Black Panther Wakanda Forever Review: Good But It’s Complicated

In Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” 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 must band together with the help of War Dog Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) and forge a new path for the kingdom of Wakanda.

Black Panther Wakanda Forever Trailer:

Black Panther Wakanda Forever Video Review:

The Good:

Director Ryan Coogler set out to make Black Panther: Wakanda Forever a film about the journey through grief, and he succeeded in that endeavor. The movie rips the bandaid right off and tackles the emotional pain that comes with losing a loved one. Through various characters, Coogler managed to extrapolate different stages of mourning. The journeys of the characters translated the obviously real-life feelings that the cast had for the late Chadwick Boseman. Thus, a real sense of authenticity could be felt whenever the characters spoke of T’Challa.

Next up, the action in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was exhilarating at every turn. Coogler directed some enthralling scenes that remind you that the Dora Milje has jurisdiction everywhere. Their tenacity and combat skills were on full display, and there was none better than Okoye’s scene on the bridge. The fight choreography was so good that, during a fight with Attuma, I caught myself wincing as if I was the one getting hit. Thanks to some great cinematography, the chases, fights, and big battle sequences kept the movie from feeling stale. From a visual standpoint, the film was really beautiful to see. The costuming by Ruth E. Carter was exceptional again. The VFX for the movie was crisp and captivating. The city of Talokan was an enchanting sight to see.

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

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever missed the presence of its lead character, but the acting from the cast brought about some solid moments. Letitia Wright and Dominque Thorne had great onscreen chemistry as Shuri and Riri Williams. I had a blast seeing them showcase their intellect on screen together. I’m certainly more interested in seeing the follow-up Iron Heart Disney+ series now. Winston Duke’s M’Baku was also hilarious with his occasional funny quips. Then you had Tenoch Huerta, who brought the role of Namor to life. I loved how this film made Namor an entire problem to be dealt with. He was more than a formidable challenge for Wakanda. Huerta brought fierceness and charm to the character, making him the right kind of complex antagonist you think you want to root for, but you know you can’t this time. 

Above all other performances, Angela Basset was outstanding. She put this movie on her shoulders and carried it in every scene. For instance, the Queen Mother gave a whole lot of “Black Momma Energy” in that unforgettable scene in the throne room when she confronts Okoye. It would be impossible to take your eyes away from the screen with that powerful, award-worthy performance.

The Bad:

I think the prevailing issue in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever would be in the film’s writing. There were different areas of the movie that fell a bit short, ranging from the themes, plot, and even character development. The pacing and focus of the film just felt uneven. One minute the movie is focusing on a character’s grief, and then the next, it’s jumping to some new character that needs to be set up for a Disney+ series. Even some of the themes lost their potency as well.

Starting with the characters, I felt like Shuri could have been fleshed out far more. One thing that felt odd was her stage of grief at the beginning of the film. It’s important to note that Wright’s acting was not an issue. She delivered a solid performance, given the material she had to work with. You certainly feel her conviction. I just don’t think the writing helped connect the dots for her emotions in the beginning. For example, in the film’s third act, Shuri’s grief is abundantly clear, given what she endures, and you see how her emotions are directly tied to that situation. (You’ll know it when it happens.) So it’s clear why and how she feels the way she does. The first act of the film, however, just has her stating her anger and who she’s mad at. The problem is that it’s not made clear as to why. A bit more focus on her character could’ve made her character more compelling and relatable. Instead, the film just asks you to make blanket assumptions and just run with it.

Winston Duke as M’Baku in Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER. Photo by Eli Adé. © 2022 MARVEL.

Another character that suffered from the writing was Winston Duke’s character, M’Baku. As mentioned before, he had some of the funniest moments in the film, but that was about it. Despite a few funny remarks, it was a bit disappointing to see so little from his character. It was further discouraging to see his character reduced to being a punching bag to establish other characters’ strengths. The sad thing about this is that it was completely unnecessary. The film demonstrated in other instances that it could show how strong characters were without being at the expense of another character.

While the majority of the themes for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever landed, some of them felt a bit too recycled. It was great to see the Mayan culture vs African/Black culture dynamic. However, this clash of the cultures with “colonizers” at the epicenter is something we already explored in the last Black Panther. Sure, there are slight differences, but at times Namor came off as just a Mexican version of Killmonger. The only difference was he played far more into the anti-hero role rather than a villain. Then there’s the familiar theme of vengeance consuming a person, which was played out with T’Challa in Captain America: Civil War. It felt like a missed opportunity to make the themes in this film far more distinct.

