Ryan Coogler achieves remarkable feats with a powerfully emotional sequel that reshapes a blockbuster franchise. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever stands as the most mature and thoughtful film in the MCU. Coogler had to address the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman’s King T’Challa, its devastating impact on the ensemble characters, and forging a new path with significant challenges. Wakanda faces existential threats for its Vibranium resources. As hostile countries clamor for the valuable ore, an undersea source is discovered with a fierce protector. Who would burn the above ground to ashes and never capitulate.
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Wakanda reels from the unexpected death of King T’Challa. Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) assumes leadership with a broken heart. She gives the world a stark notice. The Black Panther is gone, but Wakanda remains undaunted. She will retaliate against any efforts by foreigners to steal Vibranium. Ramonda tries to make peace and accept the loss of her son. Princess Shuri (Letitia Wright) doesn’t share her mother’s ability to cope with grief. Anger fuels her genius mind. She’s haunted by her inability to recreate the Heart-Shaped Herb. Her beloved brother died because she wasn’t strong or smart enough to save him.
Meanwhile, in the Atlantic Ocean, a specialized CIA device finds Vibranium on the sea floor. It unleashes a ferocious response from a long-hidden race of Mayan descendants. K’uk’ulkan (Tenoch Huerta), the king of Talokan, has seen the horrors of colonizing invaders. “The feathered serpent god”, cursed as Namor by the terrified Spanish, won’t allow his people’s secret home to be known. He confronts Ramonda and Shuri with a deadly request. Wakanda and Talokan have the same enemies. Find and kill the Vibranium detector’s creator (Dominique Thorne). Wakanda will suffer the same wrath as the outsiders if they disobey him.
Wakanda in the Absence of T’Challa
Wakanda’s thrust into a geopolitical storm by the absence of T’Challa. They have what everyone else wants. Namor brands T’Challa as a betrayer of Wakanda and Talokan. He ignored established doctrine by revealing Vibranium and its capabilities. Ironically, Ramonda shares Namor’s views about hiding technology but the proverbial cat’s out of the bag. She takes orders from no one. The problem is that Namor and his lethal Talokan army outmatches Wakanda in every sense.
Wright becomes a star in this film. Shuri is a complex protagonist in deep turmoil. Spiritual guidance from ancestors on an astral plain means nothing to her. She embraces science and difficult truths. Wakanda is in danger. Her father and brother are gone. Ramonda wants her daughter to be the country’s salvation and future. But Shuri must come to terms with her bitterness. Loyal protectors, Okoye (Danai Gurira), M’Baku (Winston Duke), and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), sadly watch as Shuri’s resolve hardens into rage and fury. Her climactic showdown with Namor kicks so much butt it breaks a foot.
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Wakanda Forever puts Avatar 2 on creative notice. The underwater scenes and Talokan production design are spectacular. Coogler brilliantly uses Mayan and Aztec tribal imagery to create incredible environments. The Talokans appear blue and wear water masks on land. They ride whales as attacking transport vessels. Their armor, tattoos, and piercings reflect a Mesoamerican identity. Huerta’s Namor isn’t chugging booze and cracking jokes like Aquaman. He’s heart attack serious with zero compunction about killing for the cause. Flashback scenes tell Namor’s origin story and how his people became ocean dwellers.
Strong Women Bolster Wakanda
Wakanda Forever extols African culture with female characters dominating the narrative. Ramonda needs the support of strong women to bolster Wakanda. But she doesn’t accept failure or disobedience. A brutal condemnation is stunning. Her “mother” figure provides strength and moral compass. Shuri struggles mightily to fulfill Ramonda’s expectations. This is the crux of the film. Audiences are going to be shocked where Shuri’s arc leads.
There will be tears but no gushing rivers. Wakanda Forever tackles loss with deliberative structure. Boseman’s presence is felt from the opening frames. Coogler pays tribute without succumbing to melancholy. He honors a departed friend by preserving and continuing Boseman’s majestic legacy. The Black Panther’s mantle is carried with courage and honor. Stick around during the credits for a major reveal.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a production of Marvel Studios. It will be released theatrically on November 11th from Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
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