With the previous triumph and critical acclaim of “Black Panther” (2018), Marvel’s sequel “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (2022) had high expectations from fans and critics alike. These expectations have only risen due to Marvel’s recent drop in movie quality, as many fans have been disappointed by “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” (2022), “Thor Love and Thunder” (2022), “The Eternals” (2021), the list goes on. These factors, along with the tragic loss of the original Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman, left many fans (myself included) concerned about the future of this superhero franchise.
However, after seeing the sequel myself, my faith in Black Panther’s future was restored, as the second film is just as triumphant as the first. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” uses many aspects of its predecessor that made fans fall in love with the series. The problems that colonialism imposes on minorities remain the focus of the series, and the film opens with Wakanda trying to protect his vibranium from being stolen by Western countries.
After the death of their king and Black Panther, Wakanda and the royal family are vulnerable to attack. Many countries clamor for the chance to plunder the country’s vibranium supply. However, when the United States scours the Atlantic Ocean in search of the powerful metal, they upset an ancient and secretive people using underwater vibranium deposits. The American ship is attacked by blue-skinned water people, and Wakanda is shocked to discover that there is vibranium outside of his country.
The film’s anti-hero, Namor, played by Tenoch Huerta, is the ruler of the blue-skinned aquatic beings. His people, the Talokan, are ancient Mesoamerican peoples who suffered from diseases brought by Europeans in the past and fled their destruction with a gift that turned them into aquatic beings. Wakanda and Talokan have a lot in common, as they both use the gift of vibranium and have been hiding from the world’s sight for some time. But when Namor intimidates the Wakandan royal family after the US robbery attempt, a conflict ensues between Talokan and Wakandan.
Now a word of warning, don’t go see the new Black Panther movie if you’re not prepared to shed a tear or two in public. Neither I nor my roommate could help but cry for most of the duration of the movie. We weren’t alone in this fight though, as most of the theater could be heard sobbing multiple times. As for me, I counted eight separate times in which my eyes filled with tears. Between the moment of silence, Marvel’s intro dedicated to the late Chadwick Boseman, and having to watch King T’Challa’s family cope with the loss of their leader, brother, and son, the film was highly charged with emotions in occasions.
For example, in the film’s opening sequence, we see Princess Shuri (played by Letitia Wright) rush to concoct a new heart-shaped herb for her brother who is terminally ill somewhere offscreen. Ultimately, she is unsuccessful in her efforts and she must deal with the crushing weight of her failure to save her now deceased brother. This scene sets the grim context for the rest of the movie and prepares its audience for many more tears and loss to come.
The CGI is just as impressive, if not more, than the previous Black Panther movie. Many of Marvel’s new efforts have struggled when it comes to special effects, but aside from a few slightly wonky shots, the CGI in this movie was impressive as usual. The film’s stunning visual effects take shape in Shuri’s journey through the underwater kingdom of Talokan. Here, Marvel takes every opportunity to showcase the talents of its VFX artists and how advanced special effects technology has become in recent years. With this underwater kingdom, audiences are shown a beautifully crafted scene that took months of hard work, which only gives us a greater appreciation for the hard work of the set designers and VFX artists behind the film.
While the CGI in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” showed numerous possibilities for new uses of technology, these new perspectives were not used to create a digitized version of Chadwick Boseman. At no point in the film do we see a CGI Boseman cheer on his sister in her attempts to fill the leadership void he left behind. The only time we see or hear King T’Challa is during flashbacks from the previous movie when one of his loved ones remembers fond memories of him. I feel like this was the best decision the producers and studio could have made in dealing with the loss of Boseman. Fans of other sci-fi movies know plenty of other franchises (I’m looking at you, Star Wars) that would jump at the chance to show off their special effects muscle by adding a digitally recreated version of a deceased actor. This absence adds to the emotional weight of the film as a whole, and this fact allows the audience to feel what it is like for Wakandans to have lost their Black Panther, while also honoring the memory of Chadwick Boseman.
With the introduction of Namor as the first mutant on Marvel’s Earth 616 (since the multiverse is now open, this is the Earth where all the Avengers hail from), fans of the franchise get their first look at the potential future of the X- Men in the Marvel universe. The coronation of the new Black Panther along with the film’s end credits scene also gives insight into the future of the superhero and his succession as protector of Wakanda.
Overall, the movie was certainly a roller coaster of emotions. It was well worth the wait and the price of a ticket, with beautifully executed CGI that looks best on the big screen. The film’s gripping plot excites me for what the future holds for Black Panther and the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.