BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER (2022)
Film opens with the tragic passing of King T’Challa/The Black Panther (Chadwick Bosman) from an undisclosed illness that Shuri (Letitia Wright) tries desperately to save him from. As Wakanda mourns, the world begins to turn against the once hidden land for not sharing their precious vibranium. This leads to nations trying to either steal it or find their own. When a vibranium detecting device invented by a brilliant teenager (Dominique Thorne) locates some deep on the ocean floor, it incurs the wrath of the undersea kingdom of Talokan and its powerful mutant king Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejía). Wrath that soon turns towards Wakanda.
Superhero sequel is again directed by Ryan Coogler from his script with Joe Robert Cole. It pays heartfelt and emotional tribute to the late Chadwick Bosman, while trying to continue the story of Wakanda and The Black Panther without him. It is a heavy task, but one that is handled quite well, all things considered. It also makes it a very somber film as loss, mourning and the handling of one’s grief become major currents running through its 161-minute runtime. Even the film’s villain Namor is motivated by his own loss and his anger at the constant injustices committed by the surface world. It makes for a very serious and somewhat heavy superhero flick, though Coogler still balances it well with plenty of action and some epic battles. The cast all do strong work with Basset truly deserving of her recently won awards, almost carrying the film on her regal shoulders. Tenoch Huerta Mejía also gives us a strong villain, but one who’s motivations are not atypically sinister. Namor is trying to protect his people, by any means necessary. Yes, we do get a new Black Panther and Coogler leaves things with the series definitely having a direction to go in, with T’Challa’s legacy carrying on and further villainy lurking in the shadows. As with the first film there is a heavy influx of cultural background and visuals as Talokan is based on ancient Mayan culture just as Wakanda is on African. Overall, it may be a bit too solemn to be the fun ride that the first Black Panther film was, and the final confrontation with Namor was a bit lackluster, but considering they tragically lost their star and main character, Coogler keeps the series going and with some emotional resonance to go with it.