By now the MCU is an unstoppable juggernaut with movies and TV shows being constantly in development and planned ahead for years. Actors cast in lead roles are often contracted to appear at least in 5 movies. But what if your lead actor suddenly dies in between movies? That is the situation the folks over at Marvel had to tackle when Chadwick Boseman suddenly died of cancer in 2020. Just two years after the enormous success of Black Panther.
But the Marvel train has to keep going and since Wakanda Forever had already been announced the choice was made to tackle his death head on. So they have T’Challa die of an unnamed illness between movies and Shuri looking for a way to recreate the heart shaped herb Killmonger destroyed in the previous movie. A little reminder: this is the plant that can give a person Black Panther powers.
The first act mostly revolves around grief and the mourning of T’Challa, but this being a Marvel movie it isn’t long before a new threat arrives. This time it’s Namor, the ruler of an underwater kingdom which isn’t named Atlantis for some reason. Namor is portrayed fairly accurate to the comics, tiny wings on his ankles included, but as always he’s cast according to Disney’s diversity guide lines so here’s yet another white comic book character played by a non-white actor.
By revealing the existence of vibranium to the world at the end of Black Panther, T’Challa has set other countries on a quest to find vibranium sources for themselves. And where else to look for it, but in international waters? This threatens Namor’s underwater kingdom which just so happens to be surrounded by vibranium as well. Namor’s plan: kill the person who invented a machine that can detect vibranium and possibly wage a war against the rest of the world. In hindsight his plan seemed silly and destined to fail.
It’s been a few days since I saw this movie and it reminded me of Saw. The moment you’re watching it everything seems to make sense. But the longer you keep rethinking the movie after watching it, the more holes in the logic you find. That is very much the case with Wakanda Forever as well.
Namor’s plan is to kill the person who created the machine that detects vibranium. The US already has that machine. Sure he destroyed it in the opening scene, but it’s probably not the only one they have and they have already probably reverse engineered it the moment they got their hands on it.
Apparently Namor is not the sharpest tool in the shed.
In true Marvel fashion the scientist isn’t some boring old white guy, but a young sassy black girl with the genius of Tony Stark. And in true Marvel fashion this movie has to set up 4 or 5 other movies and TV shows, so the girl turns out to be Riri, a character in the comics who is also known as Ironheart. She’s a black female version Iron Man, coming to you this year on Disney+.
I’m not against diversity at all and not opposed to gender- and/or race-swapping a character, but it does seem as if every headlining Marvel character is currently being replaced by a woman, preferably of color. Black Panther, Ironheart, She-Hulk, Lady Thor and Kate Bishop just to name a few. If they manage to put them to use in good movies and TV-shows I’m all for it, but if it’s only for pure diversity reasons than my fear is that the end result will be shit.
While the movie is called Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, there is not much Black Panther in it. It isn’t until 1 hour and 58 minutes into the movie the new Black Panther finally appears. Just in time for an end battle between her and Namor.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is by no means a bad movie, but director Ryan Coogler tries to go for the epic approach with a running time of 161 minutes. It doesn’t work and the movie could have been trimmed with ease. All of the stuff with Martin Freeman is only in this to set up something on Disney+ most probably. And while you’re trimming, remove the Ironheart elements as well.
In the past there have been a lot of movies that had stuff left on the cutting room floor. Often because of studio demands. This resulted in director’s cuts which were sometimes over an hour longer than the theatrical release. Maybe it’s an idea for Marvel to start doing the same but the opposite. Release a cut of the movie with all the scenes included that set up different movies and TV-shows and release a cut of the movie that completely stands on its own or within the series of movies surrounding that character like the Iron Man or Captain America trilogy.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever suffers from Boseman’s death and respectfully works around it and pays him a nice tribute. But where the first movie could avoid an origin story since the character was already established, Wakanda Forever does become an origin story of such as almost 2 hours of the running time is dedicated to Shuri trying to recreate the Black Panther serum. But in the end it’s a bloated movie in which Johnson has to balance too much plot-lines.
It’s by no means a bad movie and it feels better when you’re watching it, than when you’re rethinking it later. I first graded this with a 7, but upon reviewing the movie I adjusted it to a 6 since it seems more fitting.