Back when the first ‘”Black Panther” film came out in 2018, it became a huge success both within the critical and audience circles alike. Plus the movie stood out because of how well it was able to imaginatively stick new compelling ideas onto the already familiar template. Along with that with a new director on board, the studio (somewhat) had the freedom from the obligation of having to weave the core story into the larger narrative of the saga. The afrofuturistic world that Ryan Coogler had brought onto the screen immediately set a benchmark for the rest of the films that followed.
After the untimely and unfortunate passing of star Chadwick Boseman, Coogler (who also co-wrote the film) basically had to start the entire script from the scratch, the kind of lofty task that high budget actions flicks last noticed on this scale after the tragic passing of Paul Walker mid-production of “Furious 7”. With all that said, the makers of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” pull off the daunting task of balancing the line between setting up the future for the next phase of the MCU, while paying tribute to the late actor by respectfully delivering upon the expectations of the original film. The result is a screenplay that brims with compelling new ideas, albeit a bit contrived, but always translating on the screen in an engaging way.
Even though Boseman’s absence is felt, the movie opens up acknowledging the sad reality by making the characters go through the same poignant and visceral emotions. What’s surprising, however, is that ‘‘Wakanda Forever” also makes sure that’s the best part of the movie; by widely acknowledging the protagonist’s absence, the movie instantly makes us invest into its world. The void leads to the potential for girl power to take centre stage in all its glory, making this the first of its kind truly feminist MCU film. It lives up to that expectation too as Shuri, Riri, Okoye and Nakia join hands together in order to fight Namor, the main villain of this film who poses both moral and philosophical questions here.
Having said that, the movie also lacks the sort of world building we had seen in the first film. The production design here lacks the futuristic and avant-garde architecture that we witnessed in the first film, and the camera instead often seems too focused on slowmos that establish other characters and high-octane action sequences. There’s also the frustrating (yet familiar) lack of adequate lighting as we are introduced to some parts of the Talokan kingdom, located in the depths of the ocean. But the movie mainly works due to its strong emotional foundation, partly born out of a real life tragedy, and partly out of Coogler’s knack for delving deep into the human condition.