Lupita Nyong’O as Nakia in Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

There were some cringy moments in the writing that left me a bit unsettled. For one, I wasn’t a fan of the constant use of death as a plot device to motivate characters. The last Black Panther film had T’Chaka die to motivate T’Challa. (Sad we just completely glossed over a funeral for T’Chaka). Then you had N’Jobu killed to motivate Killmonger. In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, this cycle of death continues. T’Challa himself has died 2.5x already. (Black Panther, Infinity War, Wakanda Forever) It’s just excessive, especially as a Black man, to keep seeing this perpetuated. In addition to that, you also have the fact that real-life tragedy was imposed on fictional storytelling. While it certainly elevated the genuineness of the performances from the cast (who are still grieving), it was disconcerting to have so much of what happened to Chadwick Boseman mirrored in this movie. There are certain lines spoken in the film that was just a little too on the nose with his passing, and it was hard to focus on the fictional story at times.

Lastly, Wakanda as a whole felt downgraded due to some writing decisions in the story. The awe and wonder of a technically advanced country that could save a person from a fatal bullet wound seemed to fade away once they met a mysterious challenge. Their limitation only felt like a means to an end to push characters forward, rather than be a legit issue beyond the country’s capabilities.  In another situation, when Wakanda engages in battle, it was great to see their strategic plan at war. However, their strategy seemed dumbed down just for the sake of giving their opponent the upper hand in the story. Instead of creating a more believable situation where one side could outwit or overpower the other, the writing dictated that Wakanda do something that made little sense just for the sake of building up tension in the final act.

The Verdict:

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is an emotionally gripping film, that makes the best of what it can given the tragic hand it was dealt. It’s full of action and fantastic performances but the story and themes can feel unbalanced at times. The film takes a big risk by injecting real-life trauma into its fictional storytelling. As a result, the movie feels just as scattered as a person’s emotions can be when dealing with the loss of a loved one. It’s going to make you feel whatever pain, anger, hope, and joy that the cast feels in the film.  There is no escapism here. This isn’t like when a beloved character in Tony Stark dies in Endgame, because in real life you know Robert Downey Jr is alive and well. The death and mourning in this film just hit differently.

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

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever does its best to pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman. I think this film offers something different to different people. If you’ve experienced the grief of losing a loved one, then there’s a lot here to connect with. People can appreciate the exceptional performances of the Black women who carry the entire film. Depending on your attachment to the character of T’Challa and/or the actor Chadwick Boseman, this movie may be a mixed bag of emotions. I can’t say that Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is better than its predecessor. The first movie accomplished a completely different energy, vibe, and sense of upliftment. This film has a different goal in mind. I think of it as similar to the movie, Logan. The story was the end of an arc, and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is the end of Phase 4. Both films, regardless of how good they may be, didn’t push me to the point of repeat viewings. Wakanda Forever is far more emotionally draining, but I still think it’s worth the watch.

Finally, there is a mid-credit scene you’ll want to see. To that, I’ll simply say that I certainly hope Marvel invests a lot into what they showed. There’s a lot of legwork to be done and hopefully, what we saw was not just some symbolic gesture. What the future holds has yet to be determined.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. © 2022 MARVEL.

Director: Ryan Coogler
Writer(s): Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole
Stars: Letitia Wright,Tenoch Huerta, Angela Bassett, Winston Duke, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Dominque Thorne, Martin Freeman
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is now in theaters. Be sure to follow E-Man’s Movie Reviews on Facebook, Subscribe on YouTube, or follow me on Twitter/IG @EmansReviews for even more movie news and reviews!

Comment with Facebook
Black Panther Wakanda Forever Review: Good But It's Complicated
  • Acting - 8/10
    8/10
  • Cinematography/Visual Effects - 8/10
    8/10
  • Plot/Screenplay - 6/10
    6/10
  • Setting/Theme - 6/10
    6/10
  • Watchability - 8/10
    8/10
  • Rewatchability - 6/10
    6/10
Overall
7/10
7/10
Sending
User Review
5 (1 vote)

About Emmanuel "E-Man" Noisette

Emmanuel is a Chicago film critic who founded Eman's Movie Reviews. He freelances as a writer and video content creator for sites such as MovieTickets.com. Be sure to join the other 33K+ fans on his Facebook Fan Page for even more movie opinions and fun. Feel free to contact him with any professional inquiries: [email protected]

Leave a Reply