After the unexpected death of T’Challa from an unknown disease, the nation of Wakada finds itself in mourning. Queen Ramonda has lost her son and Princess Shuri has not only lost her brother, but role model and hero. But there is little time to mourn as Wakanda finds itself in a time of major transition.
They have promised to share their technology with the rest of the world, and the world intends to hold them to their promise, voluntarily or involuntarily. Without the Black Panther to protect them, the world perceives Wakanda as being vulnerable.
But the US is not waiting for Wakanda to share the precious vibranium metal. They begin their own search for the alien resource. That search leads them to an unexpected place – yet another secret advanced civilization hiding under the world’s oceans.
This underwater race is led by its king Namor and unlike Wakanda, he wants nothing to do with the rest of the world. Namor intends to protect his people by any means necessary and he perceives the arrival of the United States as a clear and present danger that he must strike at first.
Namor sees Wakanda as his potential top ally… or his potential top foe. He approaches them with an offer. If they’ll help him find the scientist that led the US to their own underwater vibranium source, he will consider them an ally.
If not, he intends to attack Wakanda first. Shuri and Queen Ramonda find themselves in an unwinnable position and without their beloved protector Black Panther. But with the help of some old and new friends, they may have hope.
For me, the best thing about Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is the addition of Namor to the MCU. I had been wondering how the classic Marvel character would be brought to the big screen, especially in light of the success of Aquaman. The two characters have a lot in common, so I was wondering how Marvel would set Namor apart. It was done so by moving the characters away from the legend of Atlantis and rooting their origins in Mayan culture.
Tying it to Mayan history, civilization, and art with a distinctly undersea twist gives us a taste of something we’ve never seen before. I was also impressed to see them tie the meteor impact on the Yucatan peninsula with the arrival of the vibranium meteor. It’s a cool way to blend real world history with that of Namor’s people. Overall, the production design, like in the first film, is phenomenal and worthy of Oscar consideration. It’s a new corner of the MCU that has been peeled back and revealed to audiences and it’s impressive.
Bringing Namor to life is Tenoch Huerta. He perfectly captures the character’s intensity, rage, and violent tendencies. But he also convincingly portrays Namor’s love for his people and his capacity for good. Huerta steals every scene he’s in.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever does not shy away from even the more silly aspects of Namor’s character. He rocks the green swim trunks and the little wings on his feet are not only present, they are spotlighted on more than one occasion. But the character is so compelling you go with it. Namor is also celebrated in the comics as the world’s first mutant. That is emphasized here and paves the way for the X-Men, it seems.
A big question of mine going into Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was how they’d handle the death of Chadwick Boseman and the character of T’Challa. They waste no time addressing the elephant in the room and immediately have him die offscreen due to an undisclosed illness.
What follows is a sad funeral for the Black Panther that feels like it is catharsis for the cast and crew. Once that finishes the prologue, the story accelerates to its central conflict. I still would have preferred they recast the role as I did not feel T’Challa’s story was done, but this is a satisfactory alternative. This chapter of the story is Shuri’s.
The returning cast all resume their characters and hardly miss a beat. Standouts continue to be Angela Bassett as Ramonda and Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia. Both bring a lot of life and passion to their roles and continue to draw audiences in anytime they’re on the screen.
Winston Duke as M’Baku and Martin Freeman as Everett K. Ross have smaller roles but are fun in the little screen time they have. There are also a couple of surprise cameos that I was not expecting to see. They foreshadow some of what we can expect to see in the upcoming phases of the MCU.
There are a few good action scenes in the film, but the highlight is a battle between Danai Gurira as Okoye and Alex Livinalli as Attuma. It’s a knock down, drag out fight that’s one of the more brutal in the Marvel series. And when we finally see Namor unleash his full fury, you see why he’s considered one of the biggest hitters in the Marvel Comics world.
I was also impressed with the first appearance of the Atlanteans. They’re haunting, scary, and immediately intimidating. And when they take on a ship full of sailors and CIA agents, you immediately realize what a threat they pose to the rest of the world.
As you’re well aware, there is a mid-credits scene in the movie. I will not spoil it here, but it’s worth staying for as it points the Black Panther series in a surprising new direction.
As impressive as Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is, I did have issues with it. First up, it’s a bit too serious. It opens on a downer and rarely provides any laughs. Letitia Wright was a big part of the comic relief in the first film and that is almost completely dropped here as she deals with mourning over her brother and fury with Namor. Dominique Thorne as Riri Williams is brought in as some comic relief, but it’s not quite enough.
The sister relationship between Shuri and Siri is fun but not fully explored here. And while the addition of Ironheart is welcome, her origin is glossed over. She’s kind of dumped into the story with little background and the audience doesn’t have much time to warm up to her or understand why she’s capable of being the next Iron Man. It feels like the character is shortchanged here, but maybe they’ll make up for it in the upcoming TV series.
One of the recent critiques of the MCU is that it has been too heavy with female characters. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever does nothing to dissuade that criticism. Watching it, you’d think there were only two males in Wakanda – M’Baku and the dude with the giant lip. It was to the point that it didn’t feel like a real world. Even my wife who attended the screening noted that it felt a bit female heavy.
Other random nitpicks include the fact that the Atlantans are blue on the surface and skin colored under the water and it is never explained why. It felt like an error. And the music by Ludwig Göransson is generally strong, but on occasion switches to ’80s synthesizer music that feels out of place.
Also annoying is an over-reliance on slow motion during the action scenes. Here and there slow motion is okay, but it was used in almost every action scene. Finally, the film is about 30 minutes longer than necessary. It could have been trimmed down and lost very little.
Overall I felt that Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was on par with the first film. It reveals an interesting new corner of the MCU and is obviously created with a lot of love and care. Be sure to check it out on the big screen.
BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER REVIEW SCORE: 7 OUT OF 10
Marvel Studios‘ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever opens in theaters on November 11, 2022. The film is rated PG-13 for sequences of strong violence, action and some language.