(Dec. 6, 2022) — The loss of Chad Boseman in 2020 left a huge hole – not just with those close to him, but throughout the entire film industry.
The biggest hole to fill was his role as King T’Challa, the Black Panther, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The creators were faced with a difficult task on how to proceed with the sequel. Boseman would be proud of the results. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is a fantastic addition to his legacy.
In 2018, “Black Panther” became a phenomenon; it sits at No. 6 in all-time box office. Boseman then made several memorable appearances as Black Panther in other MCU movies. When it came time to make “Black Panther 2,” no one knew Boseman was slowly losing his battle to colon cancer.
Director Ryan Coogler felt he owed it to Boseman to imbue the sequel with the essence of the Black Panther. Characters outright mourn his loss and continually feel his presence throughout the movie. Nowhere is this displayed better than with Black Panther’s sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright). She agonizes over whether she could have saved her brother. Defying the orders of her Queen Mother (a feisty Angela Bassett), Shuri embarks on a rescue mission for a teenage wunderkind.
Making her MCU debut as Ironheart aka Riri Williams, Dominique Thorne provides some needed pop to the film’s blanket of pathos. Her character is not concerned with recent deaths or Wakanda’s problems at large; she just wants to finish her current semester of college and continue to invent new tech. It will be fun to see her paired with other recent teenage introductions to the MCU, such as Ms. Marvel, America Chavez and Kate Bishop’s Hawkeye.
Another character making his long-awaited introduction to the MCU is underwater king Namor (Tenoch Huerta). Debuting in the very first Marvel comic in 1939, Namor hails from the legendary city of Atlantis. DC put Aquaman’s Atlantis onscreen first, so Marvel needed to change Namor’s kingdom to Talokan. He is also given a half-Mayan lineage and his backstory is fleshed out well.
Dora Milaje leader Okoye (Danai Gurira) gets a lot more to do this time around; her acting ability is finally able to shine. Circumstances rope Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakia back into the mix. She has been living a life free of the worries that come with being a protector of Wakanda. Her relationship with T’Challa was very close, so it does not take much to bring her back when Wakanda comes calling.
I was not as blown away by the first “Black Panther” film as so many were. There were too many lulls and sidetracks to the main plot. Oakland was well-represented, but not a single frame was filmed in the city. The sequel, by comparison, is much smoother. Its plot threads weave in and out successfully. Coogler stages the action impressively; the fight scenes are quite exciting. While the MCU continues its maddening trend of all post-Thanos villains containing elements of goodness, there is little else not to like. A-
Jeff Mellinger is a screen writer and film buff. He holds a BA in Film Studies and an MFA in film production. He lives in Concord.