Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Review
Of all the world’s losses in 2020, I think losing Chadwick Boseman was among the hardest. The man won the hearts of everyone as T’Challa, the Black Panther. Now, though, his role in the MCU was in doubt. How could the MCU go on without Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther? How could Marvel make another movie about Black Panther without Chadwick?
As painful as it may be, everyone had to grieve the loss of Chadwick Boseman. And Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is the result of that grief-sharing. A fitting tribute to Marvel’s past…and the future of Wakanda.
A World Without T’Challa
T’Challa is dead, struck by an unidentified illness that the heart-shaped herb could’ve cured. All of Wakanda mourns his loss, but it hits the people who knew him personally the hardest. However, with his death, the vultures start to circle. The outside world keeps trying to get its hands on Wakanda’s vibranium through any means, even though Wakanda played a big role in saving the universe from Thanos. And without the Black Panther, everyone thinks Wakanda is vulnerable.
A year after T’Challa’s death, things come to a head. When America discovers another source of vibranium, they unknowingly anger its protectors, the deep-sea people of Talokan. What happens next threatens to plunge Wakanda into a war for its future. But can Wakanda survive without the Black Panther, or will another rise to take his place?
Wakanda Forever is a Movie about Grief
Like I said before, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever deals with grief, both in-universe and on a meta-level. Everyone at Marvel, up to Kevin Feige himself, had been unaware that Chadwick Boseman had been fighting cancer. Not even Ryan Coogler, the film’s director, had known, and he had worked closely with Chadwick on the film. Heck, Coogler considered quitting the movie business altogether. The loss was so great. Ultimately, though, Marvel, Coogler, and the cast chose to go through with the film Wakanda Forever, thinking that was what Chadwick wanted.
On a meta-level, that decision, no matter how painful, might have been what those who worked on the film and knew Chadwick needed the most. The movie wouldn’t be the same without Chadwick, and it does show in Wakanda Forever, with Chadwick’s charisma sorely missed. However, to everyone’s credit, Marvel does a great job of channeling that grief into making it the best film it can make. And it shows.
Shuri and Namor: the Heart of the Story
While everyone in the film deals with T’Challa’s death in their own way, it’s Shuri who gets hit the hardest. Until now, fans have known Shuri as T’Challa’s sassy, super-genius little sister. I loved Shuri myself, which only made it harder to see how broken she was in Wakanda Forever. She hates herself for failing to save her brother, and she hates the world for taking T’Challa away from her. In a way, she’s become a mirror image of Killmonger, and when Namor brings conflict to her doorstep, she almost lets that anger consume her. It’s dealing with this grief and coming to terms with who she is without her brother that drives her development throughout the film. And while she doesn’t come out of it fully healed, she’s on the path to doing so.
In contrast, we have Namor, played by Tenoch Meija. I loved Namor, finding him to be a very complex character. He’s a centuries-old ruler who’s forced to hide himself and his people from a world that, perhaps rightfully, will not understand him. Since he’s seen the worst of humanity, it’s hard not to blame the man. And while his background was changed for the MCU, his motives remain in line with his comic book counterpart. Namor cares about his people first and will go to war with humanity to protect them.
Namor is, essentially, a dark reflection of what T’Challa would be like if he had not opened up to outsiders. He’s charming and charismatic, and when he speaks, people listen. It breaks my heart knowing we’ll never see how Chadwick and Tenoch would’ve worked together onscreen. However, I think Tenoch makes for a worthy addition to the MCU. And I think changing the origins of his people to being of mesoamerican heritage brings more diversity to the MCU.
My One Issue…
The one complaint I have about Wakanda Forever is that it tries to juggle too many plot threads at once. As a result, characters that should be key end up getting reduced in relevance. For example, Agent Ross has his own arc in the movie that sees him choose loyalty to his friends over his country, but he doesn’t have as great a role as before.
Then we have Riri Williams, the new girl. Throughout the ad campaigns for the film, Marvel keeps hinting that she will be the next Iron Man. Given how Tony Stark was the focal point for the Infinity Saga, that’s a big deal. However, she doesn’t play as great a role as she could have. At best, she helps provide Shuri with the friend and peer she needs. At worst, she serves to help move the plot forward. Given Iron Man’s importance, I wish they’d done more with her. Here’s hoping that we see more of her in the future.
A Fitting Tribute to Chadwick Boseman
Overall, what do I think of the film? I believe that it doesn’t reach the height of the original Black Panther, but it gets pretty darn close. It’s not for lack of trying since it’s hard to do it with Chadwick Boseman. However, I do think the cast and crew of Wakanda Forever poured their heart out for this movie. While we may never fully get over Chadwick’s death, I think this movie did a lot to help with the grieving process. And, if you stick around for the mid-credits scene, you’ll find one last surprise from T’Challa. Something not even I expected, but one that made me laugh and cry all at once.
I Give “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” a 4/5
Also, I would like to offer my condolences to DC fans for the passing of Kevin Conroy, the longtime voice of Batman. He was the definitive Batman for thirty years, and we all miss him.