I went into Black Panther: Wakanda Forever feeling down on the MCU and not really expecting too much. After the absolute disaster that was Love and Thunder earlier this year, not to mention the recent lacklustre TV offerings from Marvel, I wasn’t sure if anything could pull it back for me. But boy, was I proven wrong.
Obviously, there’s no getting away from the sad fact that Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman passed away in 2020, leaving a gaping hole in the MCU, and the way that Wakanda Forever handles this loss head-on is both beautiful and incredibly moving. In fact, by the time the specially created Marvel logo opening sequence had played, my bottom lip was already starting to quiver.
The movie manages to move on from the death of King T’Challa, although his loss is ever-present throughout and continues to resonate with all involved as the story plays out. Moving forward by one year, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) now has the throne and is meeting up with the United Nations to explain in no uncertain terms exactly why Wakanda is still not prepared to share its rich resources of vibranium with allies around the world, believe they will use it for all the wrong reasons. We even see an attempt to steal some vibranium by French soldiers result in them getting their asses kicked, proving that Wakanda is still a nation not to be messed with, despite the absence of Black Panther.
However, the US government is pinning its hopes on the possibility that Wakanda isn’t the only place on Earth where vibranium can be found, believing that a custom-built machine they’ve acquired has located some, deep down in the Atlantic Ocean. But their investigation team runs into a spot of trouble when they come under attack by an unknown group, the people of Talokan, led by the powerful Namor (Tenoch Huerta). Concerned that his underwater empire will be discovered and threatened by the surface world in their search for vibranium, Namor manages to infiltrate Wakanda security undetected where he meets with Ramonda and Shuri (Letitia Wright). Namor asks for Wakanda’s help in delivering to him the scientist responsible for creating the vibranium-detecting machine and suggests that they team up to destroy the surface world. Shuri escorts Okoye (Danai Gurira) to retrieve the scientist, only to discover that she is a young MIT student named Riri Williams (introducing Ironheart to the MCU, ahead of her upcoming Disney+ series). When Wakanda refuses to hand Riri over to Namor, it seems that war between Wakanda and Talokan is almost certain.
Namor is one of the best new Marvel villains we’ve had in a long time, greatly helped by a captivating performance from Tenouch Huerta. The compelling story of him, his people and their history is well-explored and allows for a much greater understanding of his perspective towards the people of the surface world. Consequently, when Talokan and Wakanda do clash it’s emotional to watch, not to mention extremely thrilling. And the usual blur of CGI that seems to accompany most large-scale MCU clashes is, thankfully, largely absent, allowing for a much more focused and enjoyable watch. The only downside to the introduction of Talokan though was just how dull and gloomy it all looked!
The other welcome newcomer to the MCU is Dominique Thorne as Riri. As someone who is on the path to take up the mantle of Tony Stark, Riri has the smarts and the likeability to be another powerful addition. She feels a little underused here at times, so it’s great that we’ll be seeing more of her soon in her own series, but in what is already a very strong female-centric movie, she still manages to play an integral part and I’m really starting to feel positive now about the potential team-ups we could be seeing in the future.
As a tribute to Chadwick Boseman, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever certainly delivers. It’s definitely too long, but this is by far one of the best MCU offerings I’ve seen in a long time, perfectly handling its characters as they come to terms with their grief, delivering a strong story and thrilling action. It saves the reveal of the new Black Panther until the final act, although everyone knew who it was going to be anyway. And it manages to bookend the movie with yet another emotional moment, with the beautiful Rihanna song Lift Me Up forcing yet another lip wobble to appear during the credits.
Web developer by day, with a movie and TV watchlist that continues to grow as much as my spare time reduces! My favourite movie is Inception and, despite what everyone says, I do not have a man-crush on Tom Cruise.