(No major spoilers, but some story beats must be addressed to critique the film.)
I had the pleasure of watching Black Panther: Wakanda Forever with my daughter Thursday evening, opening night. The film instantly established that they were not going to gloss over Chadwick Boseman’s unfortunate passing. In fact, his death, obviously along with T’Challa’s, drove the heart and soul of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
That’s not to say the movie only focused on T’Challa’s death, but the plot’s circumstances arose both due to his absence and because of his actions during life. Serious character evolution occurred because of his death as well. This is the greatest compliment I can give Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. It did not try to pretend like nothing happened; it instead leaned into the tragic reality and told a story rooted in heartache.
And the film was indeed somber. It would have felt inappropriate otherwise. There were some light moments, to be sure, and I wouldn’t describe the film as dark–not at all. But there was palpable grief throughout the film, as there should be. However, thankfully, the film processed that grief, which ultimately allowed the audience to process it as well.
So, the movie did indeed hit all of the appropriate emotional notes and served as a potent requiem for Chadwick Boseman. But with that being said, was it any good?
Yes, it was good, but it was not great. Perhaps my opinion will change as time goes on and I see it a few more times, but while they nailed the story tackling grief, I do not feel they delivered on the full potential of Namor and his people. Furthermore, several characters forced into the storyline felt superfluous and slowed the movie down. I love Riri Williams’ character and I believe she has a radiant future in the MCU, but she literally did not need to be in the film. The same honestly goes for Everett Ross. The plot easily could have expelled those two with no problems. There’s a third character connected to Ross that, while I love, absolutely did nothing relevant, either.
I do want to once more commend their direction with Namor. Again, while I think they took a routine path with him, they did it with great panache. The creative team clearly understood the Aquaman comparisons were unavoidable, and so they made his underwater scenes look radically different, far more organic, and a lot more textured. I found his backstory fascinating as well. I just wish they had taken a different approach for his conflict with Wakanda.
In the end, that’s my only real complaint about Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Though a beautiful film with complex emotional moments, it didn’t surprise me. It did everything you expected it to do. I can imagine they were under immense stress to deliver a film that both honored Boseman and propelled the franchise and larger MCU forward, but that stress seems to have resulted in choosing a safe, conventional course. If you asked me to outline a plot for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever that would please everyone while upsetting no one, what they in fact made would have been my direction as well. (Or maybe I’m being petty because I liked my treatment better? Perhaps both can be true.)
I absolutely recommend Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. I would consider it a must-see in the theater if you enjoyed the first film. Just don’t expect the wonder, majesty, and charm of the first.