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(Movie Review) Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever

The late Chadwick Boseman thrilled audiences around the world in 2018 in the first Black Panther film, with his portrayal of T'Challa, the ruler of Wakanda.   It was perfect casting, as the actor's own nobility, charm, grace, and charisma poured through in every scene.  The rest of the cast was also tremendous with stellar performances from Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, and Angela Bassett, among others.  The movie was directed and co-written by Ryan Coogler, and when you added it all together, the result is one of the biggest highlights of the MCU.  It was a movie that had much more weight than a typical Marvel story.  It should have been the start of a long series of adventures with Boseman as the title character.

However, it was not to be, when the world was shocked to hear in August 2020 that Boseman died following a four-year battle with colon cancer.  Most people didn't even know he was sick in the first place, and his loss remains devastating.  One had to ask if that would be the end of the Black Panther franchise, or if Marvel would be brazen enough to recast the role.  Fortunately, the answer to both questions is "no," as audiences now flock to theaters to see Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever.

Boseman/T'Challa's death hits hard right out of the gate, and his presence looms large over the rest of the film.  The struggle of processing loss is the strongest theme in this movie.  There's also discussion of protecting your home and loved ones.   However, the idea of picking up the pieces after a loved one's passing is the key point.  It's a much more emotional journey than one might expect from a Marvel film.  Letitia Wright steps up in the lead role as Shuri, and she handles the spotlight well.  Shuri is lost without her brother and suffering from major questions about her identity now that he's gone.  The Black Panther universe will be in good hands if Wright keeps the top spot.

All of the other returning actresses are also terrific again, each with their own challenges in a post-T'Challa world.  These are strong women who mourn, but they will also out-think and out-fight anyone who threatens them.  Speaking of enemies, Tenoch Huerta is fine as Namor, the leader of a underwater civilization who says he will either work with Wakanda or remove it from the map.  Namor is a little on the generic side.  Watching Aquaman with a violent streak isn't the most gripping experience.  However, his motives for his actions make sense, and that makes him a touch more interesting.

No spoilers here, but the story is basically about whether or not vibranium exists outside of Wakanda.  It's a thoughtful geopolitical drama with a strong layer of racism to it.  Now, the film is 161 minutes long, so you're making a commitment, but it's not like the movie drags at any point.   It's easy to find at least 15 minutes that could have been cut.  However, the slower periods do give things a little time to breathe before the next action sequence begins.   Of course, make sure you stick around for the post-credits scene.  Definitely can't miss that.

It's hard not to still wish we could have seen what Ryan Coogler reportedly had in mind for a Boseman-focused sequel.  It apparently would have involved T'Challa dealing with the aftermath of being gone from his people for five years after Thanos snapped him and others out of existence.  It still seems surreal that we'll never see the brilliant actor perform again.  However, it's clear that Marvel made the right call by not putting a new actor in the role. That would have been terribly unfair to Boseman's successor, and the women of Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever, clearly have things under control as they move forward.  We're looking forward to seeing where the story goes next.

 

Black Panther 2  November 2022The Black Panther lives.  (pic via imdb.com)

 

 

 

 

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