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Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) obviously would have been a completely different film if Chadwick Boseman hadn’t died. However, it also would have been a very different film if the role of the Black Panther/T’Challa had been recast.
As it was, the movie started with T’Challa’s funeral. Later in the film T’Challa’s and Shuri’s (Letitia Wright) mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) tragically dies. Shuri has to bear the burden of both their deaths and indeed, the overarching theme of the film is loss, remorse, vengeance, and recovery.
Add to this the story of how Namor (Tenoch Huerta) lost his mother. In fact there’s a scene toward the end of the film of how both Namor and Shuri each “buried” their mothers. Riri (Dominique Throne) recalls her father’s death as well.
We can only imagine the ultimate resolution for Namor and Rini but we see Shuri’s acted out as she has to decide who it is she will be as the Queen of the Wakanda and the Black Panther.
Overall, the film was satisfying. I can’t say it was on par with the Black Panther (2018) but (and this is going to sound bad) it was much better than I expected.
I didn’t even mind the complete re-construction of Namor and his kingdom. It made a sort of sense given that this series of films has always been focused on non-European nations and the power and glory that, with the right resources, can be built by “nations of color,” African in Wakanda’s case and Mayan in Namor’s. The real villains are always the “white colonizers.” Namor is not so much the bad guy as just a king misunderstood (in the comic books, Namor is often depicted as an anti-hero).
I thought the cause of T’Challa’s death was ridiculously thin. He died of a mysterious illness and that was that. I guess the power of the Black Panther couldn’t protect him (it also couldn’t protect this movie from such a weak plot point). As he was dying, Shuri tried to artificially recreate the herb that bestows the power of the Panther but was unsuccessful.
Ironically enough, it was visiting Namor’s kingdom and receiving the gift of his mother’s bracelet that held the key to perfecting the molecular structure so Shuri could become the Panther.
The origin of Namor’s people becoming water-breathers came out of left field. In the 1700s Spanish conquistadors brought disease to Namor’s people, human Mayans of that era. His mother was pregnant with him at the time. A shaman or whoever, was given a vision and discovered yet another plant, this one underwater, that would be their people’s salvation. Drinking a liquid made from it, they turned blue and became water breathers, thus escaping slavery and illness by living in the ocean.
Boy, that seemed really silly. In the comic books, the Atlanteans naturally evolved to live underwater and were an undersea race for thousands if not tens of thousands of years. So now we have a plant that turns Wakandans into Black Panthers with superior abilities, and another plant that turns Mayans into water breathing humanoids. All these magic plants are really cool but they also illustrate not the best in creative writing.
The formula changed Namor differently. He became a mutant (his own words), with wings on his feet, retaining his people’s previous skin color, getting pointy ears (in the comic books, all Atlanteans had pointy ears), and while his people breathed through gills, he absorbed oxygen from the water through his skin as well as having lungs (in the comic books, Namor had both gills and lungs).
The little wings on his feet, both in the comic books and in the film seemed a silly way to fly, but I guess the producers and writers decided not to change everything.
Naturally the real bad guys, as I mentioned above, are the white surface nations who are hungry to possess Vibranium. When they find a deposit in the ocean (thanks to a detector invented by 19-year-old genius Rini), the Americans think they hit it big, that is until Namor and his people decided to take them apart.
Quite separately, the French launch a commando attack on a Wakandan outpost in an attempt to steal Vibranium, but Okoye (Danai Gurira) and her forces capture them and display them before the United Nations committee demanding that Wakanda share their technology.
As an aside, the film did include (presumably) Namor’s cousin Namora (Mabel Cadena) and Attuma (Alex Livinalli), who in the comic books is a deposed conqueror and foe to Namor, not servant/soldier.
When Shuri and Rini are captured by Namor and taken to his stronghold, not only does Namor share his tragic backstory and show Shuri his kingdom, which seems advanced and populated with happy, friendly people, but he asks Shuri to have Wakanda ally with him and conquer the surface world.
In the comic books there were numerous times when Namor tried to conquer the surface world. The best he accomplished, at least in the 1960s or so, was to temporarily capture New York City.
Even with Vibranium and the advanced technology and weaponry it affords, I can’t see Wakanda and Namor’s kingdom separately or the two of them combined being able to accomplish this. The military forces of the major superpowers would eventually overwhelm them.
I should say that Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) does warn CIA director Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who is completely miscast in the role) and others not to go to war against Wakanda for fear of their military might. That’s good advice, but the reverse is true as well.
At one point in the film, Ross defended Wakanda’s actions by telling Valentina (both is boss and his ex-wife) to imagine how the U.S. would behave if they were the only source of Vibranium on the planet. She closes her eyes and says she dreams about that all the time. Yes, white people are greedy and without principles. (except perhaps for Ross)
All due respect to Shuri/Letitia Wright, but there’s a reason why most actors playing superheroes hit the gym and hit it hard to prepare for the role. I’m sure Ms. Wright did the same thing, but she’s so thin that it’s difficult to see how, even with the power of the Panther, she was able to beat Namor to a standstill.
