Ryan Coogler directs the 30th feature film for Marvel Studios, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. This marks the last silver screen tale for Phase Four in the Marvel Cinematic. James Gunn gets to close out Phase Four with the highly anticipated Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. A lot has happened since Black Panther wowed audiences back in 2018. It broke open box office records and became a beloved classic in the States and across the globe. It is clear that everyone who worked on that film poured their heart and soul into their work. I have been forever changed by what Black Panther has accomplished. It showed Black excellence at its core. It opened the Marvel canon to new heights. It showed people of color what wonders can be done. Even Simu Liu (Shang Chi) praises the film as paving the way for his own solo outing.
I am grateful to everyone who worked for Black Panther. I am forever thankful to Chadwick Boseman for shining to the world despite enduring colon cancer for years. I am still heartbroken he is not here to experience the next chapter of Wakanda. But it warms my heart that Chadwick lived his life to the fullest and the essence of who he was lives on in his friends and family. I am moved by those who worked on this film, and you feel it in the trailers, interviews, panels, and red carpets. There is a lot of love and celebration in honoring the legacy of Boseman. I think it was a smart move to let T’Challa pass on and let Wakanda grieve the loss of their king whilst dealing with a world post-Thanos. There is a lot to unpack here. Coogler made an exemplary sequel.
Letitia Wright (Black Mirror) is divinely gifted in the arts. I truly believe that. Wright was a standout in the first Black Panther film. Shuri was full of spark and tenacity that was infectious akin to Tony Stark. I love how she also outsmarted Bruce Banner in Avengers: Infinity War. I can’t imagine the challenge she had to take on in this film. She had to take the lead due to the untimely passing of Chadwick Boseman. I can’t imagine the obstacles she had to endure during production. I do not doubt that she had the support of her entire cast and crew. Shuri embarks on the five stages of grief in Wakanda Forever. She’s blessed with such intellectual prowess.
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However, it was not enough to save her brother. Wright delivers a powerful and heartbreaking performance. Every minute was devoted to her love for this role while honoring her brother on and off the screen. That is monumental. That is rare for any performer. The only other instance I can think of is the Fast and Furious cast. Shuri struggles with the things she has control over versus the ideas she is unable to accept. It is the classic trope of faith vs science. Robert Joe Cole and Ryan Coogler both amazed me. I always assumed that everyone in Wakanda was a believer in their faith. The opening line in the film on my second watch sparked an epiphany of what her arc would be. I was watching CinemaWins for Black Panther and that video expertly pointed out that in Civil War, T’Challa mentions the afterlife for Wakandans. It was a great performance, but it pointed out that T’Challa did not accept such beliefs. That went over my head. In Black Panther, T’Challa was surprised the ritual worked. T’Challa had a crisis of faith.
Shuri goes through that as well. She tirelessly tries to keep Wakanda safe without their King. She has the love of her mother. Ramonda tries to show her how to move on and Shuri learns fast when one refuses to grieve; grief turns to anger. Then when a threat emerges, someone feeds into that anger and it throws Shuri for a loop. Wright is beyond exceptional in this film. I must point out that Letitia went through some struggles in her own life. Aside from losing her dear friend in 2020, she posted a controversial tweet about COVID-19. Then she was injured twice, delaying production. All in all, the first trailer was finally released at Comic-Con. The reactions were emotionally priceless. I would like to hear from Letitia about that whole journey in a podcast one day. I feel that Wright went on her journey in making sense of 2020 and beyond. I prefer to listen and be curious; not judgmental as Ted Lasso said.
I have watched countless interviews with Wright. She is a devout woman of faith, and she has been blessed indeed. I am glad she found a way to navigate through the tumultuous world of social media. Wright earned her stripes in this film, and she has so much more to give. I look forward to every moment of that.
Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave, Us) seems like a jack of all trades in real life. I was amazed to find out she was born in Mexico and can speak four languages. It just seems she was born to play this role. Nakia was the unsung hero in the previous film. She helped save the last heart-shaped herb to save T’Challa from death. She inspires T’Challa to help spread Wakanda’s resources. In this film, she continues to be marvelous by helping people in Haiti live long and prosper. However, she bailed on Wakanda after Thanos attacked Earth the first time around. It turns out it was for a very good reason. Get ready for an emotional roller coaster. Nakia ends up saving someone in need which is pivotal to the story as well. Nyong’o delivers gold once again.
Danai Gurira (Walking Dead) managed to be a badass in two universes. She exudes such fiery strength that is unmatched. Okoye could be a Black Widow, an Amazonian, and an agent for 007, Treadstone, or CTU.
Points if you recognize which two iconic characters belong to the last two.
