Ryan Coogler struck golden vibranium with Black Panther back in 2018, breaking box office records and receiving high critical praise. Not only that, Coogler and Chadwick Boseman created an excellent addition to the MCU. Four years later and after the snap, Coogler is back with a great yet long sequel with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever that impresses on every technical level with some wonderful and emotional performances that pay a perfect tribute to the late Boseman. With action-packed sequences and another fantastic villain, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a solid entry into the MCU, despite its overlong 161-minute runtime. Recommended!
Marvel and Disney listened to audiences from the first film and have brought yet another wonderful and true villain to the MCU with Namor (Tenoch Huerta), making him relatable and having a true cause for his viciousness, even if it seems a bit intense. Taking place a year after T'Challa passes, Wakanda Forever touches on the grief of his family and close ones. Shuri (Letita Wright) his fun-loving and technological wizard sister is still picking up the pieces and trying to synthesize the Vibranium in order to create a new protector of Wakanda. Her mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) has assumed the role of Queen again and is ruling Wakanda in peace, ensuring the remote Vibranium sites around the world are safe. Director Ryan Coogler shows the dedication and grieving influences that cause the Queen and Shuri to make the decisions they make, while still honoring T'challa.
When an American elite team led by an awesome Lake Bell drills into the ocean floor for Vibranium, a new species never before seen in the MCU appears that comically resembles the Naavi from James Cameron's Avatar franchise. They are not friendly and use their intelligence and superhuman strength to cause mass casualties in an attempt to stop the drilling of a new Vibranium site by violence and a siren call that eerily sounds like a chant from Ari Aster's Midsommar film. While every intelligence agency believes Wakanda to be behind the attacks, it's clear that this new watery species aims to wage war on the land people if their identity is not kept secret and they don't capture the person responsible for creating the Vibrainum drill machine, which is a young, intelligent college student named Riri Williams (Dominque Thorne) who has a ton of Tony Stark traits.
Ryan Coogler deftly navigates why the villain Namor believes he is right in his actions, similar to how Michael B. Jordan portrayed and acted on his anger and vengeance with his amazing performance as Killmonger. Not only does Wakanda Forever showcase what Wakanda has been up to over the past couple of years, but it also touches the history and realizations of the ancient underwater species known as the Talokan. It's easy to see why Namor and his people want to remain anonymous, but Coogler allows for some different takes and twists that would make the audience happier this time around in regard to how everything plays out. And it works well and leaves a ton of elements up for exploration in future films.
The underwater visuals are pretty impressive as are the Talokan people despite some silly visuals and their high resemblance to the upcoming Disney blockbuster Avatar 2. If James Cameron and company ever wanted to get the world ready for the Avatar sequel, it's with Wakanda Forever, because the similarities are uncanny. Also, Coogler only mentions by name a couple of the Avengers here, but this is very much a Black Panther film that is focused on the grieving loved ones of T'Challa, therefore the big world-building that's usually seen in the MCU is not present, for better or worse. That being said, there is ample time spent with Shuri trying to overcome her anger and sadness over her brother's passing, which is seen in the first scene that is highly emotional, despite a thought of what might be shown on Corn-Cob TV.
Letita Wright is a shining example of an emotional and impactful performance. She just nails every scene with ferocity and charm as she struggles with her decisions on who she is to be. Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) mirrors that sadness and anger as Okoye (Danai Gurira) feel the same as their paths transform into something bigger and better as this franchise pushes forward. M'Baku (Winston Duke) provides some good comic relief, even if it's short-lived. There are not many comedy or funny sequences in this sequel, where most of its 161-minute run-time plays out on a serious note, which causes the time to crawl at times. a couple of familiar faces do show up, but again, they are short on time but do promise future screen time in more films.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is only in theaters - You can order your tickets Here. As is the case with recent Pandemic-era Disney/Marvel releases so far, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will soon premier on Disney+ before being available to purchase on disc.
Coogler has conjured a good sequel even though it's too long for its own good. He's packed some good action beats, another great villain, and some wonderful performances inside Wakanda Forever while paying an exquisite and emotional tribute to Chadwick Boseman. There's a grande and sweet mid-credit sequence as well that just brings everything full circle in a wonderful way. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a worthy sequel, but could have had some scenes left on the cutting room floor to keep its runtime tighter to allow for a better flow. Recommended!