‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ review: Can a kingdom survive without its king? 

The untimely death of Chadwick Boseman left Marvel’s long-awaited cap to Phase 4 on shaky ground. Did it manage to recover?

Progga Paromita
Published : 30 Dec 2022, 02:29 PM
Updated : 30 Dec 2022, 02:29 PM

As the capstone to Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was bound to hit like a meteor strike. The question was, would it open up a path to new possibilities or wipe out an entire dedicated fandom? The loss of actor Chadwick Boseman left a gaping hole at the centre of the series. Would Wakanda survive without its king? 

The MCU is deeply connected to my personal experience with moviegoing. When Iron Man 3 hit theatres, we went to see it in 3D. It was probably the first time I saw the silver screen with my own eyes. 

But since the massive climax of Avengers: Endgame, Phase 4 of Marvel’s gargantuan movie project and its TV efforts for Disney+ have been up and down. There are highlights – the dimension-hopping delights of Spider-Man: No Way Home and the unusual gamble of WandaVision – but many other productions, like the somewhat underwhelming take on horror in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, and the failure of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, have led to a justifiably mixed reaction from fans. 

Thus Wakanda Forever was handed two ponderous tasks – end Phase 4 on a triumphant note and pay fitting tribute to Chadwick Boseman while keeping the Black Panther series alive.

Also Read: Why does Marvel’s Phase 4 feel so disconnected and muddled?

Boseman’s absence is felt in the very bones of the movie, which starts with Shuri (Letitia Wright) desperately struggling to come up with a cure for T’Challa’s sickness. She is unable to make it in time and Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) has to announce the death of her beloved son and the start of a world without Wakanda’s protector. 

Sensing a moment of weakness, the world tries to exploit Wakanda’s vibranium resources. But their meddling leads to the emergence of Namor (Tenoch Huerta), the MCU’s first-ever mutant. The king of a vibranium-rich undersea nation, he gives Wakanda a choice – join together to oppose the world, or perish in an invasion.

Watching Wakanda Forever took me back to the first time I saw Iron Man 3. It was the first time I had been in the cold, dark, LED hall with my fellow MCU nerds who understood the vibe and were delirious about the hype. Fan theories and rants were everywhere, even before we reached the ticket counter.

And the movie did not disappoint. In the absence of T’Challa, the female cast of the first Black Panther stepped to the fore. Shuri, who buries herself in her tech gizmos to ward off her grief, and Queen Ramonda who tries to cradle her country and the remnants of her broken family are two of the strongest pillars in the movie. Bassett’s performance, in particular, oozes gravitas and her pain and perseverance are tremendously moving. Nakia and newcomer Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne) get their own arcs that touch on the film’s major themes of vengeance, politics, and the circle of life. 

The whole experience was extremely wholesome. 

The biggest point of excitement before the release of the film was the introduction of Namor. And like Erik Killmonger from the first Black Panther, Namor makes for an understandable antagonist with a clear and sympathetic perspective on the world. His clash with Wakanda makes for a nail-biting narrative, topped off by the cameos that pop up from time to time.

This is not to say the film is without its flaws. The 161-minute runtime made for an extended slow burn and the climactic action set piece seemed to be over in a flash, taking up only 10 to 15 minutes. The new vibranium-laced Black Panther suit also deserved a stronger showcase, though its late appearance was fitting to the plot. The ending also leaves a lot of threads seemingly hanging in an already overstuffed movie.  

Nevertheless, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was truly a deserving sequel to one of the strongest entries in the MCU. Despite all the challenges it faced, T’Challa’s funeral and send-off was a grand affair worthy of all the love and support Chadwick Boseman cultivated in his life. 

And, despite some pacing issues, Wakanda Forever makes for a great expansion to the Black Panther series and a vibrant lead-in to Phase 5. As Queen Ramonda notes during the film, “There is a new world power at play.”

This article was written for Stripe, bdnews24.com's special publication with a focus on culture and society from a youth perspective.