In 2018, Marvel’s Black Panther movie created quite the stir. It became the third-highest grossing Marvel movie to date, the first to have a black director at the helm, nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture (the first superhero movie to do so) and won three Oscars. Those wanting more diversity and people of color featured in Hollywood films also praised the film. Immediately, Marvel Studios began the steps toward a sequel, but it was not meant to be. At least, not as originally planned. Unbeknown to anyone involved in the making of the films, the movie’s headlining actor, Chadwick Boseman, was fighting a real-life battle against colon cancer and died in 2020. With a script written, producer Kevin Feige weighed the options before the studio: recast the Black Panther character with another actor or go with an entirely (or at least mostly) new script. They decided on the latter.
This weekend, the 30th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is welcomed into theaters and it will no doubt have a similar reception to the first film. Instead of featuring images of the many different Marvel superheroes on top of the Marvel Studios logo, this one only features images of Boseman. And unlike other films that try to create a complicated backstory as to how a popular character is not a part of a new story, Wakanda Forever begins in a lab. It is revealed that T-Challa is on his deathbed due to an unknown illness and his sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright) is doing everything in her power to create a cure for her brother. Sadly, she fails.
With her husband and now son gone, Ramonda (Angela Bassett), “The Queen Mother of Wakanda” is now on the throne leading her people. Her daughter cannot rest, continually building and creating through technology instead of grieving her brother’s death. Her goal aiming to find a way of protecting Wakanda much like her brother did.
Meanwhile, under the surface of Wakanda, there is a stirring with another civilization known as Talokan (similar to Atlantis) who are led by King Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejia). While the blue citizens there breathe oxygen through the water, Namor has brown skin and is half-human. His people have been feeling threatened by a group of human explorers looking for vibranium in the ocean. Namor blames the Wakandans for threat and demand that they help stop the intrusion or they themselves will be attacked by his armies.
Against her mother’s orders to not get involved, Shuri and General Okoye (Danai Gurira) set out to meet up with CIA agent Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) to find out who is helping the vibranium hunters.
With all of the main cast reprising their roles, Wakanda Forever continues its tale in grand form. It’s epic and beautiful, heart-warming and heart-breaking. It is less triumphant compared to other Marvel movies. It is a story about family, loss and moving on. It is a female-driven story with larger roles given to Wright, Bassett and Gurira (Bassett is especially good with her scene-chewing performances) while introducing a new character: human inventor Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne). Julie Louis-Dreyfus, who has been popping up in a few other Marvel films and Disney+ series as Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, has a little more screen time than usual. Those who are well-versed with Marvel Comics history already known who she is and what she is all about, but for those people like me, we’re given a little more information into who this purple-striped hair personality is and what she is up to. But not much. All to be revealed completely sometime in the future…
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is one of the rare films in the Marvel universe that is a stand-alone sequel and it’s a welcomed change. Is it as the first movie? The film is beautiful in its images and messages. A little less jokey, but not overly serious either. Although I can’t confirm, it feels like the perfect middle chapter of a three-chapter book. Overly long? Yes. Worth seeing on the big screen? Most definitely. Oscar worthy? Absolutely. It just might save the theaters too.
Main Image: Shuri (Letitia Wright) (Marvel Studios)
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