Movie Review: “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”


Credit: The official "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" on YouTube

WSPN’s Reva Datar discusses her thoughts on the newly released movie “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”

Reva Datar

When the film “Black Panther” came out in 2018, it was a groundbreaking moment everywhere in the world because, finally, an industry previously devoid of color at all gave black people some strength and representation.

Chadwick Boseman, who played King T’Challa, the Black Panther, brought strength to the role. His performance in the film kept us at the edge of our seats while educating us and inspiring us. He played other notable roles throughout his career, like Thurgood Marshall, the first black Supreme Court Justice, in the film “Marshall.” So, when the actor suddenly passed away at age 43 in 2020 after battling colon cancer, we realized he would no longer be bringing his storytelling skills into the world. Through the grief and mourning of Boseman, we were all left wondering: who would be the new Black Panther?

More than anything, I was glad that Ryan Coogler, the director of “Wakanda Forever,” decided not to recast Boseman’s character for the second movie. Rather, he tells the story of the rise of a new Black Panther. But before continuing the story of the next Black Panther, the film honors the late king.

The first two minutes of the movie had me in tears. In the first scene, Shuri, played by Letitia Wright, T’Challa’s younger sister, is panicking, trying to save T’Challa’s life. Ultimately, she isn’t able to, and the king passes away. In the film, T’Challa dies of an unspecified illness. In any other film this lack of specificity would be questioned and speculated about, but here, there was no room to argue. T’Challa’s death in the plot couldn’t have been explained in any other way, for Boseman’s passing was too dear and too painful.

After a mourning period at the beginning of the movie, the story picks up again, though the feeling of grief is still present. While Shuri and other Wakandans mourn T’Challa, the new plot ensues. K’uk’ulkan, also known as Namor and played by Tenoch Huerta, is the leader of an underwater civilization, Talokan. Talokan’s inhabitants are of supposed Aztec descent, who moved to water after Spanish colonizers persecuted them on their land. After fleeing underwater, their bodies adapted over generations, and they survived in the new environment. Namor, unlike his fellow citizens, doesn’t take on this blue color. He is immortal, and his parents were both humans. After losing his mother during a Spanish attack and witnessing the attacks on his people some 400 years ago, Namor is full of vengeance and hatred for the colonizers.

Talokan is a powerful civilization that has the fictional metal vibranium, like Wakanda. A young MIT student named Riri Williams invented a vibranium detector that blew the cover of the underwater city, exposing its existence and its power. Namor’s path eventually crosses with the Wakandans when he is desperate to capture Riri. However, Shuri gets a hold of the student first to protect her from Namor. Namor tells Shuri to either become his ally or his enemy, which would mean a war between the two civilizations. Shuri declines the alliance, and Namor feels betrayed.

Meanwhile, Shuri’s mother, Ramonda, played by Angela Bassett, is the queen of Wakanda. When she hears Namor kidnapped Shuri and Riri, Ramonda makes a conniving plan to save them and enlists the help of Nakia, played by Lupita Nyong’o, a love interest of T’Challa. Namor is angered, yet again, by the escape of his two hostages. He and his army attack Wakanda in hopes of eliminating their only legitimate threat. During the attack, Ramonda loses her life, and all of a sudden, another leader has died.

This leaves Shuri distressed, seeking revenge not just for her brother but for her mother as well. She realizes that she has to assume her position as the new leader of Wakanda and also that in order to defeat Namor, she must covet the strength of the Black Panther, and she does.

We all saw that coming, in a way. It made sense that Shuri would be the new Black Panther, though the path to get there was full of emotion and passion, showing her battles with grief that we usually don’t see in these action-filled Marvel movies.

Shuri becoming the new Black Panther was symbolic, as was Ramonda’s leadership and Nakia’s courage. This movie was painful at times with the death of T’Challa, and the man who brought his character to life: Boseman. However, it also celebrated a group of people that society often overlooks.

The Black women in this film were the epicenter of power and strength. They lead their nation through loss and conflict. Though their characters were fictional, I found myself admiring them and anticipating a time when people would elect women like them to higher positions of political power.

This movie highlighted black women having power. It also showed those from an American, pre-colonial background who endured the violence of colonizers. The film gave strength to groups that society has diminished while giving a beautiful tribute to Boseman. It was refreshing. It was undoubtedly a 10/10.

The first “Black Panther” movie will alway be special to me, and not even this movie can surpass it, as amazing as it is. It’s without a doubt that all Marvel fans should watch this movie, as it captures a level of emotion that a lot of other movies in the Marvel cinematic universe missed.

Of course, when watching a Marvel movie, you have to stay until after the credits to see the whole thing. I won’t completely spoil that part, but here’s what we know for sure: Black Panther will return.