Coming to it on Blu-ray rather than in the cinema meant I approached Black Panther: Wakanda Forever with slightly different expectations to many.
Certainly the shade of the late Chadwick Boseman hangs heavy over it and, while I had enjoyed the first film enough and liked the character of T’Challa, I’m not sure I had quite the emotional connection to the film many did.
That said Marvel, and director Ryan Coogler and his team, do a fine job of honouring Boseman here in a real world sense, and T’Challa within the movie’s so called cinematic universe, and they more than manage to take a story that was being obviously developed with the same Black Panther we met previously in mind and altering it to something new without it being painfully apparent.
After watching both Thor: Love And Thunder and Hidden Figures a couple of weekends ago this felt like a strangely appropriate follow up as we had a fine mix of classic MCU action adventure with a cast of heroes made up entirely of people of colour and also, predominately, female.
This in itself gave the whole thing a refreshing feel compared to most other superhero fare and the cast did a great job with it.
Angela Bassett is suitably regal as Queen Ramonda, with a particularly good moment early on at the United Nations and finds a great contrast to this as grieving mother to Shuri, while the cast of female warriors, past and present (including Lupita N’Yongo, Danai Gurira, Florence Kasumba and Michaela Coel) do a terrific job of finding differences in characters that could easily become somewhat one note.
The real stand out for me though was Letitia Wright as Shuri who not only carries the bulk of the film but finds a very fine balance between different aspects of her character without making them clash like they easily could have done making for a far more multidimensional hero than many comic book movies ever create.
Along with her, and acting somewhat as an interesting counterpoint in character terms, is Dominique Thorne as Riri Williams a talented young scientist who felt somewhat like Shuri in the first film of the series.
Special note also has to go to Tenoch Huerta Mejía who puts in a great turn as a reworked version of classic Marvel character Namor (aka The Sub-Mariner) which made him a far more interesting character than I’ve found him in the past and Mejía really embodies both his backstory and the necessary action excellently – though to say much more would lead to spoilers.
Aside from this the design of the whole thing was a major standout point.
While it certainly looks like a Marvel movie in style of filming with that particular shiny and slick feel they have, the costumes, sets, locations and characters are all something different and fresh.
In that they have a ring of cultural truth without feeling like crude stereotyping, that could very easily have happened, from the funeral garb of the Wakandan royal family to Namor’s people’s hints and more of historical meso-America they bring some great extra colour to an often surprisingly dour genre, along with some excellent use of underwater effects that put DC’s Aquaman to shame.
This all makes Black Panther: Wakanda Forever a film made up of many very good parts that is only really let down by trying to fit too much in and therefore ending up with a running time that feels a little overlong, but I can see how that happened and was necessary in the circumstances.
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