Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Tries A Lot, Succeeds Mostly

Despite the loss of its star and an overhaul in direction, the movie has a clear idea but feels rushed.

Reader Rating0 Votes
Strong acting helps enforce the emotional depth of the movie
Every character is a joy to watch, regardless of duration
Much better effects than its predecessor.
Somehow feels both long and rushed
Some odd pacing choices dampens the narrative impact
Very, very ambivalent about the mid-credits scene

It’s a complicated situation to lose the star of your movie between projects. It is even harder when that star has been conflated beyond just being an actor, but to also embodying the character. Recasting would seem almost disrespectful, and simply proceeding without acknowledging the impact of the loss would be absurd.

Yet, even in the face of all this, Ryan Coogler and his team have pulled off a seemingly impossible task. It is not without its flaws, but Black Panther: Wakanda Forever does all that it can to uphold a legacy while respecting its duty.

Wakanda Forever picks up a year following the death of T’Challa, instantly examining the new roles the people in his life have to now contend with. Ramonda is a reluctant Queen and a grieving mother who also has to put up with the new status quo of Wakanda with the world at large. Shuri, predictably, finds escape in her own brilliance, but has yet to confront her grief. Okoye continues to serve the Wakandan throne, but at this point the fourth person occupies the same throne–all within her tenure as general of the Dora Milaje. And Nakia… well, Nakia’s off Nakia-ing.

While saying more would be shoving us into the spoiler zone, it would still be an understatement to say that Wakanda Forever has plenty going on. Between the returning cast–which is no small collection–and the introduction of multiple new characters, the movie has more on its plate to deal with than one might expect. Also, its sudden status as the closing feature of Phase 4 may have saddled it with at least one narrative thread which would have been better left for a different movie.

Coogler’s directing is still strong, and the emotional stakes here are even higher than they were in Black Panther. His skilled directing hand is obvious in the earlier portions of the movie, especially when building up to the introduction of Namor and his people. But things become murky (yes, pun intended) when the Wakandan and Talokan characters finally do interact, and Shuri’s sequence in the undersea nation is especially… odd.

The action, on the overall, suffers a lot less from the poor CGI of the first film’s third act. The thematic weight of the Black Panther versus Killmonger battle, however, is not as well-carried here with the script resorting to frequent dialogue and proclamation to drive its point home.

Not that there’s any issue with the writing, but it feels like too much is trying to be expressed in as little time as possible.

In general, a lot of the flaws of the Black Panther sequel can be summed up with “it’s too much.” From dealing with loss, to dealing with consequences, to dealing with vengeance, and dealing with, well, just being in the MCU as a whole, Wakanda Forever tries to do way too much in this one movie. New characters (and some returning ones, too) who deserve far better introductions and development don’t get the time to explore anything properly nuanced.

At some points, the rushed development of anyone who is not Queen Ramonda, Shuri, or Okoye ends up coming off as bad acting, even though it’s really not. Delivery feels a little stilted, and almost every conversation is burdened with the duty of delivering as much exposition as possible. Characters such as Riri Williams and Everett Ross are done justice by their respective actors, but not so much by their place in the story.

They both do play story-impacting roles, but the irony remains that they may have been done a larger injustice by the extended runtime of the film than they’d have been if they were simply cut. Fundamentally, Wakanda Forever feels like it may have been a much longer film at some point, and shortening it to this still-long-but-not-as-long movie may have been somewhat detrimental.

Somewhere in Wakanda Forever lie very strong middle and concluding acts for a Black Panther trilogy. Unfortunately, the film chooses to cover all its bases in this one go, leaving the final product messier than it should be, and a fair few characters lying out to dry (this one’s not a pun, just ironic).

It’s not a bad movie by any means, and any disappointment felt is certainly exacerbated by the anticipation of this sequel to one of the MCU’s best entries to date. Unfortunately, however, the inverse is also true in that much of the emotional resonance lies not in deft storytelling, but by the emotional impact Chadwick Boseman has had on fans.

Thankfully, Wakanda Forever is still a worthy tribute to a man who embodied much of his characters’ traits offscreen.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is out on 10th November, and has a mid-credits scene… which is kinda weird to be honest.