Okay, lets be fair. Namor was tricked into a trap that dehydrated him, and on top of that, the major part of the battle took place in a desert, so the odds were a little more even. Shuri even managed to rip off one of Namor’s little wings. He did impale her with a spear, but after unimpaling herself, I guess she has advanced healing powers because she beats the snot out of him. She had help. The aircraft they came in which crashed exploded covering the sea prince in flames. Shuri could have killed him and almost did. After all, he did murder her mother in cold blood.
When Shuri took the chemical to turn her into the Black Panther, she went on a vision quest, which was expected, but she met Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) which I didn’t see coming. I knew they probably wouldn’t try to use CGI to make Boseman appear as T’Challa, but I thought she’d meet her mother. I think it was Shuri’s pain and anger that allowed Killmonger to appear and to impart how he would “take care of business.” This just added fuel to Shuri’s already growing fear and hate, but as she was about to kill Namor, her mother appeared and offered a “course correction.”
This allowed Namor to “yield” to her and then the both of them called off the battle between their armies.
Really, Namor. You didn’t have to attack Wakanda at all. From Ramonda’s point of view, he kidnapped and threatened Shuri and the Queen did everything in her power to get her back. She sent in T’Challa’s lover Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), who has been in Haiti as the headmaster of a school for the past six years. Nakia was able to use Wakandan technology to invade where Shuri and Rini were being held. In freeing them, she killed at least two of the women who had been holding them.
Namor, in a previous meeting, told Ramonda that if Wakanda revealed the existence of his kingdom to anyone and if even a single Wakandan were to enter his world, he would kill Shuri and kill her.
All that said, what did Namor expect? He had a mother who loved him and who would have done anything to protect him. Didn’t he expect that Ramonda would do the same and try to save her daughter?
On the other hand, even the comic book Namor was hotheaded and impulsive so I guess it’s possible he wouldn’t see things reasonably. Maybe he would use the death of one or two of his citizens as an excuse to go to full scale war with Wakanda and to murder its Queen.
It was kind of dumb that after Namor’s first attack on Wakanda he said he’d come back in a week with his whole army and finish the job. Why didn’t he come with his whole army the first time and finish it then and there? Instead, he gave the Wakandans a week to prepare for their assault and in fact, that’s all they needed.
It was a plot device to give Shuri time to become the Black Panther, to marshal allies, choose a field of battle that gave Wakanda the advantage, and devise a trap that would render Namor weak enough to fight.
Even after it was all over, Namor revealed to Namora that having Wakanda as an ally would make them stronger. More than that, when the surface world came for Wakanda, they would turn to Namor and it would be the excuse for them to conquer the surface world after all. Devious undersea King.
Ross tried as best he could to protect Wakanda, even against his boss and his country, but he got busted and put in chains. He’s freed by Okoye who said, “A colonizer in chains. Now I have seen everything.” Earlier, Shuri called Ross her “favorite colonizer.” Okay, they meant it as a joke, but there are plenty of people in the world who believe that you are your ancestors and even if you never committed those crimes, you’re guilty of them anyway.
Sorry, no sale.
As it turns out, both Shuri and Rini have been developing their own versions of the “Iron Man” exo-suit (In the comic books, Rini Williams in her armor is called Ironheart). All of them are dog-ugly and I can see why Okoye detested them. They were pretty helpful, but as I recall from Iron Man (2008), Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) had to go through quite a bit of practice to learn to competently use the suit. It just seemed to sort of happen to Rini and Okoye.
The mid-credits scene (there was no end credits scene) revealed the real reason Nakia remained in Haiti and didn’t attend T’Challa’s funeral. It had been all arranged by T’Challa and Ramonda (in spite of the fact there was a scene in the film when Ramonda asked Nakia why she didn’t come back for the ceremony).
Nakia has a son named Toussaint (Divine Love Konadu-Sun). The actor is eight-years-old. I’m imagining the character is meant to be somewhat younger, given that the original film was released four years before this sequel and in 2018, we had no indication that Nakia is either pregnant or has a child hidden away somewhere.
Of course Toussaint is his Haitian name. He tells “Aunt Shuri” that he is Prince T’Challa, son of King T’Challa. This means in ten or fifteen years, we could have another T’Challa as the Black Panther again.
This was also the moment when Shuri finally let herself accept her brother’s death. There’s a montage of images of Boseman as T’Challa which is touching.
Oh, I should say that back in Wakanda, Shuri is challenged as the ruler of Wakanda, but like Ross’ escape and the consequences thereof, that was left on hold until next time.
Yes, after the credits we see the words “Black Panther Will Return.”
Time to return the disc to the library where I got it.
3 thoughts on “Review of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)”
You’re right that’s it’s not as good as the first movie but they did connect the past to the future of Black Panther.
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