Okoye is a win-at-all-costs warrior for Wakanda. She is loyal to the throne. It is beyond admirable, but everyone flies too close to the sun. I thought it was a bold move to be loyal to the throne when Killmonger took over in the 2018 film. She realizes it was a mistake and someone calls her out for it in the most humiliating way possible. She learns she can be strong and humble at the same time. She also provides some great comedy and an epic fight scene in the film.
Winston Duke (Us) is a star in the making. I was thrilled to find out that 2018’s Black Panther was his first-ever film as an actor. How do you make sense of that? M’Baku made his mark as a powerful warrior and leader of Wakanda’s mountain tribe the Jabari. Duke evoked much graceful arrogance mixed with humor. He makes an effort to call out the imperfections of Wakanda. There is a saving grace in the Jabari leader since he saved T’Challa’s life. I am glad he got to see the MCU open up in Infinity War and Endgame. I’m sure it was a trip. In this film, he offers some iconic comedic moments and some growth as a character. He tries to be the voice of reason as well. I enjoyed this side of him. There is more than meets the eye with this muscle-bound warrior. He earns his place at the seat of the Wakandan council tenfold and I am here for it.
I am in love with Florence Kasumba ( 2019’s The Lion King) and Michaela Coel (I May Destroy You, Chewing Gum). They exude such rich beauty I melt at times emotionally. Kasumba’s Ayo made a splash in 2016’s Civil War facing off against Natasha Romanoff briefly. Coel’s Aneka makes a splash in this film in the coolest way. These pair are deadly together in a fight. I have to credit once again the writers for laying the seeds of brilliance. Aneka and Ayo have some great moments in the film that seem amazing alone. However, if you can connect the dots, they paint an even more brilliant picture. I hope we see more of them in future projects.
Dominique Thorne ( Judas and the Black Messiah) would make Tony Stark proud. I would say the same for Harley Keener from Iron Man 3. I was blown away at the nods to the first Iron Man film. I was instantly drawn to her character.
Riri Williams is a genius. She seems to be the queen of her castle at MIT. However what seems to be using her gifts to help society turns out to be her undoing. Outside forces are out to get her. She runs into Shuri and Okoye and her world changes. Thorne delivers the right amount of comedic shock and anxiety throughout the film. Williams has the potential to be an avenger in the future. Thorne is a rockstar. But at the same time, she gets to star in her series. Williams has a heart of gold and iron as well. I would love to see what the aftermath is for being a genius in her way and then getting to spend time in a place where black pride and intellect are dialed up to a million. This is where the fun begins.
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Martin Freeman (The Hobbit Trilogy, Sherlock) returns as Everett K Ross. I have enjoyed Freeman for years since I first saw him in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I was happy to see he joined the Marvel Universe. It always pays to be nice. It is even better when you are nice to Wakanda. He earned his stripes by being a strong ally. In this film, loyalty makes his job tumultuous, but Ross is willing to make the right choice because he knows who he is fighting for. We all need a Ross in our life.
Angela Bassett (Boyz in the Hood, Malcolm X, How Stella Got Her Groove Back,) is precious. I adore this woman. She has been slaying in various roles since 1985. Her illustrious career has led her to play the Queen of the most powerful nation in the world. Ramonda had to mourn the loss of her husband and son. She continues to be a beacon of light for Wakanda and her beloved daughter. The love she has for Shuri is powerful beyond words. She tries to show the value of grief and faith in dark times to Shuri. She knows Shuri is struggling and wants her to be the best version of herself. The love in Romonda is matched by her tenacity. She delivers two amazing moments in the film. One is telling the outside world that Wakanda is not to be messed with under vulnerable situations. I enjoyed her pointing out the hypocrisy at the United Nations. The next moment is a jaw-dropping display of raw anger and heartbreak at Okoye. It was an eye-opener. Imagine having to deliver those lines in the place of Chadwick years ago. Bassett continues to be graceful, wonderful, and powerful on the big and small screen. I am grateful for her artistic inspiration.
I believe we must watch Tenoch Huerta’s career with great interest.
Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole are 2-0 in creating captivating antagonists. I am happy Huerta is enjoying the spark of fame from Wakanda Forever. I just wanted to hug the man watching him react to a mural of his character in the film for many to see in Mexico. It was amazing to see Zack Snyder take Aquaman who is known for his quirky outfit colors and powers and make him badass. Then along comes Ryan Coogler and his team taking a man with pointed ears, winged feet, and tight shorts be fearsome, proud, and formidable. I have heard from many critics that the runtime is too long due to Namor’s homeworld. I think everyone at the Mexican premiere might feel differently. It is amazing seeing this world come to life while being new to us apart from Disney’s Atlantis the Lost Empire and 2018’s Aquaman.
