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Friday, September 29, 2023
September 29 , 2023

“Black Panther” sequel rises above expectations, serves as a touching tribute

Warning: Spoilers ahead. Proceed with caution.

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is arguably Marvel’s biggest film release of 2022. Movies like “Multiverse of Madness” and “Thor: Love and Thunder” fell flat with Marvel fans and audiences have been itching for something better.

The first “Black Panther” film released in 2017 was Marvel’s first solo project with a Black lead — the late Chadwick Boseman. The film received widespread praise and Boseman was continually featured in sequential Marvel projects following his first appearance in “Captain America: Civil War.”

However, many were shocked to learn Boseman died of cancer in 2020. A tragic death, fans were left to wonder how Marvel could honor someone with such skill and talent.

In May 2021, Marvel Studios announced the “Black Panther” sequel, leaving fans both excited and worried. With Marvel’s prior history of replacing actors, many hoped this would not be the case.

After watching the movie, I can safely say that Marvel did all it could to honor Boseman’s legacy. As the Marvel title card plays in silence, the letters on the screen are all purple as viewers silently watch vignettes of Boseman as T’challa.

In the film, T’challa’s death comes suddenly and his death is commemorated with a joyous ceremony, with all of Wakanda dancing in white and playing joyful music as they believe T’challa has passed on to the ancestors. Shuri (Letitia Wright) looks solemn and sad, not ready to let go like it is expected of her.

This latest Marvel film introduces fans to new characters — Namor or K’uk’ulkan (Tenoch Huerta) and the Talokanil, blue-skinned people who live underwater and behave like sirens. The first introduction to the Talokanil people is a harrowing one, as their siren song drives people to literally jump ship.

Another interesting character is Riri Williams, or Ironheart. A young genius who builds the most powerful suit since Ironman, fans will get to see her storyline continue in the upcoming Disney+ series “Ironheart,” set to release next year.

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“Wakanda Forever” is littered with surprising moments. The death of Queen Ramonda, like T’challa’s, comes without warning and feels like a punch to the gut. And few viewers could guess that Shuri would see Killmonger in her visit to the ancestral plane, confirming that her actions were driven by the wrong motives.

And yet, the biggest surprise comes not during the movie, but after. In the mid-credit scene, when Shuri goes to Haiti with Nakia, she and the entire audience meet someone unexpected — T’challa’s son and Shuri’s nephew, Prince T’challa.

This revelation means there is someone to carry on the royal line and her brother’s name, marking an open-ended future for Wakanda. In typical Marvel fashion, “Wakanda Forever” ends leaving viewers with more questions than answers.

The film was truly about handling death and grief in the face of hardship, something that resonated with the loss of Boseman in 2020.

Although unexpected, these themes were perfectly suited to honor Boseman’s legacy and make it clear that no one could replace him. The film’s imagery, music and overall feeling was very similar to its predecessor, but unlike any other film in Marvel’s Phase 4.

The portrayal of Talokan and Namor as Ancient Mayan was a beautiful example of celebrating typically underrepresented cultures in Marvel films. It has failed to do so in the past, especially with the Americanization of The Scarlet Witch’s character, which diluted her Jewish and Romani roots. This was a perfect film to introduce these characters in, as audiences were already used to the Wakandan dialogue and music.

The only gripe I have with it is its pacing. Most of Marvel’s Phase 4 projects feel very fast, lacking exposition or comedy and getting right into high-stakes conflict. Although this was less present in the film, it still felt a bit rushed when certain key events occurred. One such example was Shuri becoming Black Panther relatively late into the movie when we could have seen a lot more of her fighting and strength.

Pacing aside, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is truly Phase 4’s most seamless, visually stunning and poignant project. Honoring Boseman’s legacy while allowing Shuri to grow and take on the Black Panther mantle was the best decision Marvel could have taken to continue the story of Black Panther and Wakanda.

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