Initial Reactions to ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’
A beautiful tribute to Chadwick Boseman…but not much else.
This post contains some basic plot details about Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
I watched Black Panther: Wakanda Forever at a packed public screening this weekend and I have to confess it’s a tough film to discuss. This is a 2 hour and 41 minute long film that is, at times, exhilarating and inventive but also mostly a slog and a bore. It pays loving tribute to Chadwick Boseman in its opening — and possibly the most powerful use of the opening Marvel Studios logo montage to date — but feels aimless.
The film’s biggest issue is its lack of focus. Angela Bassett plays Queen Ramonda and spends the first part of the film dealing with her grief at T’Challa’s passing and trying to keep the kingdom of Wakanda together. Bassett is a force of nature and commands the screen every time she’s on it (honestly I can imagine a different, better version of this film where she’s the main character, but it would consequently be a stretch to call it Black Panther film).
But the film quickly turns its focus to Shuri (Leticia Wright), who is at a different stage of her grief and trying to figure out her place in Wakanda too. Meanwhile, the world is trying to get its hand on vibranium, there’s a young scientist named Riri Williams (Domonique Thorne) who may hold the key to getting more of it, and oh by the way did I mention that there’s a whole other badass character named Namor who has some pretty cool powers and also has a whole kingdom (Talokan) he’s trying to defend?
It’s an overwhelming amount of…stuff. Yet the movie’s massive runtime and uneven pacing make the movie feel overstuffed and listless at the same time. The movie’s themes about grief and the plight of the oppressed get lost in a wave of clunky exposition and mostly-forgettable CG-heavy action scenes.
Boseman was a true talent and his body of work made an indelible imprint on our culture. In paying tribute to him, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever also reminds us of how much a a film like this needed him to tie this type of material together.
But hey, these are just my thoughts! Let me know what you thought of the movie in the comments below. And thanks for reading!
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Other writers whose writing you should read about Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Robert Daniels (from) writes about Wakanda Forever over at Rogerebert.com:
The hulking script is chock-full of ideas and themes. Rather than fighting their common enemy (white colonists), two kingdoms helmed by people of color are pitted against each other (an idea that never thematically lands), and the film must delve into the cultural pain that still exists from the historical annihilation of Central and South America’s Indigenous kingdoms. It must also contend with a bevy of other requirements: setting up the Marvel TV series “Ironheart” (which Dominique Thorne will star in), acknowledging The Snap, grieving Boseman’s death, and finding a new Black Panther. These competing interests are no less smoothed out by MCU’s blockbuster demands (that this must be a mainstream hit and usher in the next phase of the cinematic universe) and the weight of satiating Black folks who feel seen by the fantastical confirmation of Black regalism. It’s too much for one movie. And you get the sense that this should’ve been two.
Wakanda Forever is too drab to work as a capable sequel, too unfocused to feel wholly consequential among the spoiling bombast of the larger MCU, too surface-level in its characterization and thematic entanglements to function as a worthy memorial to a star gone far too soon. It is neither developed enough narratively nor complex enough politically. It is a film not about Blackness or Indigenous identity, though it hides behind the sheen of both.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever flies beyond the confines of the MCU as a thoughtful, resonant action-drama with exemplary performances from the ensemble and passionate natural emotions. When the screenplay acts as a character study of grief and its ramifications, it serves as a hard-hitting poetic ode to Chadwick and the mantle of the Black Panther. Despite its retreads, this is one of the best movies of the MCU’s catalog to date.