Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Wakanda Forever has heart, which is more than can be said for most of what's come out of The Marvel Cinematic Universe in the last 5+ years.
67/10023140
Starring
Letitia Wright, Dana Gurira, Angela Bassett, Tenoch Huerta
Director
Ryan Coogler
Rating
PG-13
Genre
Action, Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi, Superhero
Release date
November 11, 2022
Where to watch
Disney+
Overall Score
Rating Overview
Plot/Story
58%
Performance
76%
Visuals/Cinematography
72%
Direction
72%
Non-Wokeness
60%
Rating Summary
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a competently made entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with fine performances, well-designed visuals, and a serviceable story. However, it suffers under the weight of unlikeable characters, a bloated runtime, and riddiculous plotholes.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is the 30th film in Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe. It tells the story of the fictional African nation of Wakanda in the aftermath of King T’Challa’s untimely death.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Despite the sad and unavoidable absence of Chadwick Boseman, Wakanda Forever is an improvement over the original Black Panther movie, which I thought was only somewhat north of mediocre. It offers somber undertones, a villain who isn’t merely a dark copy of the hero, and a relatable emotional through line of grief and mourning. All of this is bolstered by solid performances and a lot of eye candy.

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The basic plot is that Wakanda doesn’t want to share Vibranium with the world, and the world (especially the West) is less than happy about that, so a Vibranium detector is created and deployed. Then a deposit of the magic McGuffin mineral is found at the bottom of the sea and Namor, played by Tenoch Huerta (Narcos: Mexico), who is an ancient merman and ruler of an underwater kingdom, decides that the surface world’s discovery is a threat to his realm.

Namor approaches Wakanda for an alliance, and his terms are that he will destroy Wakanda if they don’t join him in waging war on the surface. The purpose of which is to dissuade the surface from further exploration. He also gives them another option: if Wakanda finds and murders the inventor of the detector, he’ll go on munching kelp and macking on mackerel, and leave everyone alone.

Angela Bassett in Black Panther Wakanda Forever
Angela Bassett owns every minute of screen time.

Wakanda Forever is passable entertainment and, as stated earlier, has some good performances. Angela Bassett (Mission Impossible: Fallout), who plays Queen Ramonda, absolutely dominates every second that she is on screen, commanding attention and absolutely embodying regal authority. That being said, as strong of a performer as she is, she has a very animated mouth, and, while that’s not usually a big deal, adding in the Wakandan accent sent her mouth into overdrive. It may sound like a nitpick, but it was incredibly distracting.

Okoye as Midnight Angel.

Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead), who plays the leader of the all-female Dora Milaje, General Okoye, gives 100%. Unfortunately, her character is an unlikable and arrogant @$$hole. So, when she experiences a personal tragedy in the film, it’s virtually impossible to feel bad for her. It doesn’t help that what happened to her made virtually no sense and was one of the film’s many synthetic plot devices that seemed put in for the sole purpose of setting up the next Disney/Marvel product.

In a movie full of unlikable characters, Letitia Wright’s (Ready Player One) Shuri is at the top of the pyramid. In the first Black Panther, she was a loud and spoiled know-it-all but Wright was able to infuse enough charm into her for the audience to not wish her harm. In Wakanda Forever, she is still a spoiled rich kid who treats her mother with disrespect, and her grief like she’s the only one to have ever experienced it. Unlike the first movie, she is much more muted, which makes her less obnoxious but also gives Wright less room to be playful and infuse the character with that offsetting charm.

Tenoch Huerta is another capable actor whose role left him little to do. Namor has a very generic motivation and a plan that makes less sense than his weakness. So, while Tenoch was fully invested in the character, I was not.

Even though the apolitical nature of the decision to radically alter Namor’s origins is doubtful (based on the film’s repeated use of the word colonizer alone), one can’t deny that the Mesoamerican aesthetic used for him and his people added some beautiful eye candy if not much else. The same goes for the overall film design choices. While there’s not much new to come from the world of Wakanda, except for some CGI-generated establishing shots that increased the scope of the remote nation, simply by virtue of being so different from western design, the sets, and costumes give the film the appearance of being interesting.

