Saturday, November 12, 2022

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever - Movie Review

The Movie: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

The Director: Ryan Coogler

The Cast: Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke, Florence Kasumba, Dominique Thorne, Michaela Coel, Tenoch Huerta Mejía, Martin Freeman, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Angela Bassett

The Story: The people of Wakanda fight to protect their home from intervening world powers as they mourn the death of King T'Challa.

The Review:
The original Black Panther changed the course of Marvel movies, it changed the course of comic book movies, it changed the course of blockbuster movies, and it changed the course of movies so yeah, no pressure on creating a follow up, especially when the man who played the lead and title character is no sadly longer with us. Director and co-writer Ryan Coogler's story was already going to be about loss and grief thanks to the fallout of everything that took place in the Avengers movies, Infinity War and Endgame and then that was taken to a completely different contect with the passing of Mr Chadwick Boseman.

I honestly don't know if this could have been a better cinematic experience. It's a fitting tribute to Boseman that honors both the man and the character he portrayed and it is a cathartic experience for all of us both in the context of our relationship with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and in the context of what we have collectively dealt with as human beings over the last couple years. The experience may not match some of the more fast paced and action packed entries from the Marvel franchise but it does hold its own within the boundaries of what the story has to offer so I don't feel like it's less than any other movie although it is very different.

Aside from the primary themes that I mentioned, there is a heck of a lot more going on in this movie as Coogler and company are also responsible for introducing new characters and moving the overall MCU story forward in meaningful ways. Fans of Namor have been waiting for his MCU arrival for some time and the payoff has definitely been worth it as Tenoch Huerta Mejía delivers a strong effort as the film's primary antagonist. Where the story gets a bit muddled is when more and more existing characters are added into the mix, not going to name names so this can stay spoiler free, but at times it feels like the need to integrate so much of the MCU bogs down the story and pulls you out of the heavier, more impactful themes.

It was great to see Letitia Wright as Shuri, Lupita Nyong'o as Nakia, Danai Gurira as Okoye, and Angela Bassett as Ramonda all returning and getting significantly more screen time than they did in the first movie as each of them could carry their own Marvel movie if given the opportunity. The evolution of their characters each took huge steps forward both as super heroes and as emotionally damaged human beings and for me, that's where the real heart of the story came through in very powerful ways, even moreso than the big action sequences or good versus evil type struggles.

Just like with the first film, the look and feel of the entire movie is so brilliantly colorful and textured, it is just begging to be watched on the big screen just for all of that let alone the bigger spectacle aspects of the movie. I don't think there was ever any doubt that Ruth E. Carter would be returning as the costume designer after the award winning work she turned in with the firt movie. Everything in this movie is just as stunning to look at if not even more so with the addition of the Aztec influenced designs brought to life for Namor and his people.

Composer Ludwig Göransson also returns to the production and his work fits in and progresses the storylines and themes perfectly in conjunction with the magic he created with the first movie's score. Also on board is Rihanna with her brand new song Lift Me Up which had already quickly become my new favorite song and then, adding it to the context of this movie and wow. Yeah, I shed a few tears around those moments and probably a few others.

As a matter of fact, here's the video for Lift Me Up:

Overall, I feel like this movie is a better emotional and structural companion to The Eternals than any other film or series in the Phase four roster of content as Coogler takes his time and lets the audience sit with the story, he lets every emotion marinate to it's full potential, and he lets every character have the proper time for their individual stories to play out. This isn't what we typically have come to expect from MCU movies and comic book movies in general and that's perectly okay. This story needed that level of depth and attentiveness to properly honor the material, the characters, and the man himself, the dearly departed Mr. Chadwick Boseman.

Maybe some people won't connect with the movie because it doesn't fit neatly into the MCU box we are all used to and that's perfectly okay. Over time, Wakanda Forever will be appreciated more and more for how well it honors what it needs to honor while delicately setting up the characters we love for what the future may have in store for them. For so many different reasons, this is the movie we needed right now so thank you to Ryan Coogler, the cast, the crew, and every single person who had anything to do with putting it together, the love, compassion, and reverence all come through in the most appropriate of ways.

The Verdict:
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is the best movie of the year, it is the best movie of the MCU's phase four roster of films, and it is the best way to honor and pay tribute to a fallen legend.

RIP Chadwick Boseman

Wakanda Forever

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