Moving forward with honor

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” gives tribute to Boseman’s legacy to pave new path for Black Panther franchise

Trayton Pike, Staff Writer

Illustration by Blue Jones

In total, there have been 30 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not including the 12 shows that have premiered on Disney+. Many more are still on the way, making Marvel movies a staple in the cinematic world. However, despite the many Marvel films made, few have had such a difficult task as the latest installment. 

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is the latest MCU film and the sequel to 2018’s “Black Panther.” The film continues the story of the kingdom of Wakanda and the characters of the first film; however, its greatest purpose is moving the Black Panther legacy forward without the titular character.

The film focuses on the kingdom of Wakanda following T’Challa’s (Chadwick Boseman) death. It highlights characters from the previous film such as Shuri (Leticia Wright), Okoye (Danai Gurira), Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and Ramonda (Angela Bassett) as they mourn the loss of their king. However, their mourning and grief are interrupted as they are forced to defend Wakanda from Namor (José Tenoch Huerta Mejía), the king of an ancient civilization. 

Judging from its plot alone, Wakanda Forever seems to be a typical Marvel movie, and, in many ways, it is. Many elements that have made Marvel movies so successful in the past are still present such as heart-pounding action, special effects, light-hearted comedic moments and universe-building. However, the thing that sets this film apart from all the others is obvious–the absence of Chadwick Boseman due to his sudden and tragic death during production. His death forced the film to go in a different direction than originally intended.

Due to the real-life tragedy, two questions have been raised regarding the film and what it accomplishes. What does the Black Panther series look like without Chadwick Boseman? And does the film hold up without its main star?

To answer the second question first, “Wakanda Forever” does not fall short whatsoever. The movie is not perfect, but it does an excellent job at pandering to passionate MCU fans with emotional themes and introductions to the new era of Marvel superheroes. 

The new additions to the MCU’s catalog of characters introduced through “Wakanda Forever” include Riri Williams, or Ironheart, (Dominque Thorne), who is set to star in the series “Ironheart” in 2023. She aids Shuri and Okoye in their efforts to save Wakanda from Namor, who is also new to the MCU. These two characters serve not only as fan service for Marvel buffs who recognize them, but they are also interesting and well-written characters in their own right.

Aside from just pleasing the fans, the filmmakers aim to please both critics and general audience members alike. They focus not only on the superficial aspects of the film like the action and effects, but also emphasize the development of the characters, their relationships with each other and the progression of the story. For every large-scale action scene or CGI-heavy moment, another scene is dedicated to exploring the characters or themes of loss and strength introduced in the movie.

However, “Wakanda Forever” was not as good as its predecessor. Its biggest problem lies in the runtime of over 160 minutes. Some scenes drag on for too long, becoming either boring or gratuitous through the abundance of mind-numbing action. Still, some parts of the film have the opposite problem, with events in the movie happening too quickly for the viewer to process.

Though these problems hold the movie back from being a masterpiece, “Wakanda Forever” still delivers on most of the aspects that make a film good. It should be noted that though the film does have a long runtime, it does have somewhat of an excuse for this. It has a lot of ground to cover such as creating an entertaining film while continuing the story started in the first film and furthering the Black Panther legacy without Boseman. 

Dealing with grief, moving forward and passing the torch are all major themes of “Wakanda Forever” that all take up a considerable amount of screentime. In becoming the new main focus of the Black Panther franchise, Shuri’s struggle after losing her brother and her duties in defending Wakanda without him are major internal conflicts in the film that are engaging and well-written. Ultimately, the film concludes in a way that feels both satisfying for the movie itself and as a needed goodbye to Boseman.

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is a film that seeks to both be an entertaining addition to the MCU as well as a cinematic tribute to the life and work of Chadwick Boseman in the Black Panther series. It succeeds in doing both. The film works very well in its goals and is definitely worth the watch, serving as a well-executed grand send-off for an irreplaceable actor.