Black Panther 2 Wkanda Forever

Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever: Movie Review

Review by: Jill Sioson

2022 | Directed by Ryan Coogler

Feature Film (2hrs, 41 min)


“If I sit and think of my brother for too long then it won’t be just these clothes that I burn, it will be the world and everyone in it.” – Shuri

Writing a review for the superhero blockbuster Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever, was nothing less than nerve racking. Chadwick Boseman’s death had left a substantial hole within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), leaving Marvel to anoint Shuri (Leticia Wright) as Wakanda’s next protector for Phase Four.

Black Panther 2 starts with the sudden death of Prince T’Challa (Boseman) and his sister Shuri’s failure to save him. With Wakanda’s protector gone, the nation is left to defend herself against various national threats. Meanwhile, Namor (Tenoch Huerta), the fierce god-protector of the underwater civilisation of Talokan, seeks alliance with Wakanda. In return he asks for the life of young Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne), who has unknowingly created a machine that detects the sought-after vibranium metal. In an effort to prevent war with Namor, Shuri and General Okoye (Danai Gurira) go on a mission to seek out Riri. After being enchanted by Talokan and its people, Shuri tries to keep the alliance without harming Riri. Namor however, declines and threatens Wakanda to either give them Riri or go to war with Talokan.

Ryan Coogler’s exploration of grief and mourning through Shuri was well-paced and allowed for convincing character development. Shuri’s technical genius is not only a display of female empowerment or a gift from the ancestors to be marvelled at, but an effective way to show her resistance to grief, and Wakanda’s traditions and religion. Each character that surrounds Shuri is a constant reminder to allow oneself time to heal and properly move on. Queen Ramonda herself declares, ‘Death is not the end’. Shuri’s resistance towards mourning and therefore healing, also leads her to use other characters’ grief for her own selfish gain. Such as crashing one character’s car, and weaponizing her nemesis’ deceased mother’s bracelet against them (without spoiling too much!).

Namor (Huerta), in many ways, parallels Shuri. He is bent on exacting his revenge on those who have taken his loved ones from him. Played skilfully by Mexican actor Tenoch Huerta, Namor is both powerfully unhinged and fiercely loyal to his people. Like every successful villain, he makes you think, “damn, he’s kinda right though”.

What I admired in Coogler’s direction is how Shuri was surrounded by a majority of female characters that emphasized the need for female relationships. What’s more, Coogler accomplishes this naturally, by allowing all the women to let their work, skills, leadership, and kindness, speak for themselves. Even M’baku (Winston Duke) was taken down a notch. He fulfilled the big-brother role of Shuri’s counsellor, portraying a different kind of masculinity that helped to progress the representation of black men on screen.

I also need to mention the thrilling score composed by Ludwig Göransson. Known for his work in Mandalorian (2019) and Tenet (2020), Göransson transports the audience to an other-worldly landscape, through enchanting vocals, wind instruments, and drums that pay homage to African and Latino culture. These signature instrumentals also crossover, demonstrating the similarities between Wakanda and Talokan.

The MCU films tend to be quite exclusive in terms of its audience; you either know its characters and some level of lore, or you’re left confused and forced to embark on a 2hr CGI fest. However, Black Panther 2 allows its careful exploration of grief, African/Latino culture, and crisis of faith, to be at the heart of its story.

That isn’t to say Black Panther 2 is a perfect, holy grail movie. There are some characters that felt forced and unnecessary. Riri Williams for one, felt more like a comedic relief and a McGuffin than a fully realised character.

I had less than high hopes for the sequel. I went into the theatre with feelings of neutrality and firmly declared: “There’s no way they can replace Boseman”. But as the first few minutes of Black Panther 2 rolled, and the iconic MCU title came on screen, there was silence. Nothing but the sound of wind blowing as scenes with Prince T’Challa rolled behind the words ‘MARVEL STUDIOS’.

Boseman’s mark on the MCU was formidable. Yet somehow, director Ryan Coogler allowed the character of Shuri to shine throughout the movie whilst paying tribute to Boseman’s Prince T’Challa.

Indeed, “Wakanda Forever!”.