Sunday, May 26, 2024
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Black Panther: Wakanda Forever…One of the Best Films of 2022

Wakanda Forever
Letitia Wright as Shuri in Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

Wakanda Forever is a very emotional film; the feelings started to boil up within the first six minutes (so make sure you’ve got your popcorn ready before the movie starts, you don’t want to miss a second). It’s no surprise that Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa would die in this film because Marvel had made it clear that they would NOT be recasting Boseman’s role. Nothing hit harder than when the infamous Marvel introduction appeared sans music with various cutscenes of Boseman. I’ve seen the film twice, once with other critics and once with a crowd of people; both times, I could hear sniffling and see tears falling from many an eye. Hell, I even got misty-eyed during my first screening. If you have not yet seen the film, (1st of all, shame on you for missing opening weekend) be prepared to bring tissues or wear an ugly shirt to cry on. Wakanda Forever not only pulls on the heartstrings but also has some of the best action scenes I’ve seen in the MCU with a nice helping of humor sprinkled in here and there. This film was also incredibly well-directed. Next, allow me to go into more detail about this incredible Ryan Coogler-helmed project. 

Wakanda Forever
Letitia Wright as Shuri in Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

Storyline

I was concerned about how Ryan Coogler would make this film work with the characters rumored to appear and how Wakanda would face one of its biggest threats without its biggest hero. Coogler did not disappoint and actually made me appreciate him as an artist even more. Let’s start with the way that T’Challa’s death was handled. It kind of mirrored reality; in the film, we discover that Shuri was unaware of her brother’s ailment until it was too late. We all felt Shuri… at least I did when I discovered that Chadwick had passed away without warning. Although Shuri had saved him and many other MCU characters in the past, she could not help her brother due to the lack of resources…the heart-shaped herb. I felt quite connected to this character because I lost my brother six years ago this very month. To feel as helpless as Shuri is nothing short of heartbreak.

Something else I noticed about Shuri was that she had difficulty grieving the loss of her brother, like some of us do, and it wasn’t until the very end of the film that she was able to deal with that. This is not unlike how some people of color take a long time to get help dealing with grief and mental health. The film interestingly (and quite surprisingly) explores her rage and need for retribution by reintroducing her to Michael B. Jordan’s Kilmonger after she ingests the synthetic heart-shaped herb she created. I was not surprised because as Kilmonger is a wildly compelling and rage-filled Marvel villain, Shuri (in a display of similar rage) had mentioned earlier that she wanted to burn everything after her brother’s loss. One can clearly see the parallels.

Shuri’s issues seemed to also parallel Namor’s as he had lost his mom at an early age and hadn’t properly dealt with that devastating loss and all the feelings that came with it. His anger drove him to hate colonizers and “land people” outside of Wakanda. 

The origin of Namor and the Talokan as told in the film was, in my opinion, a way better story than what was depicted in the comic book. It gave Namor more motivation to be angry after seeing his people who remained on land abused and enslaved once he returned to bury his mother at the very place she had called home. 

I am a Riri Williams fan because she is a young, Black, highly intelligent character my nieces can look up to. I felt her involvement in this story was necessary. Her ability to build a machine that could locate Vibranium underwater was invaluable. So much so that her idea was stolen by her professor with the intent to make a profit…hmmm, sounds like something that could happen in real life! 

This time, Wakanda kept its quarrels within its country’s borders and did not allow for spillage into America or any other place like it did in the first film. I appreciated this because it stayed true to the comic, just like when Namor and his warriors attacked Wakanda and flooded its citizens. I must say that part hurt my heart, but I knew it was coming. 

Wakanda Forever
(L-R): Danai Gurira as Okoye and Letitia Wright as Shuri in Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Photo by Eli Adé. © 2022 MARVEL.

