‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ an incredible movieNov 14, 2022 11:41AM ● By Jenniffer Wardell
The Black Panther is dead. Long live the Black Panther.
If you worried that the Black Panther movies would lose their magic after Chadwick Boseman’s death, then worry no more. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is a powerful, deeply emotional epic, equally satisfying on a personal, political, and comic book level. T’Challa may be gone, but the real story of Wakanda is only just beginning.
The movie opens with the immediate aftermath of T’Challa’s death, then fast forwards a year to a world where other nations are trying to steal Wakanda’s vibranium. Their quest soon turns to the ocean, dragging in a brilliant young scientist and a mysterious underwater nation. When tensions rise to the killing point, it will mean life and death for both Wakanda and the world as a whole.
Namor and the Black Panther have only ever interacted a handful of times in the comics, so when I first heard that he would be premiering in the sequel it initially seemed like an odd fit. (He’s best known as an enemy/ally of the Fantastic Four). In director Ryan Coogler’s hands, however, Wakanda and Namor’s kingdom become such profound parallels that their inclusion not only becomes logical but essential. The only way these two stories could have possibly been told is together.
Of course, there are far more than two stories being told here. In addition to the stories of two nations, both torn between alliance and war, there’s the story of two leaders weighing their need for vengeance with the responsibilities of their kingdoms. There are several different stories of grief, how healing comes and whether it’s even possible. There’s the introduction of Riri Williams, the true successor to Iron Man, and the story of a young woman realizing the real impact of her inventions. Coogler weaves them all together beautifully, creating a whole that is so much more than the sum of its parts.
The cast also does wonders for bringing the story to life. All the returning cast is fantastic, but it’s Letitia Wright who really steps into the spotlight as Shuri. No longer the sarcastic little sister, she’s a woman balancing her own crushing grief with the safety of the world. She’s angrier then her brother, a nicely highlighted tie back to Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger, and is equally capable of using science as a stepping stone or a weapon.
Tenoch Huerta is a revelation as Namor. In the comics, the character is a white guy with wings on his ankles, terrible fashion sense, and an inexplicable fondness for blondes. In Huerta’s and Coogler’s hands, however, he’s an ancient Mezzo-American king who has a very reasonable hatred for land-walkers and knows the value of a true ally. He’s still as arrogant as ever, but he’s also desperate to take care of his people. They even managed to make the winged ankles seem intimidating.
(Seriously, Marvel. If you genuinely want to make a Fantastic Four movie that works, you should seriously consider getting down on your hands and knees and begging Coogler to do it. I’m not sure he’d even want to, but anyone who could transform Namor like this could also make the Fantastic Four movie the MCU is clearly desperate for.)
Right now, though, we should all be grateful he made “Wakanda Forever.” Go watch it as soon as you can.
Grade: Four stars
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Utah Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at [email protected]