Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is the topic of much discourse among fans. Discussions about representation, gender bias, and the unsavory use of Chadwick Boseman’s death as a plot device. Some of these claims have merit, while others are driven by baseless conspiracy theories such as the emasculation of black men. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever pulls no punches in addressing the death of King T’Challa, thus confirming speculation of Boseman’s death being a part of the narrative. Many have criticized this action, declaring it obtuse or lazy writing. In comparison to the first film, it continues the tradition of provoking thought and social commentary.
Written and directed by Ryan Coogler, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever tells the story of a nation defending its resources and borders from imperialism. The threats are coming from foreign lands and those unknown beneath the ocean. Marvel comics OG, Namor, enters the fray. Unlike his comic book counterpart, Namor is of Mayan descent, making the fight between Wakandans and Talokans, a race war. Both stand to lose their way of life as other world powers seek to acquire Vibranium. Namor the Sub-Mariner, aka the first mutant by date of publication, is an antivillain. He is the ruler of Atlantis and the only one who is not blue. This reimagining distinguishes Marvel from DC’s version of the underwater kingdom.
The city of Talokan is realistic with a thriving civilization. Due to the location (depth of the sea), details of Talokan remain blurry in the distance. No technologically advanced machinery or large buildings like the ones in Wakanda. So much of Talokan is shrouded in mystery compared to the Quantum Realm in Antman or the TVA (Time Variance Authority) location of Loki. Yet, the residents of this fictional nation are peaceful and loyal to their God King, Namor. This guy hates the surface world for somewhat shallow reasons. His motivations don’t follow the logic setup during the exposition. If a person wants to remain hidden, why pop up, and declare war? Does he know about The Avengers?
Those are not problems Namor wants at his door. Speaking of problems, Wakanda is going through it. Since the death of T’Challa, Shuri (Letitia Wright) spends her days in the lab creating weapons to defend her home. While Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) serves as interim ruler. Bassett steals the show with magnificent monologs worthy of an award nomination. The relationship between them is deserving of more screen time. A number of conflicts pop off, which takes focus away from the duo. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever does a lot of setup for future properties and the story suffers as a consequence. Shuri is the connective tissue for all plot threads, from Namor to young super genius, RiRi Williams (Dominique Thorne). RiRi serves as the comic relief with no real place in the narrative.
This is no doubt a plug for the upcoming Disney Plus series, Ironheart. RiRi is the voice of the audience, reacting the way any normal person would. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever explores the dynamic of Dora Milaje. Viewers learn a bit about their history, purpose, and flaws. Tradition is a reoccurring theme, one every character faces and overcomes in their own way. Shuri faces life-altering challenges while M’Baku embraces the people of Wakanda. The returning cast experience growth in some form or another. Certain choices remain questionable, such as the conclusion of the film. From a military perspective, it did not make sense. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever lays out rules then breaks them, leaving viewers to wonder, “Why did they do that?”
Despite issues with pacing and structure, the movie is entertaining. Unlike other entries from Phase 4, the stakes are high. Many lives are lost and the threats mounting against Wakanda create a sense of trepidation. The people of Wakanda are a character unto themselves, a people who persevere and refuse to surrender. Accusations of black trauma being glamorized in this film are exaggerated. As it’s the only major comic book franchise with a black cast. Without conflict, there could be no story. A small sect of viewers are projecting personal experiences and social-political views onto fictional characters created by two white men, which is ridiculous.
Fans of the MCU can’t deny Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is the best thing to come out of Phase 4. There’s plenty of spectacle, action set pieces, and striking visuals. The level of espionage is on par with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Events in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever cement the future of the franchise as well as the country of Wakanda. Don’t listen to think pieces online (except this one), go see the film in theaters or wait for it to become available on digital. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever tells a familiar tale of loss and vengeance, but brings in enough original content to warrant a 7.5 out of 10. For more spoiler-free reviews, sign up for The Story Monster newsletter to receive weekly updates.