Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is definitely a good and visually stunning movie but its weighty subject matter does certainly affect one’s level of enjoyment.
The film unpacks the complexity of grief and the nuances of the emotions that it entails, but it also has so much ground to cover as it expands the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” sees Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), Shuri (Letitia Wright), M’Baku (Winston Duke), Okoye (Danai Gurira) and the Dora Milaje (including Florence Kasumba) fight to protect their nation from intervening world powers in the wake of King T’Challa’s death.
As the Wakandans strive to embrace their next chapter, the heroes band together with the help of War Dog Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) to forge a new path for the kingdom of Wakanda.
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” also sees the introduction of Tenoch Huerta as Namor, king of Talokan, and Dominique Thorne whose character Riri Williams gets caught in the middle of the geopolitical drama.
This is a lot of story for one film and Ryan Coogler should be commended for how he balances all of these characters and the plot.
While the death of King T’Challa allows him and the cast to respectfully address the loss of Chadwick Bosman, it does mean that the film has to be conscious of its intent.
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” could have easily gotten lost in the vast scope of its own story, but Coogler manages to keep the story on track, albeit with some bumps along the way.
In my opinion, one of the issues with Black Panther is the pacing and editing.
When the story feels like we're picking up momentum and building towards something, the film slows down.
We get action scenes that are meant to help connect each section and drive the story forward as they do have narrative purpose, but they soon leave you with a sense of anticipation for something bigger, which the end of the movie doesn’t really deliver.
Letitia Wright's character is meant to connect the different vignettes; however, while there is no doubt that Wright is talented, these connective arcs in the film come across as disjointed. And, after watching it twice, I feel like it is due to her performance as Shuri.
She is talented but in some scenes, she seems overwhelmed by everything, and, in others, she lacks conviction about what she is doing.
I can only speculate that her on-set injury, which she has called “traumatic”, somewhat hindered her ability to fully let loose and inhabit the physicality of her character.
With more seasoned actors around her, some of which excel at the physically demanding nature of their roles, it feels too soon to have put such a massive movie on her shoulders.
Aside from her, I am growing increasingly vexed by Disney’s supposed LGBT+ representation, which in actuality is just pandering. Two same-sex characters share a forehead kiss, and it’s such an inconsequential moment that it honestly should have been left out of the movie.
At this point, it would be much better if Disney just stuck to their homophobic views and left out any queers in their movies, rather than bother with the breadcrumbs of so-called representation that they're doing now.
Lastly, I am going to need an explainer on what exactly is happening with the accents in Wakanda as it is reaching a level of disrespect to those of us from the African continent.
Naturally, depending on what African country you’re from, you’re likely to have an accent when you are speaking in English – that is unavoidable.
However, I'm hating how Hollywood is increasingly having black actors use a generic African accent, and in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever'', it is meant to represent an afro-futuristic world of a united African diaspora.
It's getting uncomfortable how these actors are using accents that appear to not be based on a country or region but rather on a non-existent, continent-wide accent.
If you want to show different African tribes in your movie, have the courtesy to use accents from these tribes and not make the uneducated assumption that there’s one African accent.
That said, there is also a lot that the movie gets right.
Angela Bassett delivers a phenomenal and nuanced performance as Queen Ramonda, Winston Duke remains hilarious and steals scenes as M’Baku, and it is joyous to see Danai Gurira as everyone’s favourite general Okoye.
Tenoch Huerta delivers a gripping performance as Namor, and his time on screen will pull you in and have you excited to see where his journey goes next.
Dominique Thorne should also be spotlighted for her comedic skills as Riri Williams and the savvy intellect she exudes.
As mentioned, Ryan Coogler handles the vast story and scope of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” with impressive skill and pulls off a feat that a less skilled director would have left muddled and unentertaining.
The film is not without its issues; but, ultimately, it makes for a very enjoyable movie-going experience.