Wakanda Forever Will Be Forever Tied To Tragedy
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is perhaps the Marvel movie most affected by a real-world event. There’s no way to even examine this movie without taking into account the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman. It feels inadequate to say that his portrayal of the character gave joy to so many people and that he will be missed by the world. Anything I could say feels inadequate and woefully small in the face of that loss.
Thus, there could be only one plot for Wakanda Forever: a story of grappling with loss. A tale crafted around exploring what it means to have someone you love die. It’s perhaps the most somber Marvel movie ever made, attempting to address religion, atheism, generational trauma, atrocities, grief, and more. I can’t say I’ve ever seen Marvel grapple with topics like these to this degree. And it almost comes as a shock when the science fiction/fantasy plot kicks in and takes over, even if it does still fit with all the established themes. Wakanda Forever is basically two movies.
The Film Eventually Switches To Way More Action
As you likely guessed, the first part is an extended tribute to Chadwick funneled through a fictional lens. I don’t consider it a spoiler to tell you that T’Challa dies off-screen without even his voice being heard. The first moments of this film are a gut punch, leading to a large section of the plot being basically a funeral, a mourning, and many smaller stories revolving around those affected. And in those stories, we find a sharp exploration of the emotions that come with grief. Not just sadness and depression—but the rage of loss, the furious energy at a world that allowed it to happen. I can’t speak fully to how respectfully it’s presented within the larger context, the real-world context, but it was emotionally affecting in the immediacy. If you’ve ever lost anyone close to you, you’ll understand. I very much doubt the actors had to do much acting for some of these scenes. Some of those tears can’t be fake.
The second half of the movie takes those emotions, brings them forward, and lets them become external. An echo and a progression. Every character is reacting to this loss, which drives their actions. Some with darkness and visible pain, others with opportunistic grabbing, and some with rising protectiveness for those left. Marvel usually uses broader, almost theatrical emotions—but not here. This is specific. The character writing in Wakanda Forever is layered, honest, and makes it one of the MCU’s most emotionally mature creations.
Wakanda Forever Explores Many Aspects Of Pain
Wakanda Forever also continues the first movie’s exploration of the political and societal implications of vibranium and Wakanda’s interactions with the wider world. It deals heavily with the in-universe reactions to such a material (especially its weaponization) and ties the story to real events in history. It talks of slavery, oppression, and colonization. The pains and horrors of the past and the present co-mingle in this story, and it has a lot to say about war. The parallels and allegories here are perfect for hours of analysis, perfect for breaking it down through so many lenses. And I am not the one to talk about it. I’m not Black, and it’s not my place to weigh in on how this movie tackles the histories of real people, regardless of how much or little it’s been blended with fictional settings like Wakanda. Instead, I implore you to find creators and reviewers who can give this film the in-depth analysis it deserves.
In the meantime, we’ll move on to the visuals. Which are stunning. And the music. Which is fantastic. I had the privilege of seeing this movie in theaters, and the care given to certain scenes, especially the underwater scenes, is beyond stunning at that aspect ratio. I have no idea how they did some of these shots, even with CGI. Wakanda Forever correctly lets the audience sit in moments of pure artistry and bask in these locales. And then, at other times, it will kick action scenes into high gear with pulse-pounding, phenomenal music. Though our villain has winged feet, and there’s a scene with a teenager doing math on the fly in a super suit, they somehow keep the action scenes tense and focused.
The Action Scenes Have A Strong Sense Of Stakes
Perhaps this feeling of grounded action is because of how morbid the scenes get. Many (mostly background) characters die and do so in brutal ways. One scene involving drowning is especially dark. I acknowledge maybe Marvel has always been this graphic when scrutinized, but there are usually quips. Quips that this movie, thank God, doesn’t use nearly as often.
In fact, even if you don’t like Marvel, Wakanda Forever should still be on your watch list. The cast is so good, showing so many sides to these characters. Letitia Wright’s Shuri goes through a fascinating and nuanced character arc with such raw lines of dialog. Angela Bassett’s Ramonda is a grieving mother who also has to be a queen, and the contrast and interconnectedness of those facts are so incredibly well done. Tenoch Huerta takes a character that at times feels almost out of place (he does have flying wing feet and pointed ears, after all) and gives him a solid personality, emotional complexity, and a powerful presence. And so many other actors, too many to name, imbue their characters with emotional weight and depth. Marvel’s dialog scenes haven’t been this charged and intricate in a long time, possibly ever, and the pacing was perfectly suited to delivering them.
And there’s still so much to say. More to examine. More to praise. But I’ll just end with this: Wakanda Forever was a movie with a lot of unknowns when I walked into that theater. I only knew of the tragedy at the center, that something important was lost—and that there was no way to change that. And that complicates my feelings even now. But as a movie, a piece of art, Wakanda Forever turned out amazing. It turned out fantastic. It’s a somber piece, a darker piece, a change from the usual Marvel, and perhaps one of their best.
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