It’s time for the big Black Panther sequel. The first movie was definitely a big hit and was a fun ride all the way through. Trying to do the sequel without the original character was always going to be an extremely difficult task. Unfortunately it was a challenge that this movie could not overcome where its long length is felt this time around. The movie goes for a very somber tone for a decent chunk of the film and unfortunately this comes at the expense of the film as a whole. It felt very underwhelming as the film ended and I gave it some time until the next day to see if that might help stabilize things but it didn’t really move. Lets go more into depth on this one below.
The movie starts with Shuri trying to save Black Panther but unfortunately she was unable to recreate the heart in time and he passes. A year goes by and she has buried herself in her work to try and make Wakanda safer but her mother Queen Ramonda believes that Shuri is just doing her best not to think about her brother and this will hurt her down the line. So they go off to a quiet place in Wakonda but Namor appears and lets them know that the United States has developed a machine that can find Vibranium and his people are in the crossfire now. He intends to destroy the surface world and wants Wakanda to bring him the scientist and then the two countries can team up. Queen Ramonda will have to carefully decide how to play this or Namor and the Atlanteans might wipe her country off the face of the planet.
I’ll probably bounce back and forth between the positives and negatives as I go through the review so this should be more like a roller coaster experience. The first positive here is Shuri who does a good job as the main character. I wouldn’t say that she fills T’Challa’s shoes here but it’s always nice to have an inventor who can actually fight. She hasn’t wasted the time that has passed and has come up with all manner of defenses and weapons to aid her and the country in battle. Wakanda may have a lot of tech but it is still relatively small so they have to keep developing new items or things will be dangerous.
The film also goes out of its way to explain why the kingdom feels so weak most of the time despite this and it’s a good explanation. Perhaps a bit annoying but it does prevent this from feeling like a plot hole. Basically the country is super big on tradition so they refuse to use Shuri’s mecha suits, energy weapons, and presumably all of the other tech that she has developed over the years. It’s why they still use spears and basic armor instead of anything fancy. They’ll want to change that tune eventually or it may be tough to stay afloat but by the end of the film I feel like things are going in a positive direction there.
Unfortunately I didn’t like Ramonda in this movie. She was thrown into the role of Queen so it’s absolutely all right that she is not very experienced in this role as of yet but she tends to overreact a whole lot. She handles one situation with her subordinate quite terrible and you may mistake her for Odin for a minute there. Ramonda never really fights here and that could have at least helped her establish some authority. She never comes across as a very reasonable person and perhaps to contrast how Shuri was trying to be 100% logical with no emotions, Ramonda was the opposite way.
I was also not very impressed with the designs for the Atlanteans and even Namor himself. That screw stabbed through his face makes it look like he just lost a 1 on 1 to Misogi Kuwagawa the whole time. He doesn’t have that air of dignity and power that he typically does in the comics. He isn’t a big flirt this time so that’s good though. At the end of the day he’s a very selfish king who just likes picking fights. I don’t think the film seriously tried making him all that sympathetic here and that’s fine. Not every villain is meant to be sympathetic and having a big villain to be defeated works well.
They did his power justice though. He looks good and even in an extremely weakened state he is shown to be more than a match for anyone in this film. Namor became more of a Black Panther villain in recent (Relatively speaking since I don’t follow the comics too closely) years but before that he would typically go up against whole teams or very powerful opponents because he’s well above the street level tier. In the first film we saw how the suit could absorb most impacts and yet it doesn’t do much against him here which was a good way to highlight his power.
His two main subordinates Attuma and Namora look good in the fights but they just look way too much like expendable minions the whole time. They don’t feel like they have real designs considering how big their characters are in the comics. I’m hoping a sequel could change that with updated effects. The Atlanteans almost looked like characters out of Avatar and it also takes away from their appearing threatening..because they don’t seem very tough. One lady shoots a ton of them in the opening scene so you feel like they only do decent later on because people keep on hitting their weapons or not aiming properly.
Okoye is always a fun character though. Shuri gives her a hard time but Okoye is always ready for a good fight and does well here. She was definitely a step under Attuma but that makes sense since he is usually a powerhouse. She has a good dynamic with Shuri and that’s always good to see. Meanwhile Nakia gets a pivotal role here as well. She embarks on a tough mission and just gets the job done as needed.
There is a subplot with Ross as he keeps trying to give info over to Wakanda. I liked this subplot quite a bit because he makes for an entertaining character. We also get to see the US Government which is always fun. As always in these movies they want to blow everyone up and get rich so they’re good antagonists. My only issue here would be it feels more like this film is in a vacuum where the rest of the universe doesn’t exist in respect to the government. Over 10 years ago they had very impressive weaponry to take on the Hulk and have consistently improved their tech. Why are they sending normal joes with guns to take out a Wakanda facility?
The scene is there to make the Wakanda defenses look good and all but it would be even more impressive to see them take on some powerful tech. It’s an amusing scene either way as these guys get taken down quick but there just feels like a disconnect here compared to how you would expect the U.S. Government to be at this point in the MCU. Even if it’s a stealth unit then they would carry some kind of super powerful weapons right?
Riri makes her big debut here and as the next generation Ironman we’ve been waiting for her to show up for a while. Right now she was mainly just working out of a small building without big tech so of course she doesn’t have anything ultra powerful just yet but the film shows off her genius well by having her build an Iron-Man suit and also construct the first ever device that can detect Vibranium. She has been putting in the work and it’s nice to finally hear someone yell “Let’s Gooooo!” since that’s one of the best modern sayings. It would be cool if that could become her catchphrase. I look forward to seeing where her plot goes.
