Movie Review: ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ is a deep, action-packed meditation on grief and healing

by Joseph Spencer

“What is grief if not love persevering?This line, uttered by Marvel superhero Vision in the penultimate episode of the Disney+ show “WandaVision” is something that stuck with a lot of people long after the show had ended. After all, we were in the midst of the worst parts of the Covid-19 pandemic, separated from our friends and loved ones, and feeling like we had lost everything that we had grown accustomed to in our lives. Some of us lost people we cared about, while others languished under the strain of isolation, fear, and division.

However, that previous summer, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was affected by its own major loss: the untimely and seemingly sudden death of “Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman. Boseman had been diagnosed with colon cancer in 2016 and had made the personal decision to keep it private. On Aug. 28, 2020 Boseman passed away in his home, surrounded by his family. To say this was a huge loss is a vast understatement, and along with feelings of admiration, respect, and sadness, many were left with questions about how his passing would affect the next chapter of the “Black Panther” saga. A sequel to the original had been greenlit in late 2018 with writer/director Ryan Coogler writing a script well before that. Following the death of Boseman, the entire script was reworked, and Marvel Studios made the announcement that the role of T’Challa would not be recast. 

Ultimately, this loss somehow works to the benefit of the film itself, as the grief and sorrow the cast felt about the loss of Chadwick bleeds through into the way their characters feel the loss of T’Challa. The film wastes no time addressing the elephant in the room, opening on a frantic Shuri, trying to synthetically replicate the fabled Heart-Shaped Herb that gives the Black Panther his abilities. As time runs out, we see her shoulder not just the blame for her brother’s death, but ultimately his responsibility for the safety and well-being of Wakanda as a whole. 

When the film jumps forward a year in time,  we get to see how Wakanda has changed without its Panther and its king. Angela Bassett’s Queen Ramonda has dedicated herself to showing the world that Wakanda is not to be underestimated in the wake of T’Challa’s passing, Winston Duke’s M’baku (as well as the rest of the Jabari tribe) has reintegrated themselves into the day-to-day affairs of Wakanda, and Letitia Wright’s Shuri has thrown herself into her technology work, nearly shunning the rest of her family and Wakandan society. As we move forward in this new world, we find that the rest of the world has used T’challa’s death to search for alternate sources of Vibranium, hoping to box Wakanda out of its main export.

Aside from the meditation on grief and healing, one of the more interesting things this entry into the Wakandan saga does is paint a parallel between the Afro-futurist world of Wakanda and the Underwater Mezo-American world of Talokan (for reference, this place is called Atlantis in the comics, but in order to avoid confusion between this and the world of DC’s Aquaman, it was renamed for the movie).

Talokan, in the same vein as Wakanda, is a version of Incan/Aztec/Mayan culture, had it been untouched by European colonizers. The biggest difference is this world resides under the sea. Talokan’s king, Namor, has made it his life’s purpose to keep Talokan hidden from the rest of the world, no matter what, which puts him directly at odds with Wakanda. 

I don’t want to dive too deep into the plot of the film, as it builds upon itself in a way that makes it very difficult to single out specific themes and scenes without spoiling them, or delivering void of context, but the movie itself is a strong entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The locations of both Wakanda and Talokan are dripping with beautiful cultural imagery. The story itself is a deep look at what it takes to heal from trauma, both immediate and historical, and the lengths we will go to keep the ones we love safe. There are several fun, beautiful fight and chase scenes, including a few that look like something directly created by Marvel visionary Jack Kirby (two words: Battle Whales). The biggest complaint I have with the film is its pacing. There is a very interesting, character-defining wrinkle introduced late in the film, that is never given the time it needs to really sink in, or to be properly resolved. 

• Marvel Studio’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is rated PG-13 and hits theaters worldwide on Nov. 11, 2022. There is one mid-credits scene and no end credit scene.

In The Parks

You can meet M’Baku starting Friday in Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure and there’s the Dora Milaje show at Avengers Campus in California and Paris.

You can also sometimes spot Black Panther and Black Widow fighting The Taskmaster in Avengers Campus.

M’Baku, from “Black Panther”, is coming to Disneyland’s Avengers Campus #Shorts

Warriors of Wakanda: The Dora Milaje Show at Disneyland Paris' Avengers Campus

Black Widow and Black Panther fight the Taskmaster at Avengers Campus in Disneyland Paris Resort

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