Speaking of CGI, it is a real mixed bag in Wakanda Forever. As mentioned, no one can fault the aesthetic, but the execution left much to be desired. There were numerous jarring shots in which real actors clearly transitioned into CGI and vice versa, and large battle scenes that looked like the animation team from She-Hulk was in charge.

wakanda forever cast
Center: 5′ 5″ 100 lbs. Letitia Wright. Far Right: 6′ 5″ 250 lbs. Winston Duke

Finally, Wakanda Forever is full of plot conveniences and gaping holes. For instance, why doesn’t Wakanda’s shield technology (you know, the one that a few years earlier was able to hold off Thanos’s invading army for several minutes) extend into the water? The reason is that that would have ended the movie.

Need another? Why does Namor not think that the American government would have all of the specs and schematics of the Vibranium detector filed away, and are almost certainly in the process of building several more right now, thereby making the idea of killing its inventor both ridiculous and moot? I’ll tell you why, because that wouldn’t allow for the inclusion and promotion of Disney’s next Marvel product, Ironheart. This latter contrivance also served to needlessly bloat the film by at least 30 minutes.

Next, why does Shuri become the Black Panther? T’Challa trained all of his life to be a great warrior, but Shuri is a 5′ 5″ 100-110 pound nerd. Becoming super-strong doesn’t increase your reach or make you into a good fighter. It would have made much more sense to have turned Okoye or Winston Duke’s M’Baku into the new Black Panther.

These are three of the biggest, but the film is littered with a dozen little ones that serve to completely remove the viewer from emotionally connecting while they instead ask themselves things like, “why are the Wakandans choosing to fight Namor’s vastly superior numbers in the open on his preferred terrain hand-to-hand while on top of a floating and vulnerable submarine instead of none of those things?”

Wakanda Forever is watchable as background noise, but ultimately is forgettable. If you want to watch a superhero movie that is way more fun, especially as a drinking game, why not check out Shin Ultraman?

WOKE ELEMENTS

  • In another improvement over the original, Wakanda Forever doesn’t use wealthy and successful African American actors to preach to us about the continued inequality suffered by African-Americans. It does, however, awkwardly shoehorn in one of the Left’s favorite talking points: colonization. On more than one occasion, a white American is randomly referred to as a “colonizer,” which is hilarious because it’s delivered by a Wakandan. You know, the vastly more advanced nation that could have easily ended the colonization of its home continent before it started.
  • The movie also makes sure to include the Spanish colonization and enslavement of Central America in the early 1500s. That’s not exactly woke. After all, it did happen and it was horrible. However, the only reason that Namor’s origin was changed from that of a half-Atlantean prince to an ancient Aztec mutant was so that the movie could bring up this detail. Otherwise, this historical horror had absolutely nothing to do with the story or furthering the narrative.
  • Instead of just holding a press conference to tell the world to stay away from their Vibranium, Wakanda and the movie treat the U.N. as though it is a meaningful body and do it there. The only way to ensure that fewer people know of your country’s warning to be left alone would be to give MSNBC the exclusive.
  • Disney made sure to squeeze in a lesbian Wakandan couple in the last two minutes, not to further the plot but to further their not-so-secret gay agenda.

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James Carrick

James Carrick is a passionate film enthusiast with a degree in theater and philosophy. James approaches dramatic criticism from a philosophic foundation grounded in aesthetics and ethics, offering insight and analysis that reveals layers of cinematic narrative with a touch of irreverence and a dash of snark.

2 comments

  • Don

    June 2, 2023 at 8:23 pm

    Woke-ish?? It’s a feature-length BLM ad

    8
    2

    Reply

  • Ur mom guess? Idk

    January 23, 2024 at 4:28 am

    T’Challa became Black Panther because he inherited the role from his father. Similarly, Shuri became the next Black Panther because she inherited the role from her brother.

    Reply

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