Finally M’Baku also looks very good here. Unfortunately the film never gives him a proper win against an important foe but we still get to see his bravery as he jumps into every fight. Personally I think he deserved a good win but either way he had some of the more impactful moments here and it was definitely good to see him. He’s really come a long way in these two movies since where he used to be.
Now with the characters out of the way lets talk more about the film as a whole. I mentioned that it feels a bit long and that’s the biggest issue in the movie. It is going for a very somber tone and the in-universe reason is that Black Panther died so the nation is in mourning. As the film goes on Shuri is supposed to eventually give in to her feelings and cry it out since the main morale in the movie is not to hold things in. The issue is that this destroys the film’s pacing in more than one scene and grinds things to a halt. Every time we have extended somber scenes there is no chance for anything else to be happening.
This may be the first main MCU film where you actually may find some of the scenes to be a bit boring. We have to be explained that Namor is the great sea god twice as even the exposition can get a bit long and this is a movie that could have really benefited from having about 40 minutes taken off the run time. That could have helped the pacing so this could be more of a frantic action film. We do have some fight scenes but there aren’t many so the general action scenes will have to fit the bill for you.
On the fights, there were two standout ones at least. There is the fight on the bridge which is structured similar to the one in Black Widow and while it may not have been as strong as that one, it was a good one on one fight. We got to really see Attuma’s strength here and I just liked seeing a straight up battle like this. Then there’s the one on one battle you’ve been waiting for with Black Panther and Namor in the desert. It’s definitely the best fight in the film and uses a good amount of strategy in addition to the action which makes for a pretty good mix.
The special effects are definitely good throughout the movie though. You won’t have any issues there as the costumes look good and the energy attacks are on point. For the soundtrack, it’s not quite as good as the first film’s but there was one theme I enjoyed during the 3 way chase scene with Riri, Okoye, and Shuri. That song was on point and put a lot of extra energy into the scene and enhanced the chase as a whole.
While the film isn’t one of the funnier ones in the MCU, I would say that M’Baku got the best comedy scene by far. There’s one moment where Okoye and her group start bashing him and his men as usually so he starts making those Gorilla noises and everyone else does too and you have to chuckle a bit along with them because they’re just going in. It was a great way to end the back and forth argument while still having the upper hand with how out of nowhere that was. I thought that was a really excellent move. Still there’s enough jokes in here where you should find a fun one that you like as well.
There is one old character who makes a quick appearance in the film and he looks great. He has a really solid speech and you have to admire how confident the guy is. He just has no doubts about anything and while that is the very same trait which tends to lead him astray, it makes him a powerful speaker. I had a lot of fun seeing him there that’s for sure. It would be nice to see him return in a larger capacity.
There’s also an after credits scene here which is okay. Its definitely on the weaker side but you can see what they’re doing here. I just couldn’t help but think “Another somber scene?”. It also goes on for a while too long which embodies the film’s issue as a whole. For example this scene could have been ended halfway. You already get the context of what’s happening without the film trying to knock the point into you with the last lines. We understand the plot twist from the instant the character appears, we don’t need it spelled out. At least it sets up another plot seed that should be fun in a future film, provided there is a considerable time skip.
If the film really wanted to go the somber route then they needed to change the context of T’Challa’s death in the movie. Out of universe the whole thing was tragic but in universe he didn’t die stopping a giant end of the world threat or protecting his friends so it doesn’t work nearly as well. When you think of emotional deaths that make you teary you think of Mob Psycho, One Piece, Naruto, Bleach, DBZ, and titles like that where things really got tragic. Fighting until the end or entering a hopeless battle and then being defeated are the most emotional ways to go out. And then of course you’ll also have had that big action moment to bump things up.
I guess I would have just had Black Panther have a quick fight where he dies at the beginning of the film and then you play the emotional scenes afterwards. You could even adapt the opening moments of Ultimate Avengers 2 and that becomes a whole plot point of what that creature was and of course Namor still shows up so that gets sidelined. That would have been an effective way to kick things off. So at the very least those are some of the rewrite ideas that I would have had. The other route you could go would be to throw in some guest stars.
That would give the film more memorable characters and would automatically enhance the skirmishes and war scenes. Then you’d have a lot of big characters to follow and all. Shuri and Okoye are good characters as I mentioned earlier but they are still known more as side characters and having some kind of power hitter here to help out would have been nice. It’s always a tall bar to try and do a whole film without one of the big characters and it’s almost easier to pick a brand new character and make them big than upgrade the side character. Still, with Black Panther at the ready the third film should be able to jump right into the action this time and I think that will also end up helping the tone as well.
Overall, Wakanda Forever is going for a very different vibe than the first Black Panther. The original film went for a balanced approach of being a classic action movie and just executing on a high level. The villain was very memorable, the action scenes were good, and it was all amplified with a good soundtrack and solid humor. This film is going for the emotional vibes instead and basically using that to hold up the whole movie but you can’t survive on that alone. Without another top notch villain to help keep things up or the other aspects that made the first film so good, this one couldn’t hold up. It just isn’t all that interesting at times and it felt like the movie needed some kind of burst or pop moment to get you back into the mix. As the film throws in a bunch of flashbacks to the original Black Panther you almost can’t help but be tempted to go back and watch the original. It’s still worth checking this one out at least once as you continue the story but it is one of Marvel’s weakest entries into the MCU.