Fans of the series will know that Marvel bigwigs decide the path the universe is going to take years in advance and Black Panther was very much part of that journey.
It was obvious when Marvel announced his death that they didn’t want to simply recast the role of T’Challa, yet because of the legend behind the character they couldn’t just magic up a new Black Panther either. This dilemma was going to need some real planning.
The result is director Ryan Coogler’s (Creed) new film Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, a film that while inside the Marvel cinematic universe also very much feels like a stand-alone film designed to honour the memory of T’Challa and of course the man that brought the character to life – Chadwick Boseman.
The film starts with the death of T’Challa, which leaves his sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) shattered – how can she be a brilliant scientist when she is unable to save him from the disease that takes his life. With her grief engulfing her, her mother, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett – Olympus Has Fallen), has to try to stay strong and lead Wakanda through this dark time.
Twelve months later and Ramonda finds herself under pressure as the world, led by the UN, repeatedly comes at Wakanda, determined to get access to the country’s very valuable vibranium. The stakes in that game are raised even further when young science student Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne – Judas and the Black Messiah) develops a machine that can search the ocean floors for vibranium.
The use of the machine angers an ancient God named Namor (Tenoch Huerta – The Forever Purge), who fears that it will help the outside world discover his hidden Kingdom. In anger he tells Ramonda and Shuri if they don’t bring him the person that created the machine he will attack Wakanda. This causes Shuri and Okoye (Danai Gurira – Avengers: Endgame) to start a hunt for Riri but at the same time sees a nation still in grief face its biggest ever challenge.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is one of the better Marvel films that we have seen over the past few years. Ryan Coogler along with his co-screenwriter Joe Robert Cole (Amber Lake) reverts back to the formula that made the early Marvel films so brilliant. Yes there are huge action sequences throughout the film, but the film doesn’t forget about the importance of characterisation.
There are no confusing introductions to a myriad of characters like some of the recent Marvel films have done. This film is mainly about characters that we have already come to know and love, but there are some new characters introduced. We have the huge arrival of Riri Williams who becomes somebody hardcore comic book fans will now, but there aren’t so many arriving that it confuses the audience. The film also respectfully follows what grief has done to Shuri and Ramonda and for once this reveals itself to be one of the few Marvel films with real heart.
The only real weakness with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is that it seems strange that no other Avenger decided to attend the funeral of their colleague Black Panther. Other than that, this is a film that works completely. It feels like Coogler as a director has taken inspiration from classic films such as Avatar and Waterworld, but at the same time brings his own touch to the film in the same way he did with the original Black Panther film.
This is also a film that allows some of its cast to really shine. Both Letitia Wright and Danai Gurira really step up with their enhanced roles and it is easy to see that both are more than ready to take the big step into becoming characters that are important in the Marvel universe moving forward. Dominique Thorne is also a welcome introduction into the franchise and she is likable from her very first moment in the film and isn’t over-shadowed by her famous castmates.
Spiderman aside, Marvel has been in a little bit of a slump recently so it is welcoming to see a Marvel film that is enjoyable and has real heart. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever may contain some storylines that comic book fans wish that they never had to witness but at least such a sad occurrence has resulted in a film that is a true tribute to Chadwick Boseman and T’Challa.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is currently screening in Phuket and is rated ‘13’
David Griffiths has been working as a film and music reviewer for over 20 years. That time has seen him work in radio, television and in print. You can follow him at www.facebook.com/subcultureentertainmentaus