Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

This time out Black Panther is all about the women with Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett, Danai Gurira, Dominique Thorne, and Letitia Wright being the main focuses of the story. Ryan Coogler (Creed, Fruitvale Station) is back as director and co-screenwriter and he definitely does not just move on from the first film. The opening scenes of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a touching tribute to Chadwick Boseman. His spirit and King T’Challa/Black Panther hangs over the film for 2 hours and 40 minutes.

Good films either realistically depict the human condition or build a world of their own creation. Here we get both but the emphasis is really on the creation of a world that you can lose yourself in. The visuals are stunning with crisp cinematography by Autumn Durald Arkapaw (Teen Spirit, Palo Alto) and stunning costumes by Oscar-winner Ruth E. Carter (Black Panther, Dolemite is My Name). Though I have bitched a lot about how needlessly long films have become of late and I was wary due to the over two-and-a-half-hour runtime of the film, I was pleasantly surprised that I only looked at my watch once while watching. It is an absorbing film. Just as watchable as the first one which I am sure plenty of fans of Black Panther were worried about after the death of Boseman, who was really the heart of the first film.

Yes, this is a superhero/Marvel film, so there are plenty of fight scenes but also plenty of moments chock full of emotions. Coogler has become a master at balancing the two. Another great decision by Coogler was to not recast the Black Panther part. That does not mean that there is no Black Panther here. You just have to watch it to find out how it is handled.

Princess Shuri (Letitia Wright – Sing 2, Avengers: Endgame), despite her brilliance, is not able to save her beloved brother T’Challa, the king of Wakanda and the Black Panther. After his death, her mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett – What’s Love Got to Do With It, Contact) becomes queen of the powerful nation. The family’s troubles do not end there. Other countries (France and The U.S.) want to get their hands on Wakanda’s vibranium. Queen Ramonda holds strong. But the pressure does stop there.

A new nation enters the picture. One that has stayed hidden and is maybe even more powerful than Wakanda. The Talokan, led by the powerful Namor (Tenoch Huerta – from television’s Narcos: Mexico), are an underwater people. They too have some vibranium and for obvious reasons, they want to stay hidden.

Namor and his people force Ramonda, Shuri, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave, The 355), Okoye (Danai Gurira – Avengers: Infinity War, All Eyez on Me), and MIT student Riri (Dominique Thorne – If Beale Street Could Talk, Judas and the Black Messiah) are called upon to show strength they never thought they possessed.

There are some cool cameos by Trevor Noah (from television’s The Daily Show) as the voice of AI Griot, Martin Freeman (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The World’s End) as Agent Ross, Michaela Coel (from television’s I May Destroy You) as Aneka, Lake Bell (In a World…, No Strings Attached) as Dr. Graham, Anderson Cooper as himself, T. Love (from television’s The Walking Dead) as M’Bele, Julia Louis-Dreyfus (from television’s Seinfeld) as Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, Michael B. Jordan (Fantastic Four, Just Mercy) as Killmonger, and Richard Schiff (Man of Steel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park) as the U.S. Secretary of State.