by Isaiah Ridley
Chadwick Boseman’s unexpected and tragic death brought the world of cinema and comics to a standstill. On the surface from a creative standpoint, he began to hit his peak as an actor, riding a wave of unparalleled success. His untimely passing left a glaring void within the Marvel Cinematic Universe regarding his performance as King T’Challa/The Black Panther.
Director Ryan Coogler found himself in an impossible situation, the script he had written was perfect. There were also questions as to whether he would go in the direction of recasting the role. After completing the stage of rewriting the script, he set about continuing the ill-fated task of filming the story without Boseman.
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” reunites Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett, Winston Duke, Martin Freeman, Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira from the previous film. The story follows the events of “Avengers: Endgame” with the nation of Wakanda reeling after the death of King T’Challa. Incorporating Boseman’s real-life experiences into the film’s theme creates an organic feel and allows it to continue in its natural succession.
Wakanda is under a barrage of pressure from every world government in existence to share resources of the precious rare metal vibranium. Unbeknownst to Wakanda and the rest of the world, there is a new secret civilization emerging that has resources to rival Wakanda. New Threat is the debut of Namor, an underwater human-mutant hybrid, commanding an army of warriors, seeking to forge an alliance with Wakanda, in which both worlds can conquer the surface world with their similar ideologies and resources.
Creating a story that essentially matches the quality of Boseman’s performances in “Captain America: Civil War,” his solo films, “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame” seems like an impossible task. Expectations were at a fever pitch; Curious minds wondered how the theme, plot and writing would have overcome the emotional and tragic shock of the death of the beloved actor who made “Black Panther” a household name.
Of course, I was one of those worried fans and viewers. My expectations were mainly related to Namor’s rise. During my childhood, my father was a big fan of the character Namor. He reads comics, watches animated series, and ironically enough – his two favorite superheroes are underwater-based characters. My fascination with the character of Namor came from my father. Needless to say, I was delighted by how my initial concerns were proven wrong not only by the writing but also by the acting and tone of the film. However, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” met at the same time and exceeded my expectations. The movie marked a huge improvement from past issues with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Previous cinematic outings I felt relied too heavily on humor, not focusing on the intensity and emotion of specific revelations and events, using humor in a way that removed any and all essential emotion from a specific scene.
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” in my opinion, is probably the darkest, most emotional and tense story, given the extent of what happened, next to “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Avengers: Infinity War.” I appreciated how well the humor was balanced with not detracting from the seriousness that Namor represented as a new threat. The action sequences are a big and significant improvement over its predecessor; Visually the film has an ancient, precise and otherworldly atmosphere that I found magnificently captivating.
The acting in this film is intense, with raw emotion and Boseman’s pain within the cast. Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett and Lupita Nyong’o are all at the top of their game with their powerful performances. Their dialogue and reactions fit the authentic spectrum of characters trying to heal from deep pain. Again, the lack of reliance on the comedy department allowed the story, character development and necessary emotion to flow naturally.
Tenoch Huerta’s performance as Namor was absolutely perfect for me. I have to admit at first that when they removed Namor’s comic book connection to Atlantis, I was ready to deduct two points. I have always embraced the mythology of any mysterious underwater kingdom that sparks the imagination of new or ancient life forms that exist beneath the sea. Coogler practically delivered a significant horror film directing performance in how Namor and Talokans were presented. It’s hard to describe the stressful moment when they arrive, in all honesty. Whatever words anyone is able to use to accurately describe that initial scene, feel free to let me know. I can only say from my perspective, it had me on the edge of my seat.
Worries were calmed by the display and revelation of the underwater kingdom led by Namor. Let me say that these are the moments I am describing so the theater setting is a must. You can’t get the feel of an underwater civilization by watching it on a TV, phone or laptop. To embrace the natural beauty and complexity, one must see the magic on the big screen. The only way I can describe the moment is how it defines the word ethereal. Tenoch’s performance as Namor will be defined as one of the greatest portrayals of the iconic Marvel character in cinema history.
The film succeeded as a beautiful and emotional tribute to Boseman. The visuals, musical score, acting, emotional weight, action sequences and serious atmosphere make it a great feature from start to finish. For my final rating “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” gets a 10/10 and a two-thumbs-up response.
Isaiah Ridley works at Beacon Cinemas in Sumter. To see his movie reviews online, find him @Izzy’s Cinematic Escape on YouTube.