Monday 6 February 2023

REVIEW: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever - Starring Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong'o and Danai Gurira

Review by Jon Donnis
I wasn't much of a fan of the first Black Panther film, as it was pushed purely on identity politics as opposed to substance. In other words, "watch this film, or you are a racist", which is a terrible way to promote a film. So I was in no rush to watch Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, especially since the original star of the film, Chadwick Boseman had tragically died. Some have suggested that the franchise should have just been left alone after his death, but Hollywood rarely cares about sentiment when there is money to be made.

With all that said, I think it is worth seeing Wakanda Forever as a stand-alone film, forget about the fascist overtones of the original film, (race superiority, nationalistic tendencies, building a giant wall around your country to keep people out, refusing to share your technology, healthcare and so on with poorer nations around you), and instead really try to see this as a film in its own right. The general story has the leaders of Wakanda fighting to protect their nation in the wake of King T'Challa's death, from a bunch of blue Aquaman type people from the sea. 

The film starts with Shuri (Letitia Wright), the sister of the king of Wakanda, T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman who we obviously do not see outside of flashbacks from the first film), believing that a "heart-shaped plant" might heal the disease that is killing the monarch. After Erik Killmonger destroyed the herb, Shuri makes an unsuccessful attempt to synthetically recreate it before T'Challa passes away.

One year later, other countries are pressuring Wakanda to share its vibranium, and some people are trying to take it by force. Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett ) begs Shuri to carry on her research on the plant in an effort to produce a new Black Panther who will defend Wakanda, but Shuri declines since she thinks the Black Panther is a character from the past that needs to stay history. The CIA and U.S. Navy SEALs use a vibranium detector to find a prospective vibranium deposit underwater in the Atlantic Ocean. The CIA suspects Wakanda is to blame when a squad of blue-skinned, water-breathing superhumans led by Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejía) destroy the mission. Bypassing Wakanda's sophisticated security, Namor approaches Ramonda and Shuri. He accuses Wakanda of creating the vibranium detector.

He gives them an ultimatum, deliver him the scientist responsible for the vibranium detector, or he will attack Wakanda.

CIA agent Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) informs Shuri and Okoye (Danai Gurira) that the scientist in question is MIT student Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne), and they travel to the college to find her. The FBI and Namor's warriors are pursuing the group, and after Okoye is defeated, Shuri and Williams are taken underwater to meet Namor. Ramonda deprives Okoye of her position as general of the Dora Milaje in retaliation for her inability to defend Shuri and looks for Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o), who has been residing in Haiti since The Blip. Namor reveals to Shuri his vibranium-rich underwater realm of Talokan, which he has kept hidden from the rest of the world for generations. Namor suggests an alliance with Wakanda against the rest of the humanity because he is angry with the surface world for enslaving the Maya, but threatens to destroy Wakanda if they refuse.

The rest of the film is very much a battle between the Wakandans and the Talokans. With the blue people seemingly getting the upper hand in pretty much every battle. With us being told that the Wakandans were the superior race in the first film, seeing them face a bigger threat than themselves was welcoming, as it helped to humanize them and perhaps even humble them too.

This is a very female driven film, but it never feels forced, which is often the case. I thought that the cast stood tall, regardless of race or gender. This is very much a film for Letitia Wright, and she does a great job, and ultimately becomes the new Black Panther.

The Good
A decent if unoriginal story that seemed very separate from the rest of the Marvel films, which is a good thing in my opinion, and in many ways the film did away with a lot of the divisive rhetoric from the first film. Excellent visual effects as you would expect from Marvel. And strong performances from Letitia Wright and Tenoch Huerta Mejía.

The Bad
There is a question about if you should just leave well alone when a central character of a film has died. The Black Panther label feels like an anchor at times, and perhaps they should have separated themselves from that completely. Letitia Wright could have just battled to become Queen of Wakanda and basically ended up in the same place.

How do you have the excellent Martin Freeman in a film and give him such a small part, he works best when thrown into situations that the character is uncomfortable with. He brings the humour and light-hearted scenes that you need in a film like this. I felt he was sorely underused.

I did not like the first film, but I did enjoy this one, I thought it was miles better, it has a strong largely female cast. 

I score Black Panther: Wakanda Forever a strong 7.5/10

Out on Home Entertainment from February 15th, and you can pre-order at