Chadwick Boseman’s untimely and tragic death came as a shock to many. The Black Panther star kept his four-year battle with colon cancer a secret to the public, so the sudden loss was both unanticipated and heartbreaking for his many fans. Whether or not to recast T’Challa was a controversial and highly debated decision that would determine the path of the Black Panther franchise moving forward. In a September interview, Marvel boss Kevin Feige told Empire Magazine “It just felt like it was much too soon to recast.” Feige and director Ryan Coogler had to decide how to move forward with their story without T’Challa – an iconic character whose incredible presence meant so much to so many – and somehow deliver a film that would continue the legend of Wakanda and honor the legacy of Boseman.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever begins with a very tense and emotional scene that will answer a lot of questions for fans. It is followed by a beautiful and silent tribute to Boseman through the opening Marvel Studios banner reveal. We then jump ahead a year, to a world still thirsty to get their hands on Wakanda’s precious – and dangerously powerful – element, Vibranium. As Wakanda mourns the loss of their king, they must protect their home from outside entities, both known and unknown.
The Black Panther sequel features a bevy of strong female characters and performances, most notably Letitia Wright as Shuri, the child-princess turned lead protagonist who must pick up where her fallen brother left off, and Angela Bassett as Ramonda, the grieving Queen mother of T’Challa. Lupita Nyong’o returns – as strikingly beautiful as ever – as T’Challa’s mournful lover, Nakia, as does Danai Gurira as the steadfast and mighty Okoye. Tenoch Huerta gives an inspiring breakthrough performance as Namor, the captivating leader of Talakon, a secluded underwater dwelling people who share quite a good deal in common with their counterparts in Wakanda.
The weight of loss and grief, the importance of family, and the desire for revenge are themes brimming throughout Wakanda Forever. While there is an overwhelming reverence attached to the film, the action sequences keep humming along and make the 161-minute runtime pass by like a breeze. There is fascinating new technology on display: gadgets and weaponry that are certain to keep audiences oohing and aahing at every turn.
Coogler has reunited with much of his team from the first Black Panther film, which would go on to receive seven Academy Awards nominations, including Best Picture. Black Panther won Oscars for Original Score (Ludwig Göransson), Costume Design ( Ruth E. Carter), and Production Design (Hannah Beachler and Jay Hart). All but Hart have returned to work on Wakanda Forever, and all are once again highly likely to receive awards citations for their work (most notably Carter’s extravagant and imaginative costumes).
The special effects and sound teams have a lot to be proud of as well. Steve Boeddeker and Benjamin A. Burtt return as the primary Sound Editors, as do Boeddeker, Brandon Proctor, and Peter J. Devlin as the lead Sound Mixing unit. All hope to repeat their Black Panther Sound Editing/Sound Mixing nominations this year in the merged Best Sound category. While the Academy failed to nominate Black Panther for Visual Effects, half of the team that won the BAFTA in the same category return on Wakanda Forever (Geoffrey Baumann and Craig Hammack).
Drenched in vibrant color, every frame of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever feels like a masterpiece worthy of our gaze. Affecting, tender, and full of heart-pounding thrills and excitement, Coogler and team have produced the rare sequel that not only lives up to the original but raises the bar in a tremendous way. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is the phoenix rising triumphantly from the ashes of Boseman’s tragic death, and includes, perhaps, the most powerful post-credit scene of any Marvel movie. It is such a beautiful moment and one that puts an exclamation mark on the decision to not recast T’Challa, but instead accept that death is a part of life, even in the world of superheroes.