In the comics, no one ever really dies.
Death is a sales strategy. A way to renew a property, to make the headlines. You hit pause on a character, reset the numbers on the book, and come back with a renewed mission (and maybe a costume change).
But the death of Chadwick Boseman, the actor who played the role of Black Panther, left a painful wound in his place. 2018 Black Panther was more than a movie, it was a box office, critical and enjoyable triumph that cemented the noir superhero in the pantheon of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
What the world didn’t know, including Black Panther’s on-screen family, is that Boseman had been battling colon cancer since 2016. Even while filming the original Black Panther film no one suspected.
After the film’s success, director Ryan Coogler wrote a 300-page script for a sequel and sent it to Boseman. He didn’t know the actor was too weak to read it. As reported in Varietywhen news of Boseman’s death broke in August 2020, Letitia Wright was so shocked she texted the actor she considered her surrogate brother in disbelief.
Flash forward two years and Ryan Coogler did it – delivered a sequel missing the very star whose shoulders the franchise bore. Boseman is gone, but his presence, especially in the opening moments of the film, is palpable.
WATCH the trailer for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever:
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a return to old Marvel magic filled with spectacle and superheroes, but more than that, what Coogler and his co-writer Joe Robert Cole have created is a gift. A chance for Boseman’s teammates and the characters they played to say goodbye – and move the story forward.
The film opens with a startling illness claiming T’Challa, the king of Wakanda. There is anger and confusion reflecting how the world learned of his secret battle. Onscreen, Black Panther receives a solemn send-off, a coffin with his signature mask rising into the sky as the nation stands in stark white garments. Expect sobbing theaters.
Time flies but for T’Challa’s surviving family, it stops. As Queen Ramonda, Angela Bassett vibrates with fury as a mother without her son. Shuri, T’Challa’s sister played by Letitia Wright, immerses herself in her work.
Surface of new faces
Every Marvel movie needs a maguffin; for wakanda forever it is vibranium, the extraterrestrial mineral that is the source of the nation’s wealth and technology. Since the events of Black Panther and End of Game, the African nation has been revealed, creating a new rush for the magic mineral.
This contest that arouses the anger of an underwater empire hitherto hidden.
When Ryan Coogler first introduced the world to Wakanda, it was like an Afrofuturistic utopia, brimming with all the continent’s pride and potential. wakanda forever again alters the geopolitical landscape with the introduction of the undersea kingdom of Talokan and their leader Namor.
In the comics, Namor the Submarine was one of Marvel’s classic villains – the arrogant “Imperius Rex” screaming King of Atlantis dressed in little more than a scaly speedo and winged feet. With a 21st century update, Namor (pronounced NAH-mor) is now “Ku’ku’lkán, the leader of the Talokanil people.
Just as Wakanda drew on a wealth of African cultures, Talokan draws inspiration from the Mayan civilizations of the Yucantan region. The Mesoamerican references give the Water Breathers an air of authenticity, especially when directed by Mexican actor Tenoch Huerta Mejía as Namor.
The moment Huerta comes out of the water to take on Queen Ramonda, you can feel the power dynamic shift. The underwater mutant has incredible strength and speed, but he doesn’t spit his words at his opponents like his comic counterpart. This Namor is calm and confident. But beneath her Mayan jewels lie depths of resentment. Huerta does such a good job imbuing Namor with humanity, the shift to aggression feels forced, but this is a Marvel movie and chaos has to come.
WATCH | Meet Namor, leader of the Talokan people in Wakanda forever:
The race for more vibranium also brings another character into the mix.
Riri Williams is a 19-year-old genius inventor who finds herself in the midst of warring nations. Although this is a handy catch for the next Stone heart series (produced by Ryan Coogler) Dominique Thorne brings much-needed mood control to the great and powerful royal family of Wakanda as a gifted young black inventor.
The real battle of Wakanda
Soon the battle breaks out, Ludwig Göransson’s glorious musical score soars and the action threatens to overwhelm the story.
It is worth remembering what defined the first Black Panther apart from fighting, animals in armor or super costumes. It was Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger, one of the most important villains in Marvel cinematic history. For the sequel, the focus is on Shuri, T’Challa’s little sister.
As Shuri, Letitia Wright introduces us to a warrior battling her own demons. Eyes burning with anger, consumed by guilt and grief, rage is a seductive substitute.
At the end of the day wakanda forever is a film about the battle for acceptance. A fitting tribute to the talent we’ve lost that offers closure and catharsis.
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