Joe Robert Cole
Tenoch Huerta Mejía
The follow-up to the hugely popular Black Panther, which earned itself several Academy Award nominations back in 2019, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever had a tough job following the tragic death of actor Chadwick Boseman. Filming was interrupted with rewrites prompting reshoots as the film's release was delayed and Letitia Wright's controversial time on Twitter didn't help matters much.
Wakanda Forever was tasked with building on the first film and concluding Marvel's Phase 4 as a new villain enters the picture, and a new hero is forced to step up and become the Black Panther. Wakanda is pressured by the rest of the world to share its vibranium resource, but Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) refuses so these political headbutts soon start to cause dangerous ripples. The bad guy this time is Namor, played by Tenoch Huerta Mejía, who breaks into Wakanda, threatening the country with an attack if he is not given the scientist who designed a machine capable of detecting vibranium.
Losing the main actor in the franchise was always going to prove challenging for the filmmakers but the approach taken here feels appropriate: after T'Challa is given a considerable, moving send-off, the story continues and Shuri (Letitia Wright) eventually assumes the mantle. Having not one but two massive funerals in a film as lengthy as this one does hurt the pacing of the movie quite a bit, however. This is definitely a film that could have done with a bit of a trim but one suspects that necessary changes to the script caused the budget to inflate too much already so changing the entire plot was not really an option, which is understandable.
All of that aside, this is a good sequel and the best film in Marvel's Phase 4 by far. The action sequences are big and exciting, the cast is on top form, there's plenty of drama and intrigue to hold onto, Namor is an interesting foe who lives in a bit of a grey area like Killmonger did and the new culture that is introduced is fascinating. The film takes what worked so well in the first Black Panther and puts it on a more global scale. On the minus side, the introduction of Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne) falls resoundingly flat and Lupita Nyong'o is barely given anything to do as Nakia, a character that has felt criminally underwritten since the first movie.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever isn't a perfect film by any stretch, and it's hardly one of Marvel's very best, but it remains a thoroughly entertaining sequel with new environments to discover, characters going through a lot emotionally and a well done build-up to an all-out war that is worth the watch alone.