The Reel Review

C+

The people of Wakanda face a new threat following the death of their beloved King T’Challa, in this sequel to Marvel’s 2018 fantasy blockbuster Black Panther. A tech creation by a teenage prodigy leads a previously unknown tribe of ancient Mayan ocean dwellers to plan war on Earth’s surface dwellers – and in particular, Wakanda.

Letitia Wright in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Grief over the death of King T’Challa, mirroring the real-life 2020 death of Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman, is the recurring theme of this melancholic fantasy film from co-writer/director Ryan Coogler. Letitia Wright and Angela Bassett, as T’Challa’s little sister and queen mother, lead the cast, with the latter “capital A” acting in most of her scenes, distracting from Wright’s more nuanced performance. Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira are also back, joined by Michaela Coel (I May Destroy You) as new warrior Aneka and Dominique Thorne as the prodigy whose creation has sparked all this drama (and will be sparking her own upcoming Marvel series Ironheart).

Alex Livinalli and Mabel Cadena as ancient Mayan ocean dwellers in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

There is just SO MUCH chaos in Wakanda Forever. From mourning the death of Boseman/T’Challa, plugging other upcoming Marvel projects, creating a new mythical underwater fantasy world, and finding a new Black Panther, Coogler’s story is one bloated, tonally-scattered mess. His spectacular world building that was so fresh in the first film now feels stale and hokey – its nods to ancient cultures and their oppression by imperial conquerors just one of many subplots which fails to launch.

Danai Gurira and Angela Bassett in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Some visuals in Wakanda Forever are truly impressive – but just as many are artificially silly, with predictably trite, box-ticking battle scenes that could have been in any other Marvel movie. With too many shoehorned cameos and too many pointless subplots, the good looking but exhausting, two hour and 41-minute-long film would have been better served as two separate projects – or some serious editing.

REEL FACTS

• Had he not died of colon cancer in 2020 at the age of 43, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever would have been Chadwick Boseman’s fifth and final Marvel-contracted appearance as Black Panther. Diagnosed in 2016, Boseman kept his illness secret from most in the industry, while working on such films as Marshall, 21 Bridges, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, Da 5 Bloods and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which earned him a posthumous Oscar nomination.

Tenoch Huerta in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

• Tenoch Huerta, who plays Namor, the ruler of the underwater Mayan kingdom, had to learn how to swim and learn a Mayan language prior to filming.

• Letitia Wright says she is still receiving physical therapy for the fractured shoulder, concussion and other injuries sustained during a traumatic motorcycle accident during the Boston shoot in August 2021, which forced a five month pause in production.

 

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