(TGATP NOTE: Being Black in America — and particularly, being a Black woman running a business in America — is a neverending challenge. We are constantly reminded of our place in the minds of people of non-color and that we live our lives and run our businesses at their whim. This forces us to have to constantly navigate daily emotional and limiting minefields. The incident surrounding the press push for “Wakanda Forever”, in which Black reviewers were excluded by the Disney PR team, was a shameful disgrace. The Black Panther franchise is OURS. There should’ve been no room for this sort of racist and arbitrary nonsense.
As it left such a bad taste in my mouth, I was worried that this nonsense would ruin the movie for me. But, as we Black people, always have to do, I found a way around this both practically and emotionally and was able to see it early. I do want to give a special shout-out to Raegen Cutrino at Disney for the part she played in this. She helped me realize just how much I love films and that no one, including Raegan, is ever going to get away with stripping me of the joy of moviegoing. Please read on for my review. )
The loss of Chadwick Boseman in 2020 left an unfillable hole in all of our hearts that cast a long shadow over this Black Panther sequel. Since Boseman’s passing, it has made me teary-eyed to even think of “Black Panther” and I will likely never be able to watch the first movie again. Thus, it was so important that Chadwick’s and his character T’Challa’s, passing be handled correctly. Fortunately, it was. Written as a tribute to Chadwick Boseman, a fallen hero — both in real life and onscreen — Wakanda Forever is not your typical superhero film. Ryan Coogler allows us to collectively mourn with the cast and our fellow audience members by opening up the film with the death and funeral of our beloved Chadwick/T’Challa from a sudden illness. There was not a dry eye in the theater because we knew that this was not acting. The actors and the audience were finally given a chance to be together in our grief over Chadwick/T’Challa’s death.
Wakanda Forever is Black female magic from start to finish. The plot centers around the chaos that ensues in the wake of the sudden death of beloved leader and family member, T’Challa. In the wake of his death, T’Challa’s mom, Queen Ramonda— excellently played by Angela Bassett— has assumed the throne. Queen Ramonda, Shuri, M’Baku and the Jabari, and Okoye and the Dora Milaje are fighting two battles. First, the westernized colonizers, namely the US and France, are trying to create their own vibranium. And secondly, Namor, the King of the aquatic nation Takolar, which possesses the only other source of vibranium, wants to wage war with the entire world in order to control it. When Namor orders the Wakandan leaders to murder a young MIT student that is developing vibranium for the CIA and they refuse, a costly battle ensues.
There are numerous subplots. Shuri is dealing with the guilt of not being able to develop a cure for T’Challa’s deadly ailment coupled with the grief of losing him. While Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) the CIA agent who is assisting the Wakandans is dodging his ex-wife new CIA Director Julia Louis Dreyfus‘ Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. In previous films from the MCU, we were led to believe that Val was a shadowy villain working on her own. But now that she is CIA Director, it is revealed her plot to assassinate Hawkeye and to harvest vibranium are actually sanctioned by the US Government!
Ryan Coogler adeptly intertwines the underlying serious themes of the devastation of slavery and colonization of nations of color by white nations with stunning action sequences. As with Killmonger, in “Black Panther”, Namor (played by newcomer Mexican actor Tenoch Huerta) is not just a random unprincipled bad guy. He has a legitimate beef. What has been done to his people makes his righteous fury a lot more layered and complex and as people of color, we experience empathy for him. We get it.
Unfortunately, that empathy is short-lived when a major Wakandan figure is killed off in one of his attacks. This death is totally unnecessary and pissed me off. I am really getting tired of this trend of killing major characters off in current Marvel films. In addition, I do not feel that the other characters would have just moved on in the way that they do with the loss of this majestic and key character. They are Black people. We mourn.
While “Black Panther” was a family film, the sequel is more of a cinematic treatise on family loss and the horrors of colonization. The sadness, coupled with the heavy themes, make it an adult film not suitable for kids under 14, who will find it hard to follow.
Take tons of tissue and, as usual, you will want to stay through the credits for a wonderful surprise.