Angela Basset Oscar Buzz

There is already Oscar buzz surrounding Angela Basset for her role as Queen Ramonda; she deserves at least a nomination if not more. Her expression of pain from the loss of her family is heart-wrenching. She has been through more than most could handle starting with the murder of her husband, her kids being snapped away by Thanos then brought back to only be taken away again. That’s enough to drive anyone insane! On top of that, she STILL had to deal with the greedy members of the United Nations (UN) while trying to run a country with the threat of Namor. Whew! Talk about carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders…nicely toned shoulders, I might add. Outside of Basset being a phenomenal actress, the other cast members also performed amazingly. You would think, with such a large cast, at least one person would compromise the film, but no one underperformed. 

Wakanda Forever
(L-R): Dorothy Steel as Merchant Tribe Elder, Florence Kasumba as Ayo, Angela Bassett as Queen Ramonda, Danai Gurira as Okoye in Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

Beware of the Talokan

For a moment there, I thought I was watching a horror film about Namor and the Talokan warriors wiping out Americans at sea. The singing Talokans hypnotizing the ship’s inhabitants to walk to their drowning death was surprising and had me thinking “What an awful way to die, but what an awesome war tactic!” The Talokan weapons were so creative, especially the water bombs that obliterated everything around them. 

Wakanda Forever
(L-R): Alex Livinalli as Attuma and Mabel Cadena as Namora in Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

Namor was a fierce warrior, and Attuma (although not as powerful as Namor) was just as punishing as he was in the comics. The production notes mention that Namor is as strong as Thor and the Hulk, and man did it show. My man was tossing helicopters like little dice. 

A Soundtrack That Moves You

Of course, the soundtrack for this film was fire! When “They Want It, But No” played in the background as the Dora Milaje was going to work on the soldiers, I was all for the ass whoopings they were handing out. Burna Boy’s emotional “Alone” track adds to the somber mood of the characters dealing with loss. And Rihanna’s “Lift Me Up” at the end was a tribute to the legend, Chadwick Boseman. 

Ruth Carter’s Costumes

The award-winning costume designer once again displayed her talents with beautiful designs for both the Wakandans and the Talokans. The intricate detail put into the Talokan costumes was beautiful in color and detail. In my interview with Mabel Cadena, she explained, “Well, it was huge because on the one hand, I thought, ‘This is beautiful, amazing, and I’m a Latin American woman playing a superhero in this movie’. On the other hand, I was like ‘This is very heavy’! I’d never worn something so heavy and needed to be able to move so fast”.

Wakanda Forever
Tenoch Huerta Mejía as Namor in Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Photo by Eli Adé. © 2022 MARVEL.

Final Thoughts

I know Rotten Tomatoes currently has Black Panther: Wakanda Forever at a critic score of 84%, but the film is more accurately reflected by the audience score of 94%, in my opinion. The fact that the film was able to use grief and mental health as part of the plot (which is vital for characters who are Black and Brown) and made it work in the Marvel Universe is a big accomplishment. The film also answered many questions I had about the fate of some characters. This is hands down the best MCU film/project to come out this year, and I can honestly say it’s in my top 5 favorite MCU films of all time. I was also surprised that the post-credit scene showed T’Challa had a son with Nakia (played by Lupita Nyong’o), whom she raised in Haiti. This will add even more interest to the future of Wakanda as the new prince learns to eventually become king. Finally, let’s give a round of applause to the women in the film who drive the story and show ultimate strength not only physically, but in their relationships as well. Overall, Wakanda Forever is one of if not the best Marvel films of 2022. It focuses on grief, forgiveness, family, and lastly a tribute to Chadwick Boseman that is worth watching.

Directed by Ryan Coogler

Starring Angela Bassett, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong’o, Tenoch Huerta, Dominique Thorne, Michaela Coel, Mabel Cadena, and Alex Livinalli. 

Dapper Dr Feel

Felipe Patterson aka Dapper Dr. Feel, #BlackLoveConvo & Entertainment | @fdapperdr Dapper Dr. Feel is a Entertainment journalist and member of the Critics Choice Association and African American Film Association.

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