Action/AdventureMovie Reviews

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever review

The specter of Chadwick Boseman’s far too soon death looms large over Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

How could it not? Boseman’s portrayal of the Black Panther was instantly iconic. The first film remains the sixth highest grossing domestic film on the all-time charts effectively shattering and quieting the notion once and for all that black heroes couldn’t do mega business at the box office.

Instead of quickly shifting on to the next big adventure and the crowning of a new Black Panther, Director/co-writer Ryan Coogler and co-writer Joe Robert Cole allow the characters — and the audience — to cathartically process the end of T’Challa’s storyline while symbolically saying farewell to Boseman.


It’s a raw, emotional experience that’s essential to the future of the franchise while attempting to answer the question if Black Panther is still viable without Boseman?

That’s the challenge of Wakanda Forever. Along the way in numerous franchises — Harry Potter, Star Wars, The Matrix, Star Trek — key supporting members die. With the possible exception of the Fast and Furious series, a franchise hasn’t lost the main star, so this is largely uncharted territory.

This exploration of what’s next ultimately works to Wakanda Forever’s benefit.


Coogler seemed to truly embrace the idea of making a film vastly different than the original. There’s some commonality of themes — grief, vengeance, the quest for purpose — but Wakanda Forever is a wholly separate experience that easily represents the pinnacle of the Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase IV offerings. That’s not the highest bar so I’ll go further and say Wakanda Forever is undoubtedly in the top half of all the MCU films.

It’s been a year since T’Challa’s death, but the time that heals all wounds is moving in slow motion for his mother, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and Shuri (Letitia Wright). The death of her beloved brother has shaken Shuri’s faith. She’s harboring plenty of resentment and guilt while hiding it well from most of the Wakandan inner circle including Dora Milaje general Okoye (Danai Gurira) and Jabari tribe leader M’Baku (Winston Duke).

Wakanda hasn’t been as gracious in sharing its technology as the rest of world would like, but Ramonda has more than enough reason to distrust the outside world. The foolhardy belief is that with T’Challa gone, Wakanda is ripe for plunder. Even more concerning for Ramonda and Shuri is the arrival of Namor (a fantastic Tenoch Huerta), the ruler of the Talokan, an undersea kingdom.

Similar to Killmonger, Namor has a justifiable reason for wanting to take a preemptive strike against the surface world. The MCU’s “villain” problem continues as the antagonist always has a legit, if not skewed, explanation for their actions. Granted, Namor in the comics is more of an anti-hero than a villain so towing the line with him makes sense.


And it’s kinda hard to dislike Namor. Huerta has a majestic presence that commands respect even if he’s rocking green swimming trunks and wing ankles. Coogler thankfully didn’t try to tone down Namor’s comic book appearance showing those trademark elements don’t have to look silly on the big screen if done properly.

In a nice misdirect from the trailers, Wakanda and Talokan don’t go to war immediately. The slow burn to their conflict is far more effective in making the battles more meaningful. Eventually, fan favorites including Nakia (the ever-brilliant Lupita Nyong’o) and Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) get called into service to help Wakanda in its time of need.

Wright effectively handles the larger role. There are some spoiler moments where her character isn’t as effective, but it’s a minor portion of the film, which Wright approaches beautifully as the grieving sister.


The Talokans are based in Mayan culture and costume designer Ruth Carter creates stunning attires utilizing bones, jewelry and draping fabrics. Once again, Carter does her thing with the Wakanda garb as well and it already feels like a foregone conclusion that she will claim another Best Costume Design Oscar for work on this franchise.

On that Oscar front, Bassett also has to be on the short list for Best Supporting Actress nominees. The script sets her up for some powerful moments that Bassett crushes with the kind of emotion to put lumps in throats. It’s a reminder that Bassett, who was already nominated for a Best Actress Oscar, is one of the more distinguished and graceful actors of her generation.


Given the more serious tone of the film, there’s not as much humor. Forcing jokes would have been a bad call, but the casual comedy of the original was missed.

Coogler effectively steps all over James Cameron’s Avatar sequels with the Talokan kingdom. Cinematographer Autumn Durald Arkapaw stages some breathtaking sequences in both showcasing Wakanda and Talokan as well as the action scenes.

Like most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase IV slate, Wakanda Forever has to do some obligatory universe building/MCU connecting to introduce yet another character before their solo debut. In this case, the debut of likable super genius Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne, This Is Us), is weaved into the main conflict.


In the comics, Riri was inspired by Iron Man and creates a suit of armor based on his designs. The Iron Man link is curiously absent here although that’s likely to get addressed in the upcoming Ironheart series on Disney+ Thorne makes a firm case that Ironheart will be a series worth following.

Ironheart’s arrival does diminish the impact of another set of heroes who come off redundant with Riri doing what they can do only better. As far as spin-offs go, not having a Namor film on the slate would be a serious missed opportunity. The climactic battle has some strong moments, but it’s the one noticeable sequence that feels lacking compared to the original perhaps due to a somewhat similar structure.

There’s only one post-credit scene so you don’t need to sit through the entirety of the credits. But given the rawness of the incredible final act, you might need that time to finish dabbing your eyes and recollecting your emotions.


Black Panther: Wakanda Forever makes for an emotional farewell to Boseman while carefully constructing a new path for the franchise.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10

Photo Credit: Disney