Aside from the animated What If series, the last time we saw T’Challa was at the close of 2019’s Avengers: Endgame at Tony Stark’s funeral. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (hereafter Wakanda Forever) begins with T’Challa’s funeral.
Several reviewers have complained about the run time of Wakanda Forever, even though almost everyone agreed that this film had a significant burden on its shoulders. It had to explain what has happened in Wakanda and incorporate the real-life, real-universe death of Chadwick Boseman, who played T’Challa in four previous MCU films and several episodes of the aforementioned What If series. Many also felt it needed to bring some sanity to the disjointed Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Since Endgame, several years have passed. In the intervening time, T’Challa has contracted a fast-acting disease, and Shuri (Letitia Wright), who, to this point, has been unable to re-create a synthetic Heart-Shaped Herb, is desperately trying to cure her brother. She fails, and her brother dies because she doesn’t have the Heart-Shaped Herb, artificial or natural.
This is an example of how Ryan Coogler, as director, story author, and co-screenwriter with Joe Robert Cole, avoids taking shortcuts in weaving the tapestry that is Wakanda Forever. Coogler and Cole could have easily written around the total destruction of the Heart-Shaped Herb by Killmonger. Instead, they constructed a story element that incorporated an explanation.
Queen Ramonda, who has become the reigning monarch in the wake of T’Challa’s death, implores Shuri to recreate the Heart-Shaped Herb, but Shuri is still grieving her brother’s death, and we learn she doesn’t really believe in the Ancestral Plane. Ramonda is concerned that Wakanda will be attacked by outside forces trying to obtain vibranium.
Instead, Wakanda is threatened by a civilization unbeknownst to them. Namor, the leader of an underwater society known as Talokan, appears to Ramonda and Shuri. He tells them that vibranium was not only in The Great Mound of Wakanda but also under the sea in his nation. It seems the countries of the surface are not only trying to exploit Wakanda but Talokan as well. Namor wants Wakanda to ally with Talokan against the surface worlds, but Ramonda is reluctant.
Coogler and Cole’s storytelling is enhanced by the return of several Academy Award winners. Ruth E. Carter returns as Costume Designer, and Hannah Beachler as Production Designer. Ludwig Göransson’s score is weaved with songs from Rihanna and Baaba Maal.
I think of the film as a series of chapters, each dealing with a separate part of the overall story. One section of the story introduces Dominque Thorne as Riri Williams. A second section introduces Tenoch Huerta Mejía as Namor, Mabel Cadena as Namora, Alex Livinalli as Attuma, and the people of Talokan. A third section features Martin Freeman returning as CIA agent Everett Ross and a character we know but didn’t expect, which expands upon what we know about that character. Coogler and Cole weave all of this together with stories from Wakanda onto a grand tapestry.
The opening of Wakanda Forever is a moving tribute to T’Challa and the actor who played him. However, the film’s closing moments and the mid-credits scene will absolutely rip your heart out.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is rated PG-13 for sequences of strong violence, action, and some language. It’s playing in theatres now.
I’m not unbiased, but I rate the movie a solid 10 out of 10, the equivalent of five stars. I recommend you see it. Now, it’s up to you to decide.