2018’s Black Panther was described in the media as a cultural moment for black moviegoers as the first Marvel Cinematic Universe film to focus on a predominantly black cast. The House of Mouse was certain that they had a money making machine on their hands, scoring over 1.3 billion dollars worldwide.
However, the unexpected sudden death of Chadwick Boseman stunned the entertainment world after a years-long battle with colon cancer took his life. Disney was left in a predicament on how to move forward with their franchise with Boseman out of the picture.
Marvel was forced to rewrite the film and shift the creative direction while production took place during the middle of a global pandemic. Rumors began to mount that Marvel would replace Chadwick Boseman with actress Letitia Wright’s character of Shuri as the new Black Panther.
Wakanda Forever begins addressing the death of Black Panther. After a mysterious and unknown illness takes out the King of Wakanda, his mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) takes over the mantle as the Queen of Wakanda as the nation deals with the reality of operating without its sworn protector.
Western countries around the globe demand access to Wakanda’s stockpile on vibranium, however Ramonda remains adamant on not letting the rest of the western world have access to Wakandan technology. As a result, the CIA uses a vibranium-detecting machine to find an underwater deposit of vibranium outside of the country. Suddenly, the search team is killed by Namor and his people leading the United States to believe Wakanda was responsible for the attack.
Namor demands that Wakanda assist him in his war against the rest of the world or else he would attack Wakanda first. With no protector, the world’s most powerful is under the gun of a demanding world that wants answers and underwater army they have no means of protecting themselves against.
For months social media begged Marvel to remove Letitia Wright from this movie because of her unvaccinated status. Thankfully, those people were ignored because Shuri is the saving grace of an uneventful and confusing film. Shuri is the only character with any resemblance of a character arc and progression in the film.
As a character who has lost every family member who was close to her, Shuri is the only character whose journey that holds any emotional weight. Wright gives a stellar performance as an actress trying to carry the film to the best of her ability because it only feels like a Black Panther movie when she is on screen. Outside of Wright’s character, Wakanda Forever is a creative mess from start to finish.
The decision to kill off T-Challa rather than replacing him with another actor leaves audiences with a bunch of secondary characters who are not strong enough to lead a movie by themselves. Wakanda Forever is a movie without a protagonist and an antagonist.
Wakanda doesn’t have a main event star worthy of drawing audiences into the bigger story at hand. The film’s portrayal of Namor played by Tenoch Huerta Mejía wants you to sympathize with his character’s plight by giving him an origin story that’s very similar to Black Panther’s origin story in the first movie.
The central conflict of the story involves Namor killing an offshore drill team because they discovered a large vibranium Rock in the ocean. When Namor goes to Wakanda, he blames them for the fact that the outside world knows about vibranium putting Talokan in Danger. However, the outside world had no idea that the kingdom of Tālocān, and wouldn’t have known had Namor not killed 30 agents in the attack.
This isn’t the first conflicting narrative of the story. Wakanda is portrayed as the strongest and most powerful country on Earth while the rest of the outside world is portrayed as outmatched and out of their depth against the Wakandan forces.
However, Wakanda is vulnerable to the outside world they can’t choose a successor to Black Panther thanks to Killmonger burning all of the heart-shaped herbs in the first film. Because Wakanda is portrayed as overpowered, the film has to introduce an even stronger nation in Talokan to compete with them.
Another major disconnect within the film’s universe is the introduction of Riri Williams AKA Iron Heart. Audiences are to believe Riri is one of the smartest woman in the entire universe because she is a 19 year old MIT student who created a device to find vibranium in just two months and built her own Iron Man suit in 2 years using custom made and household parts.
The film is telling you Riri Williams is a super genius but the dialogue proves otherwise. Riri is a sassy foulmouth teenage girl who doesn’t show any signs of being a genius outside of the film telling you that she’s a genius.
The writers try to recreate the same dynamic that Tony Stark and Bruce Banner that in earlier MCU films but its the lack of “show don’t tell” storytelling that causes the audience to not buy what the film is selling.
Moviegoers will have a hard time seeing anything that they are watching on screen because the film is inexplicably dark for most of the first two acts. A tactic that was used in order to hide the lack of quality CGI despite a 250 million dollar production budget making this one of the most expensive MCU films to date.
The bloated 2 hour and 41 minute run time is due to the fact that the film that wants to be all things while accomplishing none of them. It is very difficult to recommend anyone give three hours of their time on a film that is cashing in on the black community while riding the wave of an actor who died in real life.