Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Movie Review
Bring the tissues. Wakanda Forever is an emotional triumph, that deals with grief in a very real way and tells a story of a sister trying to mourn her brother. It also accomplishes a rare feat, telling two stories relatively well without one overshadowing the other. The other half of the story is Namor, and he steals the show. And extra points to whatever executive decided to let him keep his feather ankles.
The plot of Wakanda Forever was obviously up in the air after the death of Chadwick Boseman, but Ryan Coogler really found an interesting way to make a sequel that worked. The world knows Wakanda exists, and is out to steal it's vibranium after the death of its King. Namor, the ruler of Talocan, meets up with Wakanda to offer them an alliance against the less civilized and more hostile world. Which is an awesome take on colonialism and an excellent use of Latin American culture. The first Black Panther movie had plot holes and a messy plot overall, but this movie tells a compelling story that has just a hint of the Marvel commercialism/advertisements for other movies that seem to inflate their Phase 4 movies. The plot of this movie works, focusing on a depressed Shuri who just wants to see the world burn. Her descent into rage is interesting to watch, and juxtaposing Wakanda with Talocan worked very well. Talocan did a much better job of hiding (because water) from the outside world, so they are fighting to keep their society hidden and safe. Namor's name origin is mad lame, but other than that his motives make sense, he is a complicated character, and his decision to align with Wakanda makes sense. Usually people hate water levels in games, but this water level of the MCU was a good change of pace. In the classic MCU fashion they couldn't let Namor be morally grey, and made him a sure villain at the end, but he is one of the better MCU villains, and easily the best of this phase (except whoever wrote Eternals). The story itself is about forty minutes too long, which is absurd, this movie could have been a two hour triumph but instead drowns its story and pace and forces us to get to 2 hours and 40 minutes. As cool as Riri Williams was, ultimately she didn't need ot be in the movie, sorry Worcester.
There are way too many cooks in the kitchen. Some characters who were the highlight of the previous movie (Glory to Hanuman) received very little screen time and when they did have screen time, were barely used. Way too much of the movie was focused on Riri Williams, who becomes a non important side character after about an hour in. Martin Freeman is also woefully unused, with Julia Louis-Dreyfus making cheap attempts humor which really just seemed like a Thunderbolts commercial. Remove every single Martin Freeman scene and you have the exact same movie with the exact same outcomes. Where Black Panther 1 should have expanded beyond Wakanda, I believe Wakanda Forever would have benefitted from sticking to it's boundaries, and exploring Talocan more. The inclusion of Riri made sense at first, but what a HUGE missed opportunity to have her build a way out of that underwater cave, just like Tony did. Instead it just felt like a commercial for the character, and I wasn't exactly sold. Her Mark 1 looks horrible (barely able to see it's an Iron Man suit, but don't worry, Random Cop #3 will tell you it's one), and her Mark 2 is a CGI nightmare and garish to look at. It also feels cheap to have Riri depend on Wakanda to make a "real" Iron Man suit. Shuri is also a boring protagonist, but a believable depression around her due to T'Challa's death. Her performance is acceptable, but not the incredible one Chadwick Boseman would have brought to the role. The true scene stealer is Namor; perfectly played by Tenoch Huerta. The Latin American twists works, and it's not forced like other movies try to do. Namor is terrifying, fun, and hopeful all at the same time, and that's all due to Tenoch Huerta's efforts to bring the character to life. Marvel finally gave a villain enough screentime, it must be the Apocalypse
While both of these movies might not be perfect, the cultural impact and importance can't be ignored. Wakanda Forever shines a light on African culture yet again, but it also gives Latin American culture a much deserved spot on the big screen. It's done well, tastefully, and not a terrible CGI Rhino to be found. Ryan Coogler has the vision to create cultural spectacles, and even if the movie ends up not being great, it always end up being important. I respect Coogler's vision, even if I don't always agree with his plot/script choices. Hopefully next time around we can get a more focused story, with less commercial like distractions, but that seems impossible for Marvel now.
Wakanda Forever is a touching tribute to Boseman and the Black Panther, and provides a complex villain and an interesting albeit bloated plot that gets easily bogged down by the middling side stories of less important characters. With a better lead and 40 minute less run time this movie could have been fantastic.