I’ve been more or less in awe of the Marvel Cinematic Universe since it started. They’ve done some amazing stories and world-building, and taken a lot of characters that were more or less only known to the relatively small segment of the population that reads comic books and made them cultural icons. One of the characters they did the most amazing job with was the Black Panther. Chadwick Boseman was perfect casting, embodying the character’s fighting skill, brilliance, and regal bearing. Like many, I was stunned when Boseman died so unexpectedly, and I did not envy Marvel at all with the difficult job they had ahead of them. Recast a legend? Lose a powerful, influential character that so many look up to? There was, and still isn’t, a right answer there. But they did something fairly spectacular with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
They don’t play with the issue, draw it out, or do something cheap like stand-ins or deep fakes. T’Challa, the Black Panther, dies just about as soon as the movie starts. There is shock, grief, and loss, and they depict it all well. But the world moves on, as it always does, no matter how painful a loss anyone suffers.
At the end of Black Panther, T’Challa made the decision to reveal Wakanda to the world, ending centuries of isolation and hiding. This created quite a stir, as did the revelation of the existence of Vibranium. The movie is also dealing with some of the lingering damage done when Killmonger assumed the throne of Wakanda.
The nation needs to find a way to keep going without their beloved leader, and their fabled protector. Everyone reacts in different ways, some throwing themselves into work, others running away. A new threat to Wakanda, and possibly the world, emerges, in part due to some of T’Challa’s decisions. In a way, it’s like a callback to T’Challa having to deal with the fallout from decisions others made in the first Black Panther movie.
Wakanda as a whole starts off the movie very arrogant, smug in their position as a mighty nation. They quickly learn there’s more to the world than they imagined, as Wakanda comes under a new threat. As is often the case with a lot of MCU villains, you can see the “bad guy’s” point, whether or not you agree with them. There are a lot of twists and turns before we get to the end, and there are surprises right up until the credit scene (I’m always amazed at people that leave a Marvel movie before the near-mandatory mid- and/or end- credit scene).
The movie introduces several new characters. The Sub-Mariner makes his long delayed appearance in the MCU, and Tenoch Huerta does a fantastic job playing him. Ahead of her upcoming Disney+ series, Ironheart/Riri Williams also makes her debut, and is played very well by Dominique Thorne. We also get to see more of characters we’re familiar with. Okoye is still a bad-ass, Shuri is brilliant, and Ramonda now leads the nation regally and with poise. Everett Ross returns, and a very surprising character is linked to him in a way I certainly never saw coming. M’Baku is still cocky, and pays for it.
What I Liked: Just about everything. I was really worried about how to handle a franchise when the star isn’t around anymore. They did it very, very well. There were some gorgeous sets, great additions to the MCU’s Earth, and everyone involved gave a great performance. The end scene was a big surprise and a great tribute. The opening tribute to Chadwick Boseman was touching and very well done. There are a few nods to the larger MCU, and they set up the next movie decently as well.
What I Didn’t: There are a few internal logic problems with the movie, but none of them are really major. A character recovers from what should be a fatal wound with no apparent effort or reason for it.
I grant I’m biased, as a superhero fan in general and of the MCU in particular. That said, I’ll give this a 4.5 out of 5.
The MCU will continue, with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania in February of 2023 (as of this writing, at least). The next Disney+ series isn’t clear at this time, but seems likely to be Echo, coming some time in 2023.