Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (An Insomniac Review)

Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever is the sequel & follow up to Black Panther, both directed by Ryan Coogler. It tells the story of the nation of Wakanda carrying on after the loss of T’Challa as played by the late Chadwick Boseman.

Like so many others, I had many emotions after viewing this film, I figured I’d write them out as opposed to a video review. I will also be talking about this film in regard to romance on my podcast, The Single Chronicles, which you can view here …. (Yes… shameless plug)

That being said, major spoilers ahead. So if you haven’t seen the film… you have been warned.

After the sad and sudden death of Chadwick Boseman, Ryan Coogler was tasked with not only trying give us a success sequel but whether or not he would recast the character T’Challa or incorporate his death.

Choosing the latter may have annoyed some fans initially but overall the reception has been quite positive.

Wakanda Forever begins with Shuri as played by Leticia Wright working frantically to save her brother from a sudden unknown illness. After being unable to save him, we proceed to T’Challa’s funeral and how Wakanda moves forward. Much like in real life, Boseman’s cancer came as a shock to fans as T’Challa’s did Wakanda as he kept it hidden from the public.

The funeral in the beginning will bring the waterworks so be prepared because it’s nothing compared to the ending.

Whew… Niagara Falls is all I can say… Niagara Falls!

The emotional aspects displayed by Shuri and Queen Ramonda as played by Angela Bassett really felt genuine and heartfelt. Both women are amazing for lack of a better word. Bassett as the queen is not only a powerhouse but gives you chills in every scene that she’s in… especially when she says, “By Any Means Necessary”. An ode to her role as the wife of Malcolm X, who has been quoted saying then same line. So many other moments and lines in this film are delivered with only that dynamic that Bassett can bring!

However, it’s Shuri’s character whose shift from sidekick to main character that also steals the show. She is plagued with not only grief from the loss of her brother, which she tries to hide behind her work, but with vengeance as well. It’s a relatable thing since we all deal with death and loss differently. Some hide and try to distract themselves and others face it head on but inevitably we must deal with it.

Leticia Wright plays this role with such gravitas, and it is spectacular. She, in no shocker, becomes the new Black Panther (as in the comics). However, it is well earned and not forced in some crappy cheap way to appeal to woke or female fans since it doesn’t stray too far from the source material given real life circumstances.

Shuri uses what she’s always had, her wit and intellect. It also helps that she has combat training. It allows her to not only help Wakanda but recreate the herb that gave the Black Panther its power in the first place. Since being destroyed by Killmonger in the first film, it was no wonder that everyone assumed Wakanda would be unprotected and open to attack.

Shuri is tasked with the challenge of choosing between the merciful nobility of her brother, King T’Challa and that of revenge after (spoiler alert) the loss of the Queen, her mother. To say that is a lot to handle is an understatement. On top of the fact that now she must not only rule an entire nation but avenge her mother.

And it’s obvious that ruling and the whole royal thing were never her bag to begin with. Wakanda Forever makes Shuri’s intentions apparent as she is defiant when it comes to tradition and customs. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if M’Baku would take the throne especially since falls in love with the beauty of Talokan. Speaking of Winston Duke makes yet another awesome return.

Another thing I dug about this film is Coogler’s ability to bring a not only formidable and three-dimensional villain in Namor but give him justification as to why he is who is. He wants to protect his kingdom (Not Atlantis btw) by any means necessary. Namor has the same issue with the surface world that Killmonger had with Wakanda in addition to literally everyone else who breathes air.

Save for Thanos, Killmonger & Winter Soldier, Namor is a compelling individual who is not only fleshed out but comes with a new origin story here. I have to admit that after watching a 2nd time, I am liking just as much as the comic version if not a little more. Most comic to film adaptations have struggled with this as most villains end up being predictable and cliche. While the MCU is a tad ahead of the curve as opposed to DC in terms of fleshing out their villains better, they all still have that baddie of the week vibe. You know where they pose this big threat but before the credits end, its bye-bye. Not here. Coogler has done it again

There have been some uneducated folks griping about the inclusion of indigenous people instead of a black villain but obviously they have no clue who Namor is.

In the comics, he’s an Atlantean who is pretty much the Marvel version of Aquaman despite coming before the latter. As I mentioned, the film gives the submariner Namor a new origin and home, Talokan, which is rooted in Mayan/Yucatan culture. It is inspired by the Aztec paradise of Tlālōcān and ruled by the god of the rain and water. For obvious reasons, the origin swap may have something to do with DC using it on screen first or the fact that there’s an upcoming Avatar film. It makes sense despite an existing Disney film about the fictional world beneath the sea. Some may complain that this makes this film more woke or whatever but legally it makes sense. Why bother trying to constantly explain and create something new when you can just use something that already exists. Coogler picking Talokan works here because it meshes the Spanish Colonialism and mirrors Killmonger’s same gripe that he had with themes such as the effect of post-colonial slavery on black people today. Besides, it makes room for us to see on and off again villain in future installments of the MCU… not to mention a chance to ship him with Shuri as a power couple… I know I wasn’t the only one who peeped that connection.

Sadly, while I dug this idea since their on-screen chemistry worked so well, some folks out there do not.  Although many fans have shipped them together (if you’re willing to forgive that pesky trying to destroy Wakanda thing), some folks weren’t feeling it. Word on the street was that some test screenings proved that folks were on the wire about this. That being said, it is a sad thing that black lead female roles are rarely met with a love interest. We are always this strong independent person never in need of consoling or protecting.

But that’s another story.

Despite how you feel about Namor’s love life, I think his addition helps introduce mutants to the MCU, which gatekeeper Fox Studios had been holding on to following the sale of X-men and the Fantastic Four in the 90s. With this inclusion, it could make way for Storm to join the kingdom of Wakanda, especially since she is the wife of T’Challa in the comics… this could still be a potential in the film series’ future especially given the only post credit scene at the end of Wakanda Forever. Sadly, WandaVision didn’t bridge the mutants as well so hopefully the next Deadpool film will.

So yes, hold your bladder for this!!

That aside, Namor’s conflict with Wakanda begins while he is in search of Riri Williams, a young MIT student who managed to reverse-engineer Stark’s Iron Man technology and create her own suit. Spoiler she become s Iron Heart. She is responsible for also creating a machine that the government uses to detect Vibranium. This act that angers Namor as it potentially leads them to Talokan. In an effort to protect his citizens and the hidden vibranium, Namor pretty much assumes he can use this to force Wakanda into an alliance. Shuri accompanied by Okoye rushes to find her before Namor and his right-hand baddies can.  Let me tell you I was not feeling them sidelining Okoye, as played by Walking Dead alum, Danai Gurira. Her loyalties were not only tested time and time again while trying to protect Shuri’s hardheaded ass but again after being not only demoted as leader of the Dora Milaje but eventually removed when she was unable to prevent Namor from taking Shuri and Riri.

She later becomes part of the assassin’s group, Midnight Angels alongside fellow Dora Milaje warrior, Aneka who was promoted following Okoye’s termination. Something I’ve been waiting to see since the addition of Black Panther to the MCU… I’m all about that girl power y’all.

This leads Queen Ramonda to send Nakia to save her, although she seems to be getting cozy with Namor. Nakia using her stealthy spy skills, easily nabs the two and kills a guard in the process, which sparks a war forcing Namor to attack Wakanda.

Agent Ross as played by Martin Freeman returns having being saved by Shuri in the first film.

He attempts to aide Wakanda albeit at the risk of committing treason. He attempts so while trying to stay beneath the radar of Valentina De la Fontaine, who’s not only director of the CIA but his ex-wife.

She like an sheisty version of Nick Fury. Her nefarious ways are in much more plain view in the previously mentioned Falcon and the Winter Soldier as well as Black Widow. But it’s still unclear what her endgame actually is. I mean is she a Skrull as seen in the comics? That remains to be seen.

The film’s runtime may turn off some folks and may hurt the film as a result of some needed editing. But to be honest, since it actually ties in with what’s going on with a few of the Disney+ shows, in particular Falcon and the Winter Soldier, it forgivable… if you have followed that at all.

Wakanda Forever looks like it’s aiming to be one of the better films of this phase of the MCU since Shang-Chi and Spider-Man No Way Home without the cameos (except one). 😉

That being said, I recommend this film especially at the dismay of misogynistic and homophobic naysayers… speaking of get over it. Gay people exist y’all and their inclusion especially when it’s not forced via existing straight characters will not kill you. And Coogler does so tastefully without blatant shows of same sex PDAs, which seem to be getting the hetero world’s panties in a bunch.

My vote:

It’s awesome! My faith in MCU restored.

I give it 3 out of 4 thumbs up!

Until Next Time Kiddies,

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