Black Panther Wakanda Forever review

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever trailer

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But when lead actor Chadwick Boseman died of cancer in August 2020, writer-director Ryan Coogler knew he couldn’t rely on convoluted plot twists for his sequel to 2018’s global smash hit Black Panther.

Recasting was an option. Instead, Coogler has made the death of his Oscar-nominated star the subject of the entire film. The result is an unusually mournful superhero movie powered by touching performances rather than the obligatory CGI actionscenes.

This 161-minute film begins with Chadwick’s King T’Challa dying off-screen as his scientist sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) frantically seeks a cure for his unnamed illness.

When her mother Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) says her efforts are in vain, the tears shed by the actors feel heartbreakingly real.

After a funeral sequence, we return to Wakanda a year later. Now without its king and his superhero alter ego Black Panther, the UN urges the country to share rights to the precious metal ­vibranium.

This political turmoil leads a flying immortal Mayan merman called Namor (Tenoch Huerta) to surface from his hidden underwater kingdom. His civilisation has also been built on vibranium and he fears the ‘surface world’ will colonise his people, as the Spanish ­conquistadors did with his ancestors.

He offers Ramonda and Shuri an ultimatum – join him in waging war against the world or become his enemies. It’s a quandary that develops the first film’s themes of colonisation, forgiveness and resistance.

Despite its upbeat title, Wakanda Forever doesn’t have the bite or energy of the original. With Shuri still stricken with grief, a climactic battle set on a barge in the Atlantic feels almost perfunctory.

It’s overlong and perhaps overly respectful, but heartfelt performances from Bassett and Wright hold this disjointed eulogy together.

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