“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”: Heavy is the Head…


Will Teare

Director: Ryan Coogler

Starring: Letitia Wright, Tenoch Huerta, Danai Gurira, Dominique Thorne, Winston Duke, Lupita Nyong’o with Martin Freeman and Angela Bassett

Release Date: Nov 11, 2022

Rating: 3.5/5 


To understand “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”, is to understand its immensely troubled production.

August 2020: Chadwick Boseman tragically passed away due to colon cancer. Ryan Coogler, while grieving the loss of his friend and having finished writing the sequel, begins rewriting the entire script.

December 2020: Letitia Wright faces backlash after retweeting a video of anti-vax and transphobic views.   

August 2021: While on set, Letitia Wright was injured in a motorcycle stunt in Boston. They shoot scenes without her while she recovers.

November 2021: Marvel shuts down production while waiting for Letitia Wright to recover.

January 2022: Ryan Coogler, while making a normal withdrawal from his bank account, is arrested. A teller mistook him for a bank robber. Additionally, filming is once again shut down, this time due to the omicron variant. Cast and crew, including Lupita Nyong’o, tested positive.

Now, in November of 2022, I sat down to see the sequel to the Oscar-winning global phenomenon “Black Panther”. Despite it being up there as one of the most sincere MCU films, it struggles under the weight of its aspirations. 

This movie has way too many jobs to do. It has to be a sincere story about grief while also being a sequel to a billion-dollar movie. In my opinion, when you’re working a scale this big with demographics to hit and product to sell, a send-off to T’Challa and Chadwick Boseman doesn’t completely work. Although all its themes bury each other and leave a lot to be desired, I think Coogler did the best he could with T’Challa. 

Speaking of products, my least favorite part of the movie was when I felt that Kevin was just selling lego sets. Okoye(Danai Gurira) and Aneka(Michaela Coel) get new, very ugly Iron Man-adjacent suits for the third act. Oh, and Wakanda has a battleship now? It just felt like Ryan Coogler and Kevin Fiege just filmed themselves banging action figures together. 

In fact, most of the choreography felt exactly like that. The editing felt super flat and wasn’t punctuating the action in any way. There are just some fancy movements with absolutely zero impact. My favorite fight scene in the previous “Black Panther” was the Korean Casino fight (specifically Okoye’s part) because the visual intent is so clear. There’s not a single fight that even gets close to that. The final showdown is pretty cool though, but too little too late. Perhaps they were nervous over recreating the infamous final fight from the first film? But at the end of the day, it’s just sloppy. 

A new addition to the cast is Riri Williams, the MIT wunderkind/aspiring superhero. She wasn’t miscast, a bad actor, or even a bad character, I thought Dominique Thorne did just fine there. However, I couldn’t help but think that she shouldn’t be here. She’s yet another shoehorned character who gets her origin story thrown in just to set up her own TV show. Her humor and her fun Gen Z vibes just didn’t fit at all with gods and kings battling for the survival of their kingdoms. The whiplash of King T’Challa’s death to Riri Williams cracking a one-liner didn’t work at all. Even when it did work, I just felt like someone was selling me on another mediocre Disney+ TV show.

She’s not the only side character that’s out of place. The great Michaela Coel is here for no reason. Despite Coel being a remarkably gifted actor, the script supplies her with literally nothing to work with. Plus, Martin Freeman’s Everett K. Ross is back for some reason. Oh, So is Director Valentina Allegra de Fontaine(Julia Louis-Dreyfus) so they can set up “Thunderbolts” or some other property down the line. Let’s not forget about Namor’s cronies who I can’t remember the name of. I don’t really have to, they’re just brick walls for our main characters to punch. It’s just that there is an absurd amount of things to accomplish in this movie and any character that’s added that isn’t Namor simply takes away from everything. 

Namor the Sub-mariner has arrived on Marvel’s shores and boy am I excited to have him with us. He’s arrogant and prideful with the skill to back it up. As menacing as he is charming. As villainous to Wakanda as he is heroic to Talokan. He’s not a king, he’s a god, and you believe it. Tenoch Huerta bats a thousand every time.

That phenomenal trailer got a ton of Oscar buzz right out of the gate. After watching, I don’t see anything too crazy happening, but I’d be fine if Ruth Carter got another Oscar for her costume work. Yeah, the suits for the heroes are all terrible(Namor being the exception that proves the rule), but her work on Wakandan fashion is more than perfect. The Queen’s dresses, every Letitia Wright fit, next-level work from top to bottom. 

Heavy is the head that bears the crown of all this behind-the-scenes tragedy. This movie has a lot of issues, but it’s in the director’s chair where Ryan Coogler flourishes. He can get a good, no, incredible performance out of just about anyone. This film is horribly messy, but there’s so much passion from him that seeps through the screen at every moment. His passion elevates this movie to heights most directors couldn’t reach in this scenario. But I just can’t escape this thought. This one terrifying thought. The very same thought that went through Ryan’s head, Kevin Fiege’s, Letitia Wright’s, and Angela Bassett’s. From that first rewrite of the film to the release day. From 2020 to now. I can’t help but think that this mess needs someone to center ourselves with. Someone to ground us and hold all our attention together. But he’s not here anymore. And I miss him.