While it is a beautiful tribute to Chadwick Boseman, much of the plot needed work and an over reliance on CGI bogged the film down.
When Chadwick Boseman tragically passed away in 2020, a question was raised about how the sequel to the hugely popular 2018 Marvel film “Black Panther” would proceed. Director Ryan Coogler thankfully did not opt to recast or CGI the character, and instead chose to respectfully open the sequel with the character dying off-screen. This could have been detrimental to the film, as it is with many whose main actors die, but it brought an emotional depth.
The film follows Princess Shuri as she grieves her brother’s passing as well as trying to protect her country from greedy nations who want vibranium (a super-strong metal commonly discussed in the Marvel universe – Captain America’s shield, for instance). When a mysterious man from an underwater world threatens her and her people, she is torn on how to proceed.
Letitia Wright competently stepped into the lead role as Shuri and Angela Bassett was, as usual, impactful in her performance as the queen. Danai Gurira was tough but added humor to the film. Winston Duke as M’Baku was enjoyable to watch, and had a larger role in the film.
A new character played by Tenoch Huerta felt different and unique, aside from some technical aspects that could have been improved upon. The character spends a lot of time in the water as well as flying, and it seems Marvel has still not nailed how to make underwater or flying sequences look realistic.
There were several entertaining action sequences in the film, but unfortunately many of them were too dimly lit to properly see. The CGI just wasn’t up to par, as has been the case with most Marvel projects lately, which was disappointing to see. There were many instances of slow-motion in fight scenes, which started off interesting and visually stunning, but became unimpressive as the movie went on and the magic had worn off.
The editing was often confusing, with scenes ending abruptly, which could not be saved by a muddled and bloated plot. Oftentimes, it felt as though scenes dragged on for too long and gave no helpful information to the audience.
A new character, Riri Williams (played by Dominique Thorne), was not given enough time to shine, but other subplots lasted too long. The antagonist was not quite compelling, as the film chose to go the anti-hero route, and the true villain (mainly the U.S. government) was not present enough to be sufficiently intimidating.
“Wakanda Forever” expands on the richness of fictional cultures beautifully, especially in the beginning of the film with a Wakandan funeral for T’Challa. It also introduces a new group of people who live underwater. There isn’t a lot of time devoted for the viewer to learn about them, with most time spent on the antagonist, but they are descended from Mayan peoples and speak the language. The audience gets to see a taste of this with some beautiful underwater caves and fun costume design. One character even has a hammerhead shark skull as their headpiece.
The costumes were incredibly detailed and impressive, as is to be expected, with Queen Ramonda’s standing out in particular. These elements all add texture to the film and provide visual interest to the audience.
The film took some risks in terms of Marvel’s usual style, but it did not break out of the overdone tropes Marvel is known for—it was still full of quips, too many computer-generated sequences, and jumbled fight scenes. In light of Boseman’s untimely death, the film does manage to pull it off, and overall is heartfelt and fun to watch despite its flaws.