Review by Sean Boelman
Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther is one of the most acclaimed films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — currently the only one in the series nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture — so the sequel was going to have big shoes to fill regardless, but circumstances threw a further hitch in the plans. While Black Panther: Wakanda Forever does suffer from feeling like a response to uncontrollable events, there are some truly excellent elements to be found here.
The movie is set after the death of King T’Challa, in which Wakanda faces a period of mourning and several world powers begin to challenge Wakanda as their seemingly invincible guise is let down. It tries to do a lot for one film because it essentially has to completely change the direction of the series, and it doesn’t pull it all off.
Of course, there is the enormous elephant in the room that the Marvel Cinematic Universe lost its original Black Panther when Chadwick Boseman passed away too young, but the movie can’t be judged too harshly for that. Even though the result is understandably awkward, it does the best it can do handling that absence while still being a loving tribute to the actor who originated the role.
That said, one can only give the film so much slack — and only in certain aspects. One thing about the movie that absolutely cannot be forgiven is its length and its resultant poor pacing. The film really drags through its two hours and forty minutes, and while it may have been necessary to be this long to incorporate all of these story threads, some of them arguably should have been cut.
Still, Namor is a pretty solid antagonist, largely thanks to a strong performance from Tenoch Huerta. The character’s backstory is a bit underdeveloped, and almost all delivered through a single exposition-filled flashback that occurs midway through the movie. However, there are definitely some really cool anti-colonialist themes in the character’s storyline.
Angela Bassett is also a highlight in the supporting cast, giving a performance that is Oscar-worthy. Letitia Wright may have gotten top billing, but this is Bassett’s movie through and through. The raw emotional power she brings to the role, both in the portions of the film dealing with T’Challa’s death and those dealing with the international conflict between Wakanda and Talokan should have been impossible.
From a technical level, the movie is certainly very colorful, but the cinematography doesn’t pop like the first film’s did. There’s also a lot of subpar CGI and mediocre green screen work, but that has become par for the course for the MCU. On the other hand, the score and soundtrack largely maintain the quality of the original — apart from Rihanna’s original song, “Lift Me Up,” which is underwhelming.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever isn’t bad, but ultimately, there’s just so much it has to do that it forgets to be entertaining along the way. There are some extraordinary elements littered throughout, but it’s such a scrambled-together mess that it isn’t as effective as it could have been.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever hits theaters on November 11.