T’Challa’s good deed at the end of the first film seems to have grave consequences since Thanos happened. Namor is not too thrilled about the greed and curiosity of the surface world. He has seen too much evil in the outside world and is driven by grief and rage. He finds a kindred spirit in Shuri and that proves most dangerous. Namor just wants to save his home. I was amazed at how he got his name and the fact he said MUTANT.
Marvel fans rejoice.
Huerta delivers such fear and drives like Killmonger. There is a method to his madness. However, anger clouds his judgment in finding a solution. It will be interesting to see where Wakanda and Talokan try to find common ground. It will not be easy since Namor makes a kill that will take time to put in the past.
I must show some love to Mabel Cadena and Alex Livnalli. They seem to be enjoying the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Namora and Attuma. I feel these two might be a slight nod to DC. In Superman II and Man of Steel, Zod has two loyal followers. One is a massive man of strength and the other is elegant and deadly.
Namor, Attuma and Namora.
Zod, Non and Usra.
Zod, Faora and Tor An.
Look up the three trios and wow at the similar imagery.
I love when supporting characters get to reprise their roles in the sequel. Danny Sapani is living his best life, getting to be in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Halo, and the Marvel Universe as the Border Tribe Elder. May Dorothy Steel forever rest in peace. I am glad she decided to choose acting later in life. She was blessed to be a part of Wakanda for all time as the Merchant Tribe Elder. What a life she lived. 24 alum Isaach de Bankole flawlessly returns as the River Tribe elder.
If you are a fan of Rescue Me, there is an amazing actor from that show that makes an appearance. If you are a fan of Boston Legal, In a World film, and Children’s Hospital, then this actress you will be thrilled to see. I also hear that she voiced Poison Ivy at some point. I am impressed.
Finally, Marvel fans who be surprised to see this character from Black Widow show up and provide some stress to the Wakandans and Ross.
There is so much love in this film. Ryan Coogler had the impossible task to re-write an entire film after the death of his dear friend. He then crafted a narrative, which is a love letter to Chadwick Boseman, but showcases how to move on from such a tragic turn of events. Coogler managed to weave a story that allows the characters from the first film to grow in life, love, and heartache, but show strength. The characters evolve to new heights like countless others in the MCU post-Thanos. Coogler was then able to add some new faces to this world and treat them with reverence and wonder. The costumes, the gadgets, the sets, the music, and the cinematography are on full display in this film. I am in awe every second after the third time.
I plan to watch Wakanda Forever times. It’s just a sight to behold. I love every moment of it. Each time, I was able to see the richness of the new tech in Wakanda and Talokan. I felt the chills of the music by Ludwig Goransson. I enjoyed the new costumes and the care that went into them. It was amazing to see the River Border and how it operates. I’m assuming this new side to Wakanda is in response to the Border Tribe’s actions in the first film.
I was overcome with so much emotion in the first five minutes of the film. I could hear my heartbeat. It is tough to watch. I had to keep it together when Wright delivers a heart-wrenching moment. Then I had to hold myself back from seeing the powerful ending and mid-credits scene. Chadwick is felt throughout this entire film. He is so missed. He is so loved.
I have to commend the cast and crew for staying strong throughout the press tour. It was a time of mourning but celebration. What a gift that we can go to the cinema post-2020. What a blessing it is to enjoy movies and the power they bring to millions. Watch Marvel Celebrates the Movie’s trailer. It never gets old. I look back and think to myself.
Did I just watch Spider-Man: No Way Home 6 times?
Did I just watch Avenger’s Endgame 7 times?
There is magic in investing time in characters that have enriched your life and then getting to witness the best mashup experience. I thank God for those moments.
I am forever grateful I am alive to see the impact Chadwick Boseman had on me. I am grateful, he used his time on Earth to fulfill his purpose to the fullest even when it hurt. I will sing his praises for all time and I feel the cast and crew of Wakanda Forever will do the same. Ryan Coogler is a man of such talent and dignity beyond words. I feel he is gonna fly higher, further, faster to greater glory.
I am also glad that Coogler dealt with the RECAST TCHALLA hashtag with such reverence. In the future, with the Multiverse becoming a reality in Marvel films and shows to come, I think another T’Challa actor will wow us. But I HOPE FOR THOSE WHO WATCH WAKANDA FOREVER AND SAY THEY SHOULD HAVE RECAST FROM THE START TAKE A LOOK AT THEMSELVES.
That statement is a painful insult to Ryan Coogler and everyone at Marvel. Let Furious 7 be an example. Boseman doesn’t deserve to be replaced just for the sake of your entertainment. He deserves to be celebrated and loved. His life should fill you up so that you can be a light to others. Wakanda Forever is a love letter to him. This film is about grief. Take the time to soak this film and experience what it has to offer besides selfish ambition. Then we can move forward into Phase Five.
To echo Stan Lee’s line in Spider-Man 3: