Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
(Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, et al. | PG-13 | 2 hr 41 min | Walt Disney Studios)
Overview: In Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), Shuri (Letitia Wright), M’Baku (Winston Duke), Okoye (Danai Gurira) and the Dora Milaje (including Florence Kasumba) fight to protect their nation from intervening world powers in the wake of King T’Challa’s death.
As the Wakandan’s strive to embrace their next chapter, the heroes must band together with the help of War Dog Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) and forge a new path for the kingdom of Wakanda.
Verdict: A thoughtful and mature exploration of communal grief in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a fitting tribute to the legacy of Chadwick Boseman. The opening scenes thrust viewers directly into the open wound of that loss through the eyes of Shuri (played by Letitia Wright, whose career miraculously survived anti-vax conspiracies), princess of Wakanda and sister to T’Challa.
The people of Wakanda and the story are led by the grieving Queen Ramonda, played by a flawless Angela Bassett, anchoring the sprawling story with her gravitas and acting chops.
The first two-thirds of the movie are excellent storytelling, doubling down on the franchise’s commitment to grappling with consequences of colonialism, coupled with futuristic fantasies of untouched civilizations. It introduces the highly anticipated Namor (a perfectly cast Tenoch Huerta) using gorgeous Mayan and Aztec details to burnish his backstory as the most newly-minted mutant. The underwater sequences are beautiful and haunting, accurately reflecting the awesome hush of diving into the deep.
The last third of the film devolves into a predictable CGI battle where Wakanda makes outlandish tactical errors for no logical reason other than to push the story along, and there’s an unfortunate lack of well-choreographed hand-to-hand combat.
But hey, there’s plenty of cool water bombs and action sequences to make it worth your while! Despite this, old favorites like M’Baku (Winston Duke), Okoye (Danai Gurira), Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), and token colonizer Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) successfully bring back the excitement of the original film, and it becomes clear that the charm of Wakanda truly is forever. [S.F.]