the world should aim to achieve. The technologies working with the natural surroundings are simultaneously out-of-this-world and grounded. It forces the thought of, “I can’t believe what I’m seeing. Wait, why doesn’t this exist?”
Talocan is a secret world never experienced by humans. It is magical, to say the least. While technology isn’t at the forefront of their society, their advanced culture is apparent immediately. While fully utilizing designs inspired by ancient people, the way it is integrated with the sea and its inhabitants makes it an underwater utopia. The beauty of Talocan alone justifies Namor’s goal to protect it at all cost.
On the opposite, yet just as marvelous, side of the Talocan utopia is the war. The Talocans bring a gorgeous yet terrifying army to the screen. I do not want to give it away, because the wonder and jaw-dropping of seeing what they have in store should be experienced by everyone. It is the coolest live-action and grounded rendering of the sea, and really sets the bar high for other sea-based superhero or princess-focused films. Just saying, a trailer for an upcoming underwater film needs to step up its game.
Wakanda Forever is tremendously intimate with its emotions while being epic in scale. It seamlessly transitions from small moments to grand events on a dime but never feels jarring. It is an emotionally powerful story of grief shepherded by masterful performances and told by one of the best storytellers of our time, Ryan Coogler. Coogler and the Wakanda Forever team will have audiences laughing, crying, and gasping for air then absolutely bewildered that the movie is just under three hours long.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever also wonderfully bookends Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While it does not directly feel like it is closing this phase of the world’s most expansive cinematic franchise, it does feel like another beginning. A place to embrace the past and not be bound to carry it forward. Phase 4 starts and ends with grief, and now feels like we can collectively continue. Not to lose the past, but to find the future.
For its ability to completely captivate the audience’s attention, control their emotions, and make time disappear, I give Black Panther: Wakanda Forever a 4.5/5. (The only downside was some bad green screens, or else I would have given it a perfect score.)
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever releases globally exclusively in theaters on November 11, 2022. Tickets are on sale now.
ABOUT BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER
Release Date: November 11, 2022
Director: Ryan Coogler
Story Writer: Ryan Coogler
Screenplay: Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole
Producers: Kevin Feige, Nate Moore
Costume Design: Ruth Carter
Cast: Angela Bassett, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Danai Gurira, Florence Kasumba, Lupita Nyong’o, Martin Freeman, Tenoch Huerta, Dominique Thorne, Michaela Coel, Mabel Cadena and Alex Livanalli
Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), Shuri (Letitia Wright), M’Baku (Winston Duke), Okoye (Danai Gurira) and the Dora Milaje (including Florence Kasumba), fight to protect their nation from intervening world powers in the wake of King T’Challa’s death. As the Wakandans strive to embrace their next chapter, the heroes must band together with the help of War Dog Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) and forge a new path for the kingdom of Wakanda.
Will you be bringing tissues with you to the theaters? Do you already have tickets to Black Panther: Wakanda Forever? How many times will you watch it opening weekend? Let us know what you think and share your theories with us on Twitter!