Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Is Grief, Stunning Beauty, And Heart

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever still of Angela Bassett as Queen Ramonda sitting on the throne.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, directed by Ryan Coogler with story by Coogler and screenplay by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole is Marvel sequel after the unprecedented success of Black Panther. While less uplifting than the previous film, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is moving, entertaining, and cathartic; stunning in its visual splendor and phenomenal acting. The loss of Chadwick Boseman in the role of Black Panther and King T’Challa of Wakanda feels fresh for audiences as well as the cast and crew. The first movie filled you with love and joy, Wakanda Forever is about unaddressed grief’s toxic nature. Like the characters, viewers must go through it to make it to the other side. 

The opening acknowledges the loss of T’Challa through mourning and a celebration of his life. It is impossible to separate the T’Challa from the grace and love for the Black community actor Chadwick Boseman showed. His roles were weighty, chosen with care, and meant to be more, and this film honors that sense of community audiences felt seeing him as Black Panther on the big screen. 

Wakanda Forever Lead Performances & Opening May Leave You Sobbing

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever still of Wakandans dancing.
A scene from Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

The acting is one of the most potent, stunning aspects of Wakanda Forever. Through the characters, audiences undergo a collective catharsis. I am grateful audiences experience Angela Bassett, who brings both a wise regality and a “f*ck around and find out” energy to Queen Ramonda. Letitia Wright unleashes grief and rage as Shuri. It was clear Wakanda Forever would tie in Chadwick’s untimely passing. The film has them navigate rising tensions from other countries trying to take advantage of King T’Challa’s passing. 

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever still of Okoye (Danai Gurira) and Shuri (Leticia Wright) standing beside each other wearing shades.
(L-R): Danai Gurira as Okoye and Letitia Wright as Shuri in Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER. Photo by Eli Adé. © 2022 MARVEL.

So, Shuri embodies those feelings of senselessness and hopelessness when someone bright, shining with promise and love, leaves too soon. The Shuri full of smiles and laughter from the first film is gone. In her place is someone buckling under the weight of her pain. While Shuri remained in Wakanda, shuddering her grief away to seethe, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) stayed away. Lupita conveys so much in an expression as she talks with Queen Ramonda. Her eyes express the love for Wakanda, Queen Ramonda, and its citizens, but also a deep well of grief too raw, and her eyes plead, “let me stay gone and do not ask for anything.” 

Every Cast Member Brought Their ‘A’ Game

Winston Duke returns as M’Baku and shows a more subdued performance with moments of comedy and strength. Winston Duke is a stellar actor and needs more roles. Danai Gurira as Okoye always gives 110% to any part. Thanks to her performance, she continues to be