While Chadwick Boseman was certainly missed, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” paid tribute to T’Challa while paving the way forward for the powerful women of Wakanda.
After King T’Challa (the late Chadwick Boseman) died, other countries saw an opportunity to manipulate Wakanda into giving up their vibranium. When a group of scientists are mysteriously attacked upon discovering vibranium in the ocean, the Wakandans must confront the new entity behind the attack, and decide whether to join forces with them or wage war.
In addition to the difficult political choices she must face, Shuri (Letitia Wright) is struggling to grieve for her brother because she is so angry – a factor that affects her decision-making. The film explores the power of grief, whether for a loved one or one’s people and homeland and how people can deal with it productively or destructively.
Wakanda and the newly-discovered people have much in common relating to colonization and the need to protect their own, and they could be the most powerful alliance in the world if it were not for ideological differences and generationally-instilled defensiveness.
The film is driven by interesting, likable women without the infantilizing “girl power” shtick that Marvel has typically been fond of. I realized several minutes into one fight scene that there were three women fighting off countless opponents, without any attention being called to their gender nor pandering one-liners. They were just powerful fighters who happened to be women.
The leading women also had considerable character development. Shuri transforms from “a child who scoffs at tradition” to a leader who moves her nation forward without sacrificing its values. Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), while always regal, is overtaken with emotion at times and makes decisions with which her husband would have disagreed. Okoye is still a strong fighter, but we also see her crack jokes and cry.
The film also managed to advance the storyline set forward by “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” and set the stage for the next movie without sacrificing too much time or muddying the plot.
This is exactly what Marvel movies should be: movies that can stand on their own as part of a larger story. I did not walk away feeling confused about what’s to come, but satisfied with the movie I’d just seen and excited for the next. It was also nice to get a break from the outer space conflicts that have overtaken the MCU as of late and focus on something closer to home.
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is easily one of the best Marvel movies since “Avengers: Endgame,” if not one of the best Marvel movies of all time. It has a plot based in reality, an antihero with understandable motives, engaging characters and the right amount of action. If you see it, you just might want to bring tissues.
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