Sommerleigh Pollonais, Senior Writer
Plot: The people of Wakanda fight to protect their home from intervening world powers as they mourn the death of King T’Challa.
Review: Fan fatigue, oversaturation, production issues brought on by Covid 19. There may be a myriad of reasons behind why the MCU’s fourth phase (or Phase 4 if you prefer) has been arguably their shakiest so far. But however you may feel about the recent slate of television shows and movies I think we can all agree the most highly anticipated of them all was Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
Mostly due to the sudden and tragic passing of star Chadwick Boseman but also because of all the MCU films created so far Black Panther has had arguably the heaviest of expectations placed upon it, and those expectations were only made larger by Boseman’s absence. So how did Ryan Coogler and his team fare? Well, all things considered, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever like all MCU films has its issues, but as a whole is a strong contender for the best of the Phase Four films.
Opening with scenes that depict the loss of both the hero and the man that portrayed him, Marvel Studios credits play in complete silence as we see Chadwick Boseman’s history as Black Panther play across the screen, setting the tone for a most somber of comic book movies. We see how difficult it has been for both Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and her daughter Shuri (Letitia Wright) as they struggle with not just the passing of their King/Son/Brother but also with the repercussions of having a kingdom as powerful and resource wealthy (vibranium) as Wakanda without a protector. Themes of grief are explored through the actions of almost all the main characters but especially so for leads Shuri, the Queen and of course the latest iconic comic book villain/anti-hero to make their big screen debut Namor (Tenoch Huerta).
Now I’m sure I’ll get push back on my next statement (I’ve already had shots fired over on my TikTok account for my quick review) but while there are those who thought this movie was too slow or had too many quiet moments, it’s those moments I enjoyed the most here. Scenes where powerhouse actors like Bassett get to shine as the de facto leader of her people, while also dealing with her own grief. Scenes where Okoye (Danai Gurira) had to face the wrath of Queen Ramonda for her failings, or Shuri spending time with Namor, which by the way had some unexpected levels of chemistry between the duo as he showed her a whole new world (anyone else found themselves humming the Aladdin theme song or was it just me?) or that final scene on the beach where Shuri and fans by extension were given the opportunity to officially say goodbye to Chadwick Boseman. These moments were the strength of Wakanda Forever and proved that if Marvel Studios would just keep their fingers out of the pie more, directors like Ryan Coogler could do amazing things beyond the “road map” the studio sets out.
Of course, we’re still talking about a comic book film, so some things are necessary such as introducing new characters, bombastic action sequences and fight scenes as well as jaw dropping locales. Well this is where things go shaky, or at least they did for me. So here’s my quick list of pros and cons.
Dominique Thorne as Riri was an unexpected delight and brought much needed brevity to the story. Tenoch Huerta as Namor elevated what could’ve easily been a one note egotistical antagonist and made him charismatic. I was initially worried about all the changes to Namor’s origin but after experiencing it, my only complaint is we didn’t get to spend MORE time in Talokan! Namor’s attack on Wakanda was by and far the best action sequence (note to self: never get into a water balloon fight with a Talokan) and the first half of the movie delivered the better choreographed fight scenes.
Now for the not so good stuff. While I wish we saw more of Talokan, Wakanda failed to impress this time around. Maybe it was just me but what once looked and felt like a lived-in city, came across more like set pieces. It just didn’t have the same energy to it. No disrespect to Letitia Wright as she had a heavy burden to carry and for the most part she carried it like a champ, but I would be lying if I said I liked her as The Black Panther. The costume design was cool, but the execution was terrible. It was too skinny and the special effects for the final showdown between her and Namor was terrible. Just like the final showdown between Killmonger and T’Challa in the first film this one was plagued with CGI that looked unfinished. I had similar issues with the final fight between the Wakandans and the Talokans as well, with the editing making it hard to tell who was doing what and sadly at no time was there a “oooh/aaahh” moment that made it all feel worthwhile.
As for the story, balancing themes of grief with political topics of destabilisation of nations by countries who wish to steal their resources for themselves, or smaller nations fighting each other instead of coming together to build themselves up, was a tad too much and led to the movie feeling overstuffed in some places.
Still, considering the amounts of rewriting that must’ve gone into this (there are scenes you could tell were meant for Boseman and not Wright) and the added pressures of shooting during a pandemic, Ryan Coogler still manages to deliver a solid movie and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Black Panther: Wakanda Forever take top place on a lot of lists ranking this fourth Phase of the MCU.
Score: 7.5 out of 10
For more of my thoughts you can check out my video review below:
So that’s my reviews. How would you rate Wakanda Forever? And you can check out more Black Panther-related content below: