The MCU’s newest entry, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, is Ryan Coogler’s follow-up to his 2018 entry, Black Panther, which launched its star, Chadwick Boseman, to the status of beloved icon. Taken from us far too soon, Wakanda Forever is about the characters processing the loss of their king, T’Challa as much as it is about Boseman’s fellow castmates, and the world dealing with his death.
It also brings a new and welcome spin on a Marvel character that has always annoyed me, Namor. I’ve never understood the winged feet thing. This version of Namor was brought to life by Tenoch Huerta, and instead of bringing all the Atlantean backstory of the Marvel comics to the screen, Coogler spins Namor’s personal history to tie him directly into the Meso-American culture and makes him and his people mutants, with his mutation allowing him to breathe above and below the surface, and fly with the wings on his heels.
Coogler’s film works best when dealing with the character beats and the emotional arcs. With so many entries in the MCU now it can be easy to get overwhelmed by the big action sequences which are visually enhanced with computer-generated images, and with everyone in super suits and armour, it’s easy to disconnect from them, and not become emotionally involved.
But the character work is exemplary as we follow T’Challa’s sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright) through her stages of grief, from the silent Marvel titles opening to its final moments, Boseman’s loss hangs over this film, and Coogler, his story, and his cast and crew leaned into and embraced it. Making for powerful storytelling.
As the kingdom of Wakanda mourns the loss of T’Challa, other nations are testing them in attempts to recover vibranium, a super rare and powerful metal, that was thought to only exist in Wakanda. Now it’s been discovered in the Atlantic Ocean, but that has disturbed someone else’s kingdom.
Namor is furious with the entry into his waters and demands that the scientist who created the vibranium tracker be brought to him by Shuri and Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and killed without revealing his existence.
That would put Wakanda in an even more precarious position on the world stage, but Shuri and Okoye (Danai Gurira) set off in search of the scientist to protect her from Namor’s forces. Who we discover is Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne).
When things go awry, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) is summoned to help, and all of Wakanda must come together to confront Namor, and Shuri must take up the mantle left by her brother.
The emotional arcs of the characters as they deal with their grief are right on point, and the best parts of the film. The film honours what came before it and sets the stage for what is to follow, and from what we are given in the film, there is a lot to follow.
I love the expansion the MCU is always doing, as well as the beautiful diversity, and I love seeing Nakia and Okoye on the screen, they are strong, powerful women, surrounded by strong, powerful women, and I love that message.
I also love the message about grief, loss and grieving.
There will be tears when Black Panther: Wakanda Forever opens on Friday.