The incredibly talented writer and director Ryan Coogler, along with his co-writer Joe Robert Cole, was tasked with one of the biggest challenges any Marvel filmmaker has faced with the tragic loss of Chadwick Boseman. While Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) deals directly and lovingly with the loss of King T’Challa, Boseman’s absence is felt throughout the film’s 161 minutes. The story, action, cast, and crew do everything to make this film as impactful as the first – but it was never able to overcome the feeling of loss.
Wakanda finds itself without a king, and the world wants to plunder its resources. Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), Shuri (Letitia Wright), M’Baku (Winston Duke), Okoye (Danai Gurira) and the Dora Milaje find themselves on the defensive. In light of these other nations wanting Vibranium, an unknown nation led by Namor (Tenoch Huerta) offers an uneasy ultimatum that makes the future of Wakanda all the more uncertain. To find their footing, Wakanda must call on old alliances and form new ones.
There are some solid action sequences in Wakanda Forever – mostly centered around Okoye early on. These are some of the coolest moments, as Gurira is really great at selling the intensity of these moments. An early attempt at a military operation to get Vibranium resulted in a powerful reintroduction to Okoye, as she and the Dora Milaje appear and subsequently disarm the soldiers. The hand-to-hand combat moments are definitely the standouts.
I enjoyed the performances of the actors in all of the returning characters, and I really enjoyed Huerta as Namor. Namor is closest to Marvel’s Aquaman, and I do not have much familiarity with him nor which came first. I found Namor to be yet another excellent villain in the MCU, and far more compelling than most of what we have been offered in the DC films of late. However, Aquaman’s movie – and the underwater scenes in this – have convinced me that it is impossible to make dialogue scenes not look silly as actors have to pretend to swim/float.
Like all Marvel films, there is a post-credits scene and a number of elements that are clearly setting up pieces on Kevin Feige’s chess board. Yet, Coogler’s film handles those moments organically, and most of them feel at home in the story. Despite the overall enjoyment, there was no way to shake the absence of the charismatic star that was extinguished far too early. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.