*Promotional image by Marvel
A Story Of Power Through Grief
This past month, Marvel’s newest addition to their list of movies dropped: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever directed and co-written by Ryan Coogler. The film follows the African nation of Wakanda as they grieve the loss of their king while also facing a rising threat from the depths of the ocean.
Wakanda Forever stars Letitia Wright as Shuri, Angela Bassett as Queen Ramonda, Tenoch Hurrta as the antagonist Namor, along with many other cast members.
The movie is all in the wake of T’Challa’s (The Black Panther) death. This loss hits all characters of the film in many different ways, but no other character stood out more than the two who suffered the most: Queen Ramonda and Princess Shuri, his mother and sister.
By the time the opening scene ends, the audience is already speechless. The overall emotion of the film is now set. By those first five minutes, you know exactly what kind of film you’re getting into. Now I won’t get into the full synopsis of the movie, otherwise you can't read it without spoilers. By the end of this review, I hope to give you an accurate impression of what your expectations should be when walking in to see it.
Now right off the bat, this film blew me away! The amount of depth and character growth Ryan Coogler writes is genius. Wakanda Forever is unlike any other marvel movie we have gotten these past ten years because it relies less on flashy spectacles and more on character growth.
Grief is a topic very well touched on especially in this movie and appropriate considering the passing of Chadwick Boseman back in 2020. The story behind the writing of this film is that back in 2020, Ryan Coogler fully wrote a script for the second installment. He was going to show Chadwick the finished script, but a few weeks after their last conversation, Chadwick Boseman passed away after a four year fight with cancer. Of course, Coogler was hit hard considering their close friendship, and the fact that now his fully fleshed out T’Challa centered story was now out the window. It was a really big sacrifice of Ryan to give up the script instead of recasting the character.
From my perspective, this movie was not directly about the thrill of action or about representation (although Wakanda Forever does include those things), it was Ryan Coogler’s task to speak to the audience about the topic of grief and loss in a way the casual movie enjoyer could truly be moved, and inspired. At the end of the day, Wakanda Forever’s key moral theme was to strengthen yourself through loss. The phrase “Whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger” one could say, fits nicely with the mindset of this movie in the sense that the main character, Shuri, cannot simply move on from her brother's death, and must learn to become strong in the face of grief!
And not only the hero, but the villain! The villain, Namor, is the king of an underwater civilization known as Talokan. He himself is facing his own inner demons; he believes the surface world should pay for what happened to him and will do anything to make that happen. The story follows along with the contrast between these two central characters, and the suspense and battle of emotion in themselves makes Wakanda Forever much more enjoyable.
That’s as far as story arcs, and as far as spoilers will go for the movie, but now for the overall production value. One thing that stood out to me was the soundtrack. It had a unique flare in the music. Ludwig Göransson, the composer of the film, describes the emotional weight of writing it in several interviews. Göransson has done works like The Mandalorian, Creed, Tennet, Venom, and Turning Red. Things that stood out about it were contrast; the villainous water-dwellers at one point in the movie are given an eerie, unsettling score and even a siren song when hidden away from the camera, and lurking nearby in the background. But later, in a scene where we are shown what their civilization looks like, wonderous tranquil music plays to give them a more approachable feeling. The absence of a soundtrack in many scenes stood out a lot! Some of it was appropriate given the dramatic elements of the film. Finally, in the credits of the film, (where tears almost got to me) Rihanna performs a wonderful song entitled Lift Me Up, summing the movie up into one musical piece.
Now unfortunately, yes, Wakanda Forever did have some negatives. Personally, this was something I overlooked but, hey, it’s a marvel movie, most of the mainstream audience are gonna be expecting a big flashy movie with huge spectacles. But given the 2 hour and 41 minute runtime, and the drama themed story, don’t expect huge action everywhere. Of course, the movie does have a high stakes finale, but those last twenty minutes are 80% of the action. As long as you keep the mindset going in that it will be a slow movie, you should be fine (just use the restroom before).
Overall, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is beautifully crafted, well executed, and well directed by long time friend of the late Chadwick Boseman, Ryan Coogler. The film is sad at times, it’s happy at times, and it’s actually pretty funny at times! I recommend it if your in for the drama of it all, the adventure, and some action! I give Wakanda Forever an 8.5 out of 10!
That’s it for this review, please go see it soon, have fun, get popcorn, and enjoy the movie!