Wakanda Wanes, Yet Wins

Marvel Studios, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Marvel Studios, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever in Theatres Now

Chase P. Gonzalez, Staff Writer

Loss, something we have all dealt with . . . as a collective or as one. When considering what we have gone through (we are referring to all of us humans in general), these past years especially, loss has followed us closely. So close that it has nearly become normal. This wave of loss has affected our sense of what could and must be. Couple this with a great director in Ryan Coogler, a culturally colorful composer in Ludwig Goransson, and a motivated cast across the board, and you get Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022).

It has been four years since the very first Black Panther film of 2018 was produced by Marvel Studios and the famed head of this successful Disney branch, Kevin Feige. The first of this duology (as of now) made around 1.344 billion dollars at the worldwide box office and about 700 million dollars domestically. This colossal amount not only puts Black Panther (2018) in the top 15 highest-grossing films of all time but also puts forth greater expectations for its long-awaited sequel. So how does Black Panther: Wakanda Forever stack up to its predecessor? Well, it did its job masterfully!

PREFACE: Before I go into specifics, the underlying fact of the matter is that this movie centers around loss, dealing with that loss, and moving from it. This loss comes at the expense of the real-life loss of Chadwick Boseman, the true “one and only” Black Panther of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), and cinema in general. In 2020, Boseman sadly and tragically lost his life to a three-and-a-half-year fight with colon cancer. With this death came a wave of grief and mourning for the Da 5 Bloods actor, including the question of who is the Black Panther. This question was answered some months later by the head of the studio. Kevin Feige explained the choice not to recast: “The discussions essentially came down to continuing the legacy of Wakanda and continuing with that storyline in a very meaningful, respectful, and yet still hopeful and fun and exciting way, which was difficult after losing Chad” (Campbell). Thus, came the quick rewriting of the script, without Boseman’s “divine touch” of sorts.

After watching this historical film, the first thing I could think was that this film truly is a “What If..?” scenario. Much like the Marvel streaming show of the same name, no longer having the one true Black Panther guiding us through the next story of Wakanda is sorely missed and calls for a new deviation from the original plans for this film. With such a task (along with the hardships of recent years), Cooglar succeeded. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, though it is definitely not as good as the first film, sets a precedent for Marvel going forward.

The movie is filled with steady action, a strong and emotional direction, Oscar-worthy performances, and most of all . . . love. Across the board, the film encompasses all stages of grief over losing a loved one and a friend while emotionally electrifying the screen. Every actor on screen gives it their all, and the film is better for it. Besides the stellar performances, this film deals with the real-world impact and implications of loss, an aspect of Marvel proper that has always brought success. Together, the film brings the viewer down to earth, passes all of the technological wonders presented to us visually, and makes for fine entertainment and good drama.

Although the turns taken can be seen (in relation to Boseman’s death), the writing is strong and surely powerful. The film’s script has to balance the supporting cast of the Black Panther films and introduce new characters and settings in the underwater city of Talocan (basically Marvel’s Atlantis, as it was in the original graphic novels). The character of Namor, the sub-mariner and ruler of the Talocan nation, played by the somewhat fresh Mexican actor Tenoch Huerta is truly phenomenal. Namor, as a character, is not only greatly developed but also demands a presence when on screen. When one watches the trailers and TV spots for the film, seeing a man wearing tight green shorts with pointy ears and winged feet flying through the sky, the natural reaction is one of camp. However, the film finds a way to (like the original film) ground these highly fictional characters down to their human roots.

Overall, the film presents the audience with a spectrum of sadness and a path to follow away from this melancholy. However, with the task this movie had, comes its length. If you choose to view this film around 9 P.M. or later, you are bound to close your eyes for a good bit, as this film is very heavy when it comes to its dialogue. At most times, the dialogue can be quite tiresome to listen to, especially when it occurs regarding sadness. By this, Cooglar makes you feel like you are in the gutter with these characters as well. On the one hand, this kind of writing is needed for the circumstance the movie chooses to deal with. But on the other, the dialogue can definitely be considered boring after a while, especially with this movie clocking in at around two hours and 41 minutes.

Another element the viewer notices throughout the movie is a new sense of cinematography compared to the first film. Whereas The Black Panther (2018) was filled with color and beautiful backdrops, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) brings a dark tone and sense to the camera. Although this is expected when considering what this movie is trying to be, it comes at the price of losing certain visuals to the dark night in which most of the film takes place. Especially when underwater, the nation of Talocan is presented with a shadowy pallet, a severe contrast to other depictions of undersea empires (like that of Aquaman (2018)) …which only adds to the “boring” nature the movie can give off. So, if you don’t like long movies and are more on the action side of the entertainment spectrum (though the action in the film is fine), you may enjoy the film less.

From this, I present my score: 7.6/10

— Gonzalez

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a momentous and historical film as it deals with the real-world impact of loss and moving forward, specifically being a movie set in a cinematic universe. While many may not have enjoyed recent Marvel projects, which, like this film, have centered around concepts of what you believe in and moving forward, this is a special one that moviegoers should watch out of love.