Film Review: Wakanda Forever
Four years after releasing the first Black Panther movie, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was finally released in November 2022. The first Black Panther, released in 2018, was a massive success, winning three Academy Awards and making millions at its debut. Wakanda Forever set out with the daunting task of living up to the original film, but the challenge only intensified; in 2020, the film’s leading actor, Chadwick Boseman, passed away. Fans, fellow actors, and directors alike mourned the loss of the man who played King T’Challa. Now, on top of the other challenges of creating a movie, the entire script for the sequel would have to change as well. Despite the turbulent journey, Wakanda Forever delivers an engaging storyline and appropriate tribute to its lost actor.
The story begins with T’challa’s sudden death, and his younger sister, Shuri, becomes the movie’s focus. A moving funeral ceremony for the king of Wakanda leads into Shuri’s struggles as she battles with her grief while trying to take over T’challa’s place as protector of Wakanda. The funeral scene is a clever addition to the film because it directly responds to the emotions many felt during Boesman’s sudden death in 2020. The mourning feels authentic, as Shuri and the Queen follow their King’s casket down the line of the ceremony. The viewer is given a sense of how important this actor was to the production. The film pays homage in a close-up of Boseman, painted on a building that comes into view (above photo). Throughout the movie, Shuri (Letitia Wright) struggles with the memory of her brother. In those scenes, Wright conveys grief in a raw way that appeals to the emotions of the audience.
Wakanda Forever also presented a unique plot, with both suspense and adventure. A new empire is discovered, led by a strange man-like creature named Namor. Namor teeters between ally and enemy of Wakanda as Shuri and the Queen must decide whether they will join him in destroying the rest of the world. The tension between his people, the Talokan, and Wakandans intensifies when Namor and his followers are revealed to have superior strength. Namor refuses to compromise; if Wakanda does not join his alliance, he will bring death to their world. A large portion of the film follows Shuri as she visits Talokan and falls in love with his people, but she feels a duty to uphold Wakanda’s isolationist tradition.
For me, what made the film equal to the first was not only the emotion and suspense but also the view. As in the first film, the setting takes place in the tribe-like empire of Wakanda and is full of colorful imagery and cultural traditions. The Talokan empire, beneath the water, is vibrant and original, creating another breathtaking backdrop to pull viewers into the story. These elements make the film enjoyable and distinct from others.
Finally, the opposition to revenge and violence is a wholesome stance the film takes. Although, like most Marvel movies, Wakanda Forever was filled with killing and chase scenes, the message of the Wakandans was to restrain from the war in other countries. Shuri wants revenge throughout the film, however, she is restrained by the message of her people: peace and forgiveness. Shuri experiences an inner conflict near the end of the film, as she wonders if Wakanda should destroy the rest of the world. Injustice is heavily portrayed throughout the film; villages are plundered and innocent people are murdered. But despite the tension of characters who want justification, there is a message of mercy. This reappearing theme of aggression is reconciled near the end of the film as she realizes that anger is not the way to resolve conflict, but rather justice and forgiveness.
Overall, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a great sequel and successfully combines original characters with its own unique plot.