I commend Marvel Studios and their parent company, Disney, for not recasting the role of T’Challa following the death of Chadwick Boseman in 2020. He had played the role in four movies and made it his own. It would’ve been wrong in every way to recast it.
That being said, I feel Black Panther: Wakanda Forever could’ve been a lot better if they had recast Letitia Wright as Shuri, who eventually dons the Black Panther suit. But Wakanda Forever feels like a totally different movie altogether. If you haven’t gathered just by looking at the movie poster, they’re introducing Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejia) as the ruler of Talokan, an ancient civilization that lives under water. And like Kilmonger (Michael B. Jordan), who makes a cameo, I wouldn’t exactly call him the villain in this movie.
The movie opens with the death of T’Challa off screen as he’s sick from an illness. Then, it flash forwards a year in which Ramonda (Angela Bassett), queen of Wakanda, is under pressure to turn over vibranium to the rest of the world. An incursion attempt fails leading to tension among the Wakandans and the rest of the world. At the same time, the CIA and Navy SEALs are working on discovering vibranium in the Atlanta Ocean. And this leads to the Talokonil appearing to stop their efforts through violence.
So, now, we’re going to have a main struggle between the Wakandans and the Talokonil, who are light blue-skinned. And even though the subtitle is Wakanda Forever, they go all over the world. There’s a sequence set in the Boston area as Shuri and Okoye (Danai Guirra) try to find a MIT student, Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne) who’s created as one person says, her own Iron Man suit. And of course, there’s a huge battle on a bridge on a main highway that is deserted as they always are.
The first Black Panther bucked the formula and it was impressive in how it seemed like its own movie rather than a set-up. T’Challa had already been introduced in Captain America: Civil War and Wakanda was already mentioned in the second Avengers movie. But I’ve heard this is to set up which is due to be on Disney-Plus this year, featuring Thorne. It never does feel like its own movie.
Bassett does a good job as Ramonda and her Golden Globe win and Oscar nomination is well earned. But not giving much away, she’s only in the first half of the movie. So, leaving Wright to carry the second half isn’t the best part. I commend the writers for giving Okoye more of an arc and her character is more developed. But Shuri seems to lack any development. It’s not a question of if she’ll don the Black Panther suit, but when. And she gets her superhero entrance and landing.
The problem is that Namor is a far better character and Huerta Mejia is very menacing and effective in his role. Boseman and Jordan was a nice duel of the two actors. Wright, on the other hand, never really manages to fill the role. I understand neither she nor director Ryan Coogler could’ve foreseen Boseman’s death, but she was such an ancillary character in previous MCU movies, her role is never felt as leading. Bassett is 64 and still killing it as much as 30 years ago when she played Tina Turner. Why not her? It reminds me of sequels like Short Circuit 2, Evan Almighty or The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift that try to keep the franchise open but when the leads don’t want to return, they just grab whatever supporting character they can to appear in an expanded role with new cast members.
Martin Freeman returns as CIA Agent Everett Ross and Julia Louis-Dreyfus is Vallentina Allegra de Fontaine, who is the new CIA director and Ross’ ex-wife. And yet, they seem to be in a different movie altogethers. With credits, it’s about two hours and 40 minutes long, which is way too long. The first movie was two hours and 15 minutes but it had a good flow. This movie follows the same slow flow of many Phase Four movies of the MCU, which is slow and uneventful too much of a back-door pilot of an upcoming movie or TV show spotlighting another character.
It’s reported this is the last movie to be released and that’s good. Phase Four has been the most useless phase of the MCU with seven movies and eight series. And nothing has been accomplished except a big rehash of the previous movies and introduction of new characters. Lupita Nyong’o appears again as Nakia who left Wakana after the Snap, which T’Challa and other pretty much evaporated from existence for five years until the Blip brought them back. The MCU has never really handled this traumatic event in the right way.
Knowing that this movie again just sidesteps everything as previous entries have done and is just a back-door pilot for Ironheart is irritating, mainly because nothing is accomplished. I mean, the Wakandans and Talokonils fight and then they fight again in a big huge fight and then they stop fighting. There’s no resolve. Kilmonger was a danger. Namor seems like a minor inconvenience.
The MCU has had many characters stepping into other shows. Sam Wilson is now Captain America while Kate Bishop is the new Hawkeye. Yet, I’m not sure I want to see Shuri return as Black Panther. Coogler is taking a break. I suggest Marvel do the same and quit set release dates and then creating a script around that. Maybe Coogler should direct a different MCU property other than Black Panther.
What do you think? Please comment.