Black Panther: Wakanda Forever MOVIE REVIEW - from grief to hope in this impactfully healing eulogy

Director: Ryan Coogler; Starring: Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira, Tenoch Huerta, Angela Bassett, Winston Duke, Lupita Nyong'o.



Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a story of loss, a tale of grief and anger at a world that seems to do nothing but take more and more away; however, more than any of this, Wakanda Forever is about finding hope when it seems so far distant. The film embraces the act of mourning, never shying away from Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman's impact on the MCU and the fictional nation of Wakanda itself. Boseman's death weighs heavily on every scene — the Marvel Studios prologue and title slides demonstrate this especially, with an emotionally charged remembrance that left my theater more silent than did the ending of Avengers: Infinity War. Wakanda Forever revels in its vibrancy and shirks the MCU formulaic approach to deliver a genuinely raw and memorable experience that serves as both a eulogy and hopeful promise for a brighter future.



The acting takes centerstage in Wakanda Forever with powerful performances across the board that are undoubtedly supplemented by real-life bereavement. Wright and Bassett especially steal the show with emotionally intense and unrestrained approaches; however, this is not to overshadow Huerta's stunning turn as Namor, which deviates from his more apathetic and ego-centric comics counterpart. The MCU twist on Namor sees him as a mesoamerican king, one with deep roots that somehow connect his kingom to that of Wakanda, introducing a unique and ultimately satisfying dynamic to the two civilizations. Wakanda Forever also demonstrates a heavier focus on Okoye and her sisters, the Dora Milaje. Okoye is not exempt from the film's intense approach to bereavement and this serves to humanize her and instill her with more history than we've previously been given; this very much reminded me of Ibi Zoboi's Okoye to the People: A Black Panther Novel and how it explores the constant conflict between duty and love that exists within Okoye.



Wakanda Forever, aside from the many avenues of amazing I could pursue here, shines as a deviation from the MCU formula. There is still action — and oh how beautiful the fight choreography truly is — and the humor is still there — I often guffawed suddenly through curtains of tears — but Wakanda Forever embraces its inherent tragedy and finds the beauty within by presenting a story built brick-by-brick with heartache. There is a desperation for hope and light that permeates the story and elevates it beyond the good vs evil conflict so well engrained in the circus of capes-and-cowls. Rather than hero vs villain, we get to see heroes battle their own anger at loss, their own despair and guilt.



I went into this film knowing it would be emotional but I was not prepared for the powerhouse awaiting me in that theater. Though I went in with little to no knowledge of Namor — aside from an overabundance of sympathy for Mr. Fantastic (if you know, you know) — Wakanda Forever manages to pique my interest through its empathetic and complex portrayal of the Sub-Mariner. The more character driven aspects of the film reminded me of Ta-Nehisi Coates' vibrantly intricate take on Wakanda and its people in Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, a storyline rife with complexities and emotional weight. All in all, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a must-see film that builds a story of hope and healing upon a foundation of suffering. If good art makes its viewer feel something, then Wakanda Forever is one of the most impactful pieces of art I've viewed in recent memory; I'd highly recommend you find out for yourself.


 

Austin Kemp read Batman #315 (Batman vs Kite Man) when he was 5 years old, and hasn't stopped reading comics since. Austin is a college writing teacher and has a masters degree in Comics Studies. Austin and his partner, Savanah, live in Massachusetts with their master, a cat named Chaplin.

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