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Black Panther - Wakanda Forever Review: This poignant tribute to Chadwick Boseman is an emotional ro- Cinema express

Black Panther - Wakanda Forever Review: This poignant tribute to Chadwick Boseman is an emotional rollercoaster

Right from the customised Marvel intro, to the mid-credits scene, the film has the late actor's shadow looming large over it

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Published: 11th November 2022

"The king is dead. The Black Panther is gone," says one of the primary characters of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Gut-wrenching losses seem to unify fans of the MCU and the characters in this franchise's 30th film. While we lost Chadwick Boseman who played the titular character in Black Panther (2018) as well as the comic book character's co-creator Stan Lee, between the first film and its sequel, the inhabitants of Wakanda have lost their king and their land's protector T'Challa. In the first film, Killmonger destroyed the garden that grew the superhuman ability-giving 'heart-shaped herbs' and T'Challa opened the doors of Wakanda to the rest of the world. The sequel deals with its repercussions and things get murkier and more troublesome for Wakandans than what Phase Four of the MCU has been for fans.

Cast: Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Dominique Thorne, Angela Bassett, Tenoch Huerta Mejía
Director: Ryan Coogler

Black Panther was a revelation, a much-needed departure from the ensemble cast-led films and became a textbook example of how a superhero origins story should be. It was also praised for its themes that challenged bias, took funny digs at oppressors and explored feminism, while also showcasing perspectives of a culture that Hollywood seemed rather reluctant to portray. Wakanda Forever also does almost all of this again, albeit in a more contained way. While Black Panther was Marvel's most political film, Wakanda Forever is its most emotional one yet. The sequel was supposed to follow the adventures of T'Challa but Boseman's untimely death and Marvel's decision to not recast the character meant a totally new script for director Ryan Coogler.

Right from the customised Marvel intro that contains only the Da 5 Bloods actor's shots, till the mid-credits scene which is one of the, if not the best one the MCU has come up with yet, the film has Boseman’s shadow looming large over it. What happens to be the time for mourning for Wakanda and its royal family, also happens to be the perfect moment for the opportunistic world powers to "apprehend" the Wakandan situation.

When a kid from the US creates a vibranium-detecting machine which locates the rare mineral outside Wakandan borders, a series of events disrupt the underwater kingdom of Talokan leaving its blue-skinned, water-breathing people and their king Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejía) to retaliate. It's up to T’Challa’s mother, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), his younger sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright) and Okoye (Danai Gurira), the General of the Dora Milaje to save the day. Unlike the first film, we have more characters and plotlines to keep track of... Wakanda is exposed to the diplomatic troubles created by powerful nations; Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) has to work with Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and we learn that she is his ex-wife; Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) who even misses the funeral returns with a huge secret; and the child prodigy Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne) happens to be the MacGuffin that wants to be killed by one tribe and saved by another. Coogler manages a decent job of tying these multiple plotlines into a story which runs for a hefty 161 minutes.

In keeping with tradition, Wakanda Forever also has some stunning action sequences that transpire to the beats of a brilliant soundtrack. The makers use silence as a means to convey deep emotions and it does wonders for the film. The mid-air and on-the-ground fights are great, but it's the underwater sequences that stand out. These sequences make for some of the best scenes in the film and they almost feel like the perfect lead-up to the upcoming Avatar sequel.

The film shares a lot of common traits with its predecessor--both involve two new Black Panthers coming to terms with personal loss, an antagonist whose tragic backstory and reason to strike warrants a separate film, the titular hero choosing peace over chaos and as expected, a good dose of social commentary topped with a gentle sprinkle of much-needed humour. Perhaps the only aspect the sequel does better is how it gets us closer to the primary characters, especially Shuri whose dilemma between technology and tradition feels relatable. We understand when one of them wants to move on while the other wants to "burn the world and everyone in it". We relate with Nakia and her decision to stay away from Wakanda. We get them all.

This sequel, unlike many others, feels like a drama rather than a superhero film and that works in favour of the film. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever might not be in the same league as the 2018 film when it comes to action, plot and overall finesse, but this contains more heart than any heart-shaped herbs Shuri could possibly conjure with her 3D printer. The film is a worthy sequel that stays loyal to the source material and succeeds in pulling heartstrings, and this is rare success at a time of superhero fatigue.

Rating:
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