“Black Panther: Wakanda forever” is the much-anticipated sequel to Black Panther (2018).
The movie was initially written with actor Chadwick Boseman included in it, because nobody in Hollywood knew about his illness. Therefore his death in August 2020 came as a surprise for everyone. Because of this Marvel had to decide how to go on with their plans for the movie. The main decision was, of course, whether to recast T’Challa for the sequel. Eventually, they decide against it and that the story would delve into the other characters seen in the first movie and their world.
Grief and Vengeance
The film opens with the death of T’Challa. We see Shuri racing, trying to create a synthetic “heart-shaped herb”: the herb was destroyed by Killmonger in the last film. She manages to make a similar reconstruction, but she is too late to try it on her brother since his heartbeat has stopped already. We then see the celebrations of T’Challa’s death which are also a clear tribute to Chadwick Boseman’s legacy.
Throughout the movie we see how different people deal with grief: we have the juxtaposition of queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and Shuri (Letitia Wright). The queen is in touch with her people’s traditions and spirituality and deeply believes in them, while Shuri is only relying on science and technology. We can see from Shuri’s behaviour that she takes much more time than the queen to come to terms with her brother’s death, preferring to keep on working rather than dealing with her emotions.
Shuri’s grief worsens during the movie and then turns into a blind need for vengeance. Never having adequately dealt with her pain, it turns into an anger that could lead to dire consequences for Shuri herself and her people.
Wakanda and the West
A year after T’Challa’s death, we see the consequences of his actions from the last movie. He revealed to the world the existence of Wakanda with its many wonders and its scientific advancement, in particular the existence of vibranium.
Queen Ramonda is summoned to the UN convention in Geneva, where the USA and France, as they usually do, ask for the Wakandans to share their vibranium resources. While this scene is playing we also see that the French are trying to steal vibranium for themselves, but they are promptly stopped by the Dora Milaje, who then deliver the mercenaries recruited for the heist by the french government, to the French representative during the UN convention. This is a show of power on Queen Ramonda’s part, to let the world know that she won’t let Wakanda be trampled on.
From here on, you can see a slightly veiled critique of the western countries, of their presumption of omnipotence displayed around the world, especially in today’s neo-colonialist society.
In fact, this movie talks about two different groups who were abused for centuries (and still are) by the western world: Africans and Mesoamericans. Sadly it seems to reflect reality in a way because the two minorities are not able to unite against the greater threat represented by the imperialist countries.
A New Society
The Mesoamerican society to which we are introduced in this movie resembles closely Wakanda, with it having established itself hidden from the conquistadores and with their technological advancement.
We are first introduced to the Talokan while they kill off an entire ship’s crew to prevent them from extracting vibranium. During the film these characters appear to be quite overpowered: they are never fazed by anything that comes their way.
After this Namor, their leader, interrupts queen Ramona’s and Shuri’s mourning ritual. He tells them that the westerns have found vibranium deposits and that they have to kill the scientist that created the vibranium detector; if they do not comply with his request, Namor threatens them with war.
Shuri and Okoye thus decide to look for the mysterious scientist, who, astoundingly, reveals herself to be a brilliant 19-year-old MIT student, Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne).
Was the plot an afterthought?
There are many things to praise concerning this movie. First of all, we have a wonderful cast, with mostly well-established actors, as Lupita Nyong’o and Michaela Coel, but also new, possible rising stars, as Dominique Thorne. The cinematography and landscapes are absolutely breathtaking, well portraying the sort of heaven on earth that is Wakanda, which was inspired by the country of Lesotho. The attention to detail regarding the costuming has to be noted aswell. The insertion of many elements of various different African cultures can be seen, especially in the case of the members of the council; an example of this is the council membre Zawavari, whose costume and hairstyle is inspired by the Himbe people of Namibia and Angola.
The problem lies mainly in the plot, which ends up going in circles and relieving itself to be mostly pointless. The problem might be that it is the second film of a saga, so we mostly see setups with not many resolutions. This is of course frustrating, especially considering that plot-wise the movie can probably be mostly skipped and the third Black Panther instalment would still be comprehensible.
At the end of the day, it is a Marvel/Disney movie, so not much can be expected plot-wise. The first half of the movie deceives you into thinking that it is going to be more than that, and this is why the film is even more disappointing: the wasted potential is quite big.