Published on November 11th, 2022 | by Craig Silliphant


Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever continues the story of Wakanda, now a nation without it’s king and protector. But did the movie succeed without Chadwick Boseman?

It’s hard to overstate the importance of Marvel’s first Black Panther movie, if not as a film itself, as piece of culture that allowed black people to finally see themselves represented in such a mainstream movie. Which made it doubly heart-breaking when actor Chadwick Boseman passed away at the young age of 43. It seems that Marvel and director Ryan Coogler had very little indication that he was even sick and they had been prepping the sequel to the blockbuster smash hit for a couple of years.

They could have replaced Boseman — it wouldn’t be the first time something like that had happened successfully in pop culture — but they decided not to. So the film opens with the funeral of King T’Challa, The Black Panther, and a world of characters in mourning.

This became a case of crisis breeding opportunity. Okay, maybe opportunity isn’t the right word — it sounds vulgar in this context. But the death of Boseman/T’Challa meant that they could walk the path of a deeper story, about people who have to defend everything they hold sacred, even when they’re at their weakest, filled with grief and doubt. Reality shines through here as Coogler and stars like Angela Bassett, Letitia Wright, Lupita Nuongo, and Danai Gurira were in the same boat as the characters in the film, left without their guiding mast. Coogler has called Boseman the glue that held the cast and crew together on the first film.

But sails aren’t the only way to move a boat and they’ve done an admirable job of throwing oars in the water to honour him while moving the story of Wakanda forward. There’s no shortage of emotional moments that ring true during the film.

Joining the party is Tenoch Heurta as Prince Namor, who long-time Marvel Comics readers will know as The Sub-Mariner. The world has figured out of the existence of his resource rich secret society, which parallels that of Wakanda, so he wants to bring everyone to their knees. Princess Shuri, still reeling from the death of her brother, must try to navigate the situation.

Overall, the story is successful, though there are definitely a lot of characters, some of them superfluous, many of whom get lost in the shuffle. Even with a running time of 2 hours and 41 minutes, they lost a couple of good dramatic opportunities, especially with Danai Gurira’s Okoye. No spoilers, but her story arc starts strong but is shoved aside; they deal with it, but it’s quick and glossed over. Even Shuri gets lost in the James Bond-esque ever-shifting locales and characters popping in and out. Angela Bassett is the only one who seems to have a really strong through line, but that might also be because her very presence on the screen demands respect. She has some really great scenery chewing moments too. At any rate, I bet there’s a four-hour cut of this film that would be pretty epic.

The production and costume design are second-to-none. They really did bring this beautiful world to life, perhaps even more so than in the first film. There’s so much cool fashion in this movie that feels like a cross between traditional African dress and modern superfly fashion and tech.

I will note that some of the movie, especially in the beginning, is too dark to see what’s happening. And honestly, while I dug Namor’s backstory and it was important to juxtapose his underwater realm with Wakanda, I probably didn’t need to see another underwater CGI Gungan Aquamantown. Or at least, the movie didn’t bring anything new to this milieu.

Aside from the themes of grief, there are also excellent ideas that revolve around colonization and whether vengeance or mercy is the right approach. It’s front and centre in the film, but handled with subtlety.

While I liked the first Black Panther movie (and I already mentioned its cultural importance), I didn’t really think it was any better than an average to good Marvel film. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was probably a stronger movie than the original film. I daresay that though there were still the requisite CGI washing machine battles, mentions of the Hulk, and other tropes from the MCU, this felt the least like a Marvel movie as any we’ve seen so far.

Wakanda Forever might have too many little issues for me to proclaim it absolutely five-star, top tier MCU (like the too many characters with nowhere to go thing). But what it achieves is fantastic; it moves the story forward in poignant, emotional ways, without the main character we loved from the other films. And it creates an even deeper world for Wakanda, her people, and those of all ages and colours who look to this fictional place, dreaming that a real part of it could live in their hearts.

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is a D-level celebrity with delusions of grandeur. A writer, critic, creative director, editor, broadcaster, and occasional filmmaker, his thoughts have appeared on radio, television, in print, and on the web. He is a juror on the Polaris Music Prize and the Juno Awards. He loves Saskatoon. He has horrible night terrors and apocalyptic dreams.

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