30th November 2022
Words: Shane Ramdhany
How do you reconcile the loss of Chadwick Boseman while simultaneously crafting a new, thrilling tale of the Black Panther? The implication of mourning paralleling suspense is an immense endeavor that director Ryan Coogler appears to embrace with relative ease. The result is an ode to Boseman’s prolific role that is able to pivot effectively to the evolution of the Black Panther without losing focus on the inevitable grief felt by us all.
The film weaves a tale that navigates the process of grief while emphasizing the significance of family. This is observed as a parallel process between both the heroes and the villains on screen. It mostly succeeds in fostering development of these themes but is ultimately inhibited by some familiar tropes, particularly with its primary antagonist, Namor. Namor’s vengeful motives feel all too familiar when evaluated alongside that of Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger. This results in the audience viewing Namor with a similar lens that involves empathy of the factors that drive him but unsupportive of his desired outcomes. However, it is Tenoch Huerta’s nuance and sincerity brought to the role that elevates his villain beyond a simply reiterated construct.
We also see Shuri step up her role to that of leadership in the wake of the loss of her brother. The narrative focus is clear, Shuri’s ongoing struggles with processing her grief leads to impulsive, vengeful desires (much like Namor). It is a true highlight throughout the film as we watch her emotions evolve into acceptance and witness the finality of her decision-making, which will likely have broader implications for the MCU. Her role in the broader MCU narrative is yet to be determined but she will likely have an immeasurable impact if this film is any indication.
Perhaps where the film is most consistent with its predecessor is with its cinematography and costume design. Considering the context of Marvel, fantastical set pieces with limitless scope in their imagination, Wakanda Forever never loses its rhythm with its unparalleled visual flair. It retains its unique, dense and colorful palette and that remains a constant treat. Its skill with engrossing the viewer with its intoxicating landscapes and outfits persists as its greatest strength.
Wakanda Forever hones in on the brevity of Boseman’s loss as it draws to a close. There is a poignancy that exists within this grief, likely driven from the understanding that Boseman would not want this franchise to draw to a close in light of his passing. However, this notion yields little to stave off the tremendous trepidation felt around moving forward. And yet, Ryan Coogler provides hope for a bright future of the persona of the Black Panther in this tale while retaining Boseman’s legacy, forever.