Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a heartbreakingly beautiful love letter to a Chadwick Boseman, a man gone too soon. There was so much riding on this story. These expectations could have crushed the overall vision. This movie could have been so many things. The fact that this is a Marvel entry could have set the story up for disaster. In the end, it is exactly what it needed to be.
Boseman’s legacy is absolutely everywhere in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Small details, like the iconic opening sequence being altered, prove that Boseman remains an integral part of this project. The core of the story is the impact that Boseman has left on this franchise and more broadly in the world. His presence is felt in every moment of the story. It’s clear that he will continue to be so loved.
Angela Bassett is really the heart and soul of this story. She is the vessel through which we are invited to not only explore grief but also what it means to move forward. This character could so easily be regulated to a Strong Female Character. Instead, she is able to show what an incredible leader she is and how she is able to lead her family and her nation in after such a devastating loss. While her story may be over for now, it would be a mistake to think that this is the last we’ve seen of Queen Ramonda in the multiverse.
Riri (Dominique Thorne) is a breath of fresh air to the MCU. She is the version of Iron Man that fans have always needed. There’s no redemption arc for a warlord in her story. Instead, she’s an idealistic teenager who is poised to take on the world. At her core, she is a deeply human hero whose life is just beginning. Viewers are privileged to watch her work out right from wrong in real-time. There’s so much potential in this character. This is only the beginning.
Namor (Tenoch Huerta) is one of the best versions of a Marvel character to date. Huerta is nothing less than magnetic. For a franchise that can’t construct compelling villains or anti-heroes to save its life, this is a welcome change. This character has motivations that can be so well understood. It’s hard to fault him for taking any of the actions that he does. The only complaint to be made is that we don’t get to spend more time with him.
Winston Duke provides both the comedy and the heart in this story. His story could have gone off the rails completely. This would have been an opportunity for Marvel to hit the audience with all the one-liners possible when the emotional story was getting just a little too intense. Instead, M’Baku is also allowed to be vulnerable and show the depth of his love for his people.
It is a shame that the story didn’t focus more on Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o). Of course, every part of her story is enthralling. The fact that she’s in the background for so much of the story allows the audience to feel her grief more deeply. It’s such a natural response, wanting to withdraw and start a new life after such a devastating loss.
If there’s anything that doesn’t work about Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, it’s much of the explicitly Marvel content. The Ross (Martin Freeman) and (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) storyline goes nowhere and seems shoehorned into the movie. There was no compelling reason for there to be any focus on these two characters. Instead, it’s a jarring reminder to the audience that yes, this is a Marvel movie.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a love letter to Chadwick Boseman and his legacy. Rather than focusing on quippy one-liners, the focus is on how Boseman impacted these stories and how they will continue in the future. The stage is set for the future of Wakanda, the Black Panther, and each of these beloved characters. The future is bright.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is available to stream on Disney+.