Marvel’s Black Panther – Wakanda Forever, was a fitting sendoff to the incomparable Chadwick Boseman. The film had all the hallmarks of a great Marvel movie – humor, action, and heart. However, I couldn’t help but feel that it could have been more. There were moments when the film felt like it dragged on a bit too much. And while I understand that Boseman’s death is an integral part of the story, they could have dialed back on the constant references to it. That said, Namor was brilliantly done, and his backstory was thoughtfully crafted.
The Death of a Black Panther
The Black Panther franchise has always been unique, but Wakanda Forever will hold a special place in our hearts as it is forced to deal with the death of its titular character. Marvel has often had to recast characters, Rhodey in Iron Man, for example, is a perfect case in point, but this is the first time they’ve had to deal with the lead character of an entire franchise dying.
Marvel didn’t shy away from this death, though, and dealt with it right at the start of the film. Wakanda Forever is a sad movie, there’s no getting around that, and it’s made all the more poignant by the knowledge Chadwick Boseman is really gone. The film does its best to celebrate his life, but the title sequence is very different from previous Marvel properties and pays its own tribute to him.
Namor: The Black Panther of Atlantis
Marvel has always had a habit of introducing new characters in their films, and Wakanda Forever is no different. Namor, the Black Panther of Atlantis, makes his debut in the film and quickly establishes himself as a powerful force to be reckoned with. His introduction is handled well, and it’s clear that he will be a significant player in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the future. His throwaway comment, “I am a mutant,” too, is a clever nod to the X-Men, who are set to join the MCU in the near future.
Namor and the water-based Mayan culture he represents are a refreshing change of pace from the usual Wakandan and Tony Stark technological fare, and his scenes are some of the most visually stunning in the film. Unfortunately, his motivations are a bit vague, and it’s not entirely clear why he’s attacking Wakanda. His explanation for wanting them as allies seems valid, but his radical shift to making them the first to fall simply doesn’t make sense.
In fact, the whole premise of the film is a bit weird as he states he wants to kill the American scientist who created the Vibranium detector as that would help world powers find his people. He wants Wakandan help for this and is adamant they keep the secret of his people close to their chest. However, in the next breath, he admits to wanting to see the world burn and seems perfectly content with Wakanda being the first domino to fall.
His two-dimensional motivation is a letdown in what is otherwise a fitting sendoff to Chadwick Boseman. The film could have done more to explore his backstory and give him a bit more depth, but as it stands, he’s simply a villain who wants to destroy everything for the sake of destruction.
The death of T’Challa is handled well and is perhaps the most emotional part of the film. It’s a shame that the focus on his death overshadows much of the rest of the film, however. The constant harping on his death alone & the impact it was having on Shuri, and the Queen got to be too much and detracted from the underlying story.
The world powers trying to steal Vibranium makes sense based on what they know about it & also the fact that Vibranium is available outside Wakanda also makes sense. However, it does feel like a bit of a cop-out to have all of the major players be after the same thing. It would have been nice to see some variety in their motivations.
Overall, Black Panther – Wakanda Forever is a fitting tribute to Chadwick Boseman and a worthy addition to the MCU. It’s not without its flaws, but it’s an entertaining and moving film that sets up exciting things to come.
The film’s treatment of Boseman’s death is, unsurprisingly, its most controversial element. Wakanda Forever is dedicated to Boseman, who passed away from cancer in August 2020, and it’s clear that his loss was deeply felt by those involved with the movie. His death is addressed head-on in the film, with T’Challa’s sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) remarking at one point, “It feels like he’s, like, just gone on a really long trip.”
This honest approach is admirable, but it also means that Wakanda Forever is often quite sad. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – Boseman’s death is a tragedy, and it would be disingenuous to try to pretend otherwise – but at times, it feels like the movie is more about Boseman’s death than anything else.
The Next Panther
Boseman’s death left many wondering how Marvel would deal with this gap, and who would step into the role as the next Black Panther. Thankfully, they chose to keep Wakanda in the forefront and let Shuri take on the mantle of Black Panther. This was a smart move, as it allows Wakanda to stay at the story’s center, rather than simply being a backdrop for Boseman’s death.
Some people, however, left feeling like the film was incomplete (which is somewhat ironic considering its run time), and it’s hard to argue with that sentiment. Wakanda Forever feels more like an extended epilogue than a fully-fledged sequel. That being said, I think the film does an excellent job of honoring Boseman’s legacy and celebrating his life.
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