Friday, November 11, 2022

Review: "BLACK PANTHER: Wakanda Forever" is the Best Marvel Movie in Years

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 69 of 2022 (No. 1881) by Leroy Douresseaux

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)
Running time:  161 minutes
MPA – PG-13 for sequences of strong violence, action and some language
DIRECTOR:  Ryan Coogler
WRITERS:  Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole; from a story by Ryan Coogler (based on the Marvel Comics)
PRODUCERS: Kevin Feige and Nate Moore
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Autumn Durald Arkapaw (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Kelley Dixon, Jennifer Lame, and Michael P. Shawver
COMPOSER:  Ludwig Göransson

SUPERHERO/ACTION/SCI-FI/DRAMA

Starring:  Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Tenoch Huerta, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Martin Freeman, Dominique Thorne, Florence Kasumba, Michaela Cole, Alex Livinalli, Mabel Cadena, Richard Schiff, Robert John Burke, Lake Bell, Manuel Chavez, Maria Mercedes Coroy, Divine Love Konadu-Sun, Trevor Noah (voice), Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Michael B. Jordan

[Emotionally super-charged and possessing some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's greatest battles, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is Marvel Studios' best film in over three years.]

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a 2022 superhero, fantasy-drama, science fiction, and action movie directed by Ryan Coogler and produced by Marvel Studios.  The film is a direct sequel to the 2018 film, Black Panther, and is the 30th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  It is based on the Marvel Comics character, Black Panther, that first appeared in Fantastic Four #52 (cover dated: July 1966) and was created by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby.  Wakanda Forever finds Wakanda in mourning following the death of its king while also facing a threatening world and a mysterious new adversary.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever opens in the African nation of Wakanda as King T'Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) dies from a mysterious illness.  One year later, his mother, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), must face the United Nations, as world powers demand access to Wakanda's most precious resource, the metal Vibranium.  One particular nation even hires mercenaries to invade a Wakandan outpost in order to steal its vibranium, but they are foiled by Okoye (Danai Gurira) and the Dora Milaje, the King of Wakanda's personal guard.

However, the American CIA's attempt to find vibranium on its own draws the attention of a mysterious new adversary, known by many names, but is called “Namor” (Tenoch Huerta) by his enemies.  Namor leads the forces of his kingdom, Talokan, in a strike against the Americans.  He confronts Ramonda and Shuri (Letitia Wright), Ramonda's daughter and T'Challa's younger sister, as they grieve.  He demands that they find the scientist who created the Americans' vibranium detecting device and kill him.  The him turns out to be a her, a Chicago-based teen named Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne).  Now, Shuri and Ramonda must gather allies, including T'Challa's ex-lover, Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o), and M'Baku (Winston Duke), leader of the Wakandan border tribe, the Jibari, in order to fight off the forces of Namor, which are more than capable of destroying Wakanda and perhaps, the world.  Can Wakanda survive without its champion, the Black Panther, or must another arise?...

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a triumphant – a poignant triumphant and a superhero action movie triumph.  It is much better than I expected and that I could have hoped for.  Wakanda Forever is the most emotionally honest, genuine, and heartfelt Marvel Studios film since Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.  The fight scenes are some of the best outside of martial arts films, and the action and battles scenes are Avengers-level.

Angela Bassett stands astride this film, which is both a eulogy to Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa/Black Panther and also a powerful and successful attempt to forge ahead with the franchise.  Bassett, as regal and as dramatically potent as she has ever been, is glorious, and it time for her to receive the Oscar win she should have had ages ago.  She exemplifies the grief in the film for half its narrative.

Letitia Wright exemplifies that grief the rest of the way.  Wright also shows impressive range – playing Shuri as obstinate and angry in the face of her brother's death.  [That death is depicted in Wakanda Forever's opening moments, and the audience with which I saw this film was stunned into silence.]  Wright plays Shuri's turn to the “dark side” with the depth of performance that usually earns actors some award season notice.  She is truly the lead in Wakanda Forever, and she carries it with the flair of a veteran, accomplished actor.

I also had high hopes for Tenoch Huerta as Namor, and he easily surpasses them.  Huerta makes Namor seem so real that his murderous inclinations come across as entirely appropriate for that which Namor is fighting and defending.  Huerta's performance also works to uplift the other actors playing denizens of the kingdom of Talokan.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is filled so much good stuff.  The costumes, art direction, make-up and hair, cinematography, and editing are all … well, Oscar-worthy.  Ludwig Göransson's score is a masterpiece of tones both subtle and tremendous and is easily on the level of Hans Zimmer's award-winning score for Dune: Part One (2021).

I don't want this review to run-on too long...  If I could speak to Ryan Coogler, I would tell him that already loved him for his film, Fruitvale Station, and that he made me love him even more after the first Black Panther.  I don't have the words to describe how great an accomplishment Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is.  Coogler honored his friend and partner, Chadwick Boseman, as well as he could, and he made a truly great and magnificent film.  It honors Boseman and reveals how much respect Coogler has for his audience via the film art he creates.  I am giving Black Panther: Wakanda Forever my highest recommendation.

10 of 10

Friday, November 11, 2022


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