‘Wakanda Forever’ has spirit

Black Panther sequel honors old hero while paving the way for new one


Illustration courtesy of Pavani Balaji

Shuri and all of Wakanda mourn the sudden passing of the Black Panther king and look to the future of their nation.

The latest Marvel film, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” is filled with everything one might hope for.
It has action-packed fight scenes, heart-wrenching loss, and a memorable villain. The only thing missing is the franchise’s namesake: Black Panther.
Unfortunately, beloved actor Chadwick Boseman, who portrayed Black Panther in the wildly successful original film, died of colon cancer on Sept. 13, 2020, while the sequel was still being produced.
But the rest of the cast is back as their original characters, including Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), who is T’Challa’s mother, and Shuri (Letitia Wright), his sister.
“Wakanda Forever” is directed by Ryan Coogler, who was also behind the camera in the original “Black Panther” film.
His sequel follows the events in the fictional kingdom of Wakanda after the death of King T’Challa, the Black Panther.
The Wakandans try to protect their once-hidden land from foreign threats, allying with other characters such as CIA agent Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) and T’Challa’s friend Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), also known as War Dog.
The film opens with Shuri desperately fighting to keep T’Challa alive before he ultimately passes away. The king’s funeral is somber and done right – the people wear white instead of black, practicing an important real-life African tradition.
During its runtime of 2 hours and 41 minutes, “Wakanda Forever” stars top-notch acting, great music, and impressive special effects, unlike the overuse in many past Marvel movies.
The plot is quite gripping with Shuri struggling to make peace with her brother T’Challa’s death while also dealing with the emergence of a new world power: the underwater kingdom of Talokan and their threatening leader, Namor (Tenoch Huerta).
As the main antagonist, Namor presents a backstory that in some aspects, is worth agreeing with. It’s a welcome return to Marvel fans’ expectations of a rich, plot-driven villain.
Another world power with interests in Wakanda, the United States, plays a secondary role in the film, with CIA agent Everett Ross attempting to play double agent between the U.S. and Wakanda.
While the 2018 movie highlighted Black Panther’s connection to Shuri, Okoye (Danai Gurira), and Nakia, “Wakanda Forever” shines a spotlight on the friendship between them.
Shuri and Okoye, for instance, bond while capturing MIT college scientist Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne), who has built a vibranium detector for the US to use underwater. This is followed by a GTA-style car chase against the FBI and Cambridge, Massachusetts police.
Accompanying the growing camaraderie is the always sought-after banter. The film sprinkles bits of humor throughout to keep the audience engaged and break up the otherwise serious tone.
As a whole, “Wakanda Forever” is a must-watch for everyone, from die-hard Marvel fans to newcomers. Although by no means perfect, it’s the tribute Boseman deserves.
The film also delves into themes of grief and moving on, as seen in the empowerment and emotional development of Shuri. And with underlying humor and thrilling action, it’s a movie viewers can both respect and enjoy.