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Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Review

by Daniel Reynolds
3.0 out of 5.0 stars

As a launchpad for a different kind of Marvel movie (re: a Black one), Black Panther was a massive success. How to deal with the “problem” of the real-life death of beloved star Chadwick Boseman, who fully embodied the central role, was to be the challenge for its follow-up, Wakanda Forever. For all its other out-sized ambitions—and there are more than a few—that’s where the intrigue with director Ryan Coogler’s latest film truly begins and ends.

Though gone, T’Challa is not forgotten, and the world of Wakanda Forever is still struggling to pick up the pieces. While grieving, his mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett, doing much of the dramatic heavy-lifting) and sister Shuri (Letitia Wright, trying to share the load) become embroiled in an international incident following the emergence of Namor (Tenoch Huerta, well-cast), the leader of an underwater people who also happen to use the super-metal known as vibranium. This presents the central conflict of Coogler’s film, as co-written by Joe Robert Cole, in which these two isolated peoples must come to blows to protect themselves from would-be colonizers (the film makes clear who those people are). There are subplots, of course, involving all the characters from the first film and some new ones (like that of Dominique Thorne’s wunderkind), though not much mystery as to how it will all play out. Still, while Coogler may now be wholly subsumed in the world of blockbuster filmmaking, he knows how to light and frame his actors when given the chance. In fact, underneath the usual CGI, and even without Boseman, the film comes together almost in spite of the new Marvel method.

So what’s the secret? It’s simple: Wakanda Forever gets to feel like a movie. Yes, it still has the usual Kevin Feige-approved tropes—extended sequences shot at night, too-long expository scenes, and the ever-present links to other films—they just seem less significant this time around. The surprising magic of the original Black Panther may be gone, but the governing algorithm hasn’t quite won out yet.

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