Chadwick Boseman’s death in 2020 shocked the world. The actor had only just embarked on his role as the Black Panther when his life was unfairly cut short. In the aftermath of his death, the Black Panther family had to grieve the loss of Chadwick and decide whether or not to move forward with a sequel. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a poignant tribute to the actor, but the film also stands on its own as a stunning triumph in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever doesn’t waste time addressing King T’Challa’s death. Like Chadwick, T’Challa’s death is sudden and unexpected. Suddenly, Wakanda is thrown into grief once again. Queen Ramonda and Princess Shuri cope with his death in different ways, as we all do. Ramonda stands resolute as Wakandans look to her for guidance, while Shuri internalizes her grief and immerses herself in her work. The love between Ramonda and Shuri anchors the mother-and-daughter in the midst of their loss.
In the midst of their heartbreak, they face a dangerous new foe in Namor, played by Tenoch Huerta. Like Killmonger, Namor isn’t your average villain. His villain origin story is complex and deeply layered. Tenoch commands every single scene he’s in. He’s about to take Hollywood by storm, and he deserves all the praise.
There’s plenty of action in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, on land and sea. The physical combat in the Black Panther sequel is unparalleled. Danai Gurira’s Okoye has one particular fight scene that is just ferocious hand-to-hand combat. It is thrilling to watch unfold. Director Ryan Coogler masterfully uses the elements of land, air, and sea for gripping fight scenes, unexpected attacks, and quieter, intimate moments. Each scene is crafted with care and sincerity, even the tensest of action scenes. The big Black Panther reveal doesn’t feel rushed. The scene is more than earned.
But we can’t talk about Black Panther: Wakanda Forever without talking about the women of Wakanda. Angela Bassett is a force as Ramonda, a woman who could have been left broken by the losses in her life, but she stands tall in the face of adversity. Danai nearly steals the show as Okoye. The fiercely loyal head of the Dora Milaje helps carry many of the emotional moments in the film, but she also delights with moments of levity.
Dominique Thorne makes her debut as Riri Williams, a.k.a. Ironheart, and she is a gem. She could have easily gotten lost in this phenomenal cast, but she holds her own with these Marvel heavyweights. This is the perfect introduction to a character we will be seeing a lot more of in the MCU. Lupita Nyong’o is always going to give an all-star performance, and her Nakia is the film’s silent strength.
And then there’s Letitia Wright. All eyes have been on her since Black Panther: Wakanda Forever got underway. The pressure on Letitia can’t be understated, and she navigates it beautifully. The film is ultimately a chronicle of Shuri’s grief, and Letitia embodies the anger and confusion we all feel when we lose someone we love. Grief isn’t something you can quantify or fix in a lab, which Shuri has to learn. The unfairness of life could have made her fall, but Shuri rises from the ashes of her anguish.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever could have easily crumbled in the wake of such a tragedy, but the entire cast and crew have crafted a compelling and emotional story of grief, resilience, and hope. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever isn’t just another notch in Marvel’s belt. The film is a gorgeous tribute to Chadwick’s legacy and a cathartic experience for all. You’ll be feeling the impact of this film long after you leave the theater. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever hits theaters on November 11.