‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ continues the series’ quest to recover and celebrate lost cultures
Poster of Black Panther: Wakanda forever

Release Date: 11/11/2022
Cast: Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett, Tenoch Huerta Mejía
Director: Ryan Coogler

King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) dies from a mysterious illness that not even his genius sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) can save him from. With the king’s passing, Wakanda comes under threat from foreign powers who want to grab the stockpiles of vibranium. This surge in attacks against Wakanda stems from the belief that the Black Panther is dead, and the country is defenceless. However, Wakanda, under its new queen puts up a brave fight until it comes face to face against an enemy that it is ill-equipped to stand up to. This enemy is Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejía) and his people from the deep-water kingdom of Talocan. Soon a time comes when each Wakandan has to dig deep inside to find reason and courage to face off against an indomitable enemy. Shuri who had for so long enjoyed her brother’s love and protection now has to fight to protect her people and bring back a legendary fighter that had always protected the people of Wakanda.

I walked into this film with an open mind and just wanted to enjoy it for what it was. I did like the film in parts, but I have to admit that there were more issues in it than there were things to be bowled over by. It failed on some of the most basic parameters that make a superhero film good. This was something that cannot be forgiven in a film that is a sequel to a solid superhero film like Black Panther even if that film in itself was overhyped and glorified beyond what it deserved. 

Letitia Wright as Shuri and how effortlessly she slipped into the shoes of the Black Panther :

This was one of the most impressive aspects of the film for me. I am confident that Letitia Wright had never signed on to play the Black Panther but the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman not only brought her into a tight spot wherein the future of the franchise rested on her nod to play the character and the hero that she was in the shadow of. Thus, in the film, she is playing herself in a way. She not only had to get the beats right for the character of Shuri and portray the immense tragedy that she was going through for not being able to save her own brother but also justify her performance as the Black Panther and bring forth the rage spinning out of her tragedy to the action as the Black Panther. She also had to make it impactful. I was delighted to note that she was able to nearly pull off all of that even though she fails in certain aspects towards the end of the film.     

Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole’s effective writing takes the story forward somehow after the death of Boseman:

I believe a large portion of the film was already shot or atleast its screenplay was locked when Boseman passed away. The writer had no way to bring in another Black Panther. They had even killed off Killmonger (Michael B Jordan) who many fans wanted to take over the mantle of the Black Panther. What Coogler and Cole did in this film was possibly the only way of making this film work and keeping it somewhat rooted in the mythology that the first film created. They are able to make the audiences feel that they are still watching the same story and that was no mean feat to pull off. It must have been an incredibly difficult job and they pulled it off well enough. I particularly liked how well they tied in the tragedy of losing Boseman into this film and used it as an undercurrent to make certain characters do certain things that they would not do under different circumstances. The duo also used this tragedy to deliver atleast two cracking emotional sequences where the film feels like a different film from what the rest of it feels like. 

Angela Bassett’s sensational performance as queen Ramonda:

Angela Bassett is a revelation in this film. She delivers a performance that is far better than what a film of this nature deserved. I was bowled over by the perfect balance that she brings between her poise and power as the queen of Wakanda and the sense of misery and loss at the death of her husband and son. She is shown doing things out of anger when she sees the chance of losing her daughter too and that only adds to the charm and impact of her performance. I loved her exchanges with the world community, her own team of ministers, and one face-off with Namor. Her performance was one of the best things to take away from this film.  

Having said all that, the film has some serious issues that not only mar the fun of the experience but also make this one of the weaker superhero films of the MCU.
A complete lack of tension and sense of urgency in the proceedings: – 

There are very few superhero films that are so lacking tension and urgency as this one. The story moves at a lethargic pace and the proceedings are so dialogue-heavy that after a while it starts getting on your nerves. None of the major characters are ever threatened or are in a situation that makes us stand up and take notice. The primary antagonist is muddled in his views and actions. In one moment, he wants to be best friends with Shuri and in the next, he wants to annihilate every Wakandan. In one moment, he wants to only finish the source of a science project that could lead to the discovery of his world, and in the next, he wants to annihilate the entire known world. All this feels laughably amateurish and results in us never taking the man seriously. Thus, whatever little tension was left in the narrative is drained completely resulting in a flat and boring film. 

Poor action sequences:

The action sequences were criminally poor. The 3D was completely unmercenary, and it added nothing to the visual experience. On the contrary, the dark 3D glasses contributed to making most of the dimly lit scenes of the film even darker and, in some portions, completely incomprehensible. The hyper editing of the action sequences and a lack of physicality in whatever little hand-to-hand combat was there made the action of a supposedly action film, one of its weakest aspects. 

A complete lack of charisma and heroism:

What is a superhero film if it is devoid of heroism and charisma? A non-starter. This was the most noticeable deficiency of the film for me. There wasn’t a single character in the film that had the kind of aura that would inspire or charge up the audience. Letitia Wright was good but she is no “Black Panther”. Atleast not with the stick figure body that she has and the kitten-like physicality that she brings to the action sequences. Not only does she not have the presence to be the Black Panther, but she also lacks the charm and the gusto that is necessary to sell a character of this nature. Tenoch Huerta Mejía is neither scary nor impactful as the mutant villain Namor. He looks more like an angsty heartbroken lover who is trying to get back at the world for things that were done to him by his ex. The build-up to the reappearance of the Black Panther and how it is executed was extremely generic and uninspiring. There was neither any roaring passion backing it nor extracted any heightened emotions from the audience.

Final words:

There was no sense of seriousness in the film for some of the key characters and moments. The comedy here is a lot more heightened than was needed in a film of this nature. M’baku was funny in the first part, and he was so here too. Sadly, they even make fearsome characters like Okoye evidently funnier, and it spoiled the seriousness and mojo of the character terribly. A lot of things happen without any justification or underlying reasons. Characters and situations change drastically to proceed in a certain way so that the film can reach a certain point. While this is the case for most superhero films, it should not so pronounced and obvious for a film and story of this nature to work. I was more disappointed than impressed by this film and that, I believe, will be the case with most thinking audiences.

Please note that the views expressed in this article are that of the reviewer and do not in any way or form reflect EastMojo’s position.

Rating: 2.5/5 (2.5 out of 5 Stars)    

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