The appeal of a comic-book movie is or used to be the fact that it presented these very grounded, human stories with the use of fantastical elements and epic science-fiction to explore those emotions on a much larger scale. Somewhere along the way, it seems that Hollywood has forgotten how to reinject humanity into these stories and just run with whatever plotline sets up an even bigger plotline. While some have kept the heart and soul in there, there has yet to big as big a moment of tribute in the comic-book world as ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ which is a passionate display of grief, love and healing to the late Chadwick Boseman. Ryan Coogler, along with his cast and crew have crafted a movie that is deeply heartfelt and provided the most cathartic and emotional theatre experience I’ve had in a while.
major spoilers for ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ are featured in this review.
From its tragically beautiful opening sequence to its therapeutic and healing ending, ‘Wakanda Forever’ kept me consistently emotional and in awe not just because of what is happening on-screen but more so because of how it’s presented. The cinematic presentation here far exceeds any Phase 4 project Marvel has dropped. From shot composition and framing to colour and visual effects, ‘Wakanda Forever’ takes what the first ‘Black Panther’ created and expands on it in a much more sophisticated manner. The opening scene with T’Challa’s funeral was captured in quite a chilling and emotional manner. From the slow-moving shots maximizing the emotion and outpouring of love and grief to the fantastic score by Ludwig Goranson which demands your attention. Another great example of this is the introduction of the Dora Milaje coming out from the dark shadows with a chilling track from the score starting a hard-hitting action sequence. The way the ocean and water are presented here especially feels powerful with how it’s symbolized and how it’s used in action sequences thanks to Namor, the complex antagonist. All of this being said, as good as the movie looks and sounds, none of it would work without the incredible emotion displayed by the actors and the stirring script that enables them to deliver such heavy scenes. Marvel has never seen such maturity and emotional resonance in its writing. It’s the reason why ‘Wakanda Forever‘ sticks, unlike most of their recent output of work. It is genuine and heartfelt in its portrayal of grief and love and it’s because of that, that it resonates with the audience that well. Its emotional impact is far greater than that of any other comic-book movie in the past few years and that’s why it sticks with you and does not disappear completely from your train of thought after a week or two like the others.
As a tribute to Chadwick Boseman and T’Challa, it is evident just how much love and care was put into ‘Wakanda Forever‘ to ensure that it continues his legacy. Its tender and respectful admiration for all that he has done is expressed very well not only in the chilling logos which play past scenes of him with deafening silence forcing the audience to sit with that emotion and simply feel it but also in how the story moves forward. Having the funeral start the movie establishing this immense loss and then introducing new perspectives on that grief through the people he knew gave the story the depth it needed to fully portray this movie as a tribute. His spirit was always there guiding the characters and the actors playing them, it was never just about the grief, it was about his legacy and how much good he did and how his family and country can measure up to it. Enter Shuri who has to carry the guilt of not being able to save her brother while also processing the range of emotions that came out of that tragedy. From the endless sorrow and devastation to the need to protect Wakanda out of rage. Having Shuri go through losing not only her brother but later in the movie, her mother as well, was an incredibly bold move on Coogler’s part but it only brought the movie’s themes to the forefront making for an even more emotional story. I love the fact that Shuri sees Kilmonger when she drinks The Heart-Shaped Herb, she is becoming the Black Panther out of rage to avenge her family and her country and it takes a lot for her not to eventually kill Namor in the end. By keeping him alive, she also kept the spirit of her mother and brother alive. It’s not groundbreaking writing and it’s been done before but when it’s done well, the impact is still there and ‘Wakanda Forever’ really does do this type of story well.
It is also worth noting just how spiritually beautiful ‘Wakanda Forever’ is. The symbolism of fire and water to emulate the healing process and rebirth is expressed in a very beautiful manner. Ryan Coogler depicts the ocean in a grand and majestic manner making it a character of its own. He attaches both positive and negative traits to these natural forces but he never portrays them as just one thing. The ocean is first described as a reflective and healing tool for grief by Queen Ramonda when she and Shuri have that conversation on the beach on the anniversary of T’Challa’s death. Namor and his people were given a chance to live and create a new life because of the ocean yet it is the thing that eventually takes Queen Ramonda’s life away. Namor uses it to inflict destruction upon Wakanda, it is used as a healing property and to destroy. The same goes for fire which in the first movie ended the line of the Black Panther by destroying The Heart-Shaped Herb and here it is used to purify and give closure. Having the ending be so intimate and vulnerable was just the perfect note to end it on. Seeing Shuri get ready to finally allow herself to grieve and remember her brother’s legacy and power and have that be what she thinks of when he comes to mind was so powerful to see. It’s honestly one of the most mature scenes I’ve seen in a Marvel project, it’s nothing big, just the sound of the ocean, the fire crackling, Shuri getting emotional and then just pure silence as she remembers him for who he was instead of what happened to him. To top it all off, Rihanna’s ‘Lift Me Up‘ starts playing as it transitions into the gorgeous credits. Speaking of, I am obsessed with the track, it perfectly encapsulates what the movie is about, it’s sentimental and emotional and it deserves more credit.
Other than the story and the technical achievements, the acting was great! Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira gave some of the best performances this franchise has seen. I hope Bassett really does get recognized, even with a nomination during Awards Season. Everyone put their all into this movie, it was nice seeing one of these movies actually have a script that isn’t tainted with jokes every five minutes. That being said when they did inject some levity in there, it was funny for the most part. I loved Okoye’s interactions with newcomer Riri Williams, She is a great new addition however she doesn’t really match the tone of the movie at times. Her humour isn’t really all that great and she gets a bit annoying at times but she’s cute! That being said, this movie like every other Marvel movie, is flawed and my only real issues with the movie have to do with certain characters. How do you get Michaela Coel in an MCU movie and barely utilize her character? That to me is embarrassing. Secondly, why are Martin Freeman and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss in this movie and why do take up that much screen time when their plotline is barely relevant? Tenoch Huerta’s Namor is utterly fantastic, I loved his performance and I love Namor’s presence throughout the movie. His backstory was great but I just couldn’t see why they had to make him a world-ruling type of villain when he was already so well-written. It felt forced and unnecessary and I hope they move in a better direction next time they decide to use him.
Overall, ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ is easily one of my new favourite MCU movies. I loved the raw emotion, the cinematic presentation and how it looked like an actual proper movie. The acting was great, the action sequences were highly entertaining and while the runtime was slightly overlong, I can say that for the most part, it was justified. Coogler, along with his cast and crew gave me one of the most intimate and therapeutic cinematic experiences that I can remember and because of that, I’ll always have a special place in my heart for this movie. May the rest of the MCU movies take notes.
‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ is showing in theatres.
Rest in Peace, Chadwick Boseman.
Your legacy changed the world as we know it.
Thank you for all that you have done.