By Ben Dickison, Staff Writer
In light of the tragic death of Chadwick Boseman in August 2020 due to colon cancer, the makers of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever were left with a superstar-shaped void to fill. According to Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, the consensus was that “it just felt like it was much too soon to recast” a new king for the sequel.
Writer and director Ryan Coogler and co-writer John Robert Cole crafted the opening of Wakanda Forever into a tear-provoking celebration of life for Boseman’s infamous King T’Challa, who fiercely defends Wakanda’s highly sought-after vibranium supply in 2018’s Black Panther. While the funeral procession serves as a radiant reminder of T’Challa’s eternal guardianship over the Kingdom of Wakanda, it simultaneously sets the stage for a matriarchy, led by Queen Ramonda. Actress Angela Basset’s regal demeanor and diplomatic expertise give the viewer a sense of credence that the kingdom will have staying power even in light of the death of its greatest-ever monarch.
Tenoch Huerta is vigorously engaging as antagonist Namor. He more than effectively encapsulates the deep rage held by Namor towards civilization above the surface. In fact, Huerta learned traditional Mayan dialogue to provide a more authentic submergence into the world below the waves. His character’s motive is simple: Find the scientist behind the creation of the vibranium detection device that led the American expedition to come within striking distance of his mesmerizing aquatic realm.
The lethal attack scenes on Wakanda utilize CGI to create epic collisions between kingdoms of land and sea. The special effects and creativity indicative of a Marvel blockbuster are evident in the battle scenes between the aquatic assassins of Talokan and skilled Wakandan warriors that are incredibly immersive.
The soundtrack, headed by score composer Ludwig Göransson, is headlined by some of music’s premier African contemporary artists such as Burna Boy and Fireboy DML, along with multiple hits from Rihanna. It gives Wakanda Forever a cutting-edge and innovative feel, while also cueing memories of the fallen King T’Challa. Without such a well-refined soundtrack that includes precisely perfect matching of songs to scenes, Wakanda Forever would feel much more flat and stagnant, but the soundtrack brings the film to life.
Princess Shuri also takes on a leadership role in Wakanda in the film. Actress Letitia Wright is compelling but appears to be acting only as a placeholder for a different future ruler of Wakanda, which comes as a disappointment. Wright is perhaps understated in her expression of the struggles of being a woman in power but fills the shoes left by Boseman about as well as anyone could. Her character shows strokes of intelligence and understanding of science that goes right over the heads of most viewers, but she also remains relatable to Gen Z viewers.
Overall, Wakanda Forever is an enchanting, majestic clash that is innovative for its pitting of two oppressed groups against one another — a rare storyline in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and film at large. For a film that had to undergo a rewrite after the loss of Boseman, it is an extremely captivating narrative, despite being quite predictable at times. The film is clearly a prelude for greater motives within the MCU.
Considering the challenging hand the writers were dealt as a result of Boseman’s tragic passing, Wakanda Forever is a sufficiently enticing vessel to move the MCU in a compelling direction for the future.