‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ Review: Director Ryan Coogler Takes a Hard Dive After Chadwick Boseman’s Death


In the language of Olympic diving, a good analogy for making blockbuster movies, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” faced an inordinate degree of difficulty, addressing the tragic death of Chadwick Boseman. That the film manages to strike that dark chord and still deliver as Marvel-esque entertainment represents a major achievement, though the tension created by these two forces moving in different directions can’t be entirely ignored. .

Director/co-writer Ryan Coogler and Marvel’s Kevin Feige almost immediately dispensed with any idea of ​​recasting the title role, making incorporating the death of King T’Challa an inevitable part of the plot. His absence lends the film considerable emotional weight, but also provides a constant reminder of the real world that makes escaping into adventure a higher bound than standard superhero fare.

The contrived solution allows (indeed, requires) other characters to move more to the forefront, and they rise to the occasion admirably, while also transforming this sequel into one of the studio’s most female-centric efforts , with Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett, Lupita. Nyong’o and Danai Gurira playing enhanced roles.

“Black Panther” had already been defined in part by its strong female characters, including the king’s loyal guard, the Dora Milaje, and sister Shuri (Wright), a brilliant inventor. The sequel, however, forces them to fight to defend their people while in pain, which again reflects the delicate juggling act that the entire film represents.

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As if those foundations weren’t challenging enough, Coogler and company also embark on another world-building exercise almost on a scale to match the original “Black Panther,” introducing yet another fantastical hidden realm, this time of the underwater variety, presided over by for his own king, Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejía), the one with winged feet, extraordinary strength and amphibious ability to ride between the ocean and the land.

The producers cleverly introduce Namor’s Mayan-inspired kingdom into the narrative through his access to the precious metal that put Wakanda on the map, Vibranium, with Namor understandably concerned that the exposure of his people’s shop will put them at risk to those who live above.

Unfortunately, the dazzling aspects of this underwater world can’t help but bear more than a passing resemblance to DC’s “Aquaman,” removing the sense of dread that these sequences are clearly meant to evoke.

Ultimately, there’s a logical framework for every choice in “Wakanda Forever,” from the issues surrounding the passing of the baton to the build-up to the confrontation between the two kingdoms and Wakanda’s still-wary stance toward the rest of the world

The bigger question: have these decisions really put the franchise on a sustainable path in terms of taking it into the future, or have they simply made the best of the bad hand that the filmmakers dealt with after the huge success of the ‘premiere of 2018, it is more difficult to judge in this sense. stage.

With other Marvel stalwarts having exited the universe after “Endgame,” “Black Panther” seemed poised to become a focal point going forward.

Whether “Wakanda Forever” can bridge that gap and position Marvel to fill that gap remains to be seen. But with the daunting task of saying goodbye to a star tragically taken in his prime in a sober but poignant way, Coogler has given audiences and the studio a solidly and gracefully executed immersion in a “Wakanda” for now.

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” opens Nov. 11 in U.S. theaters. It is rated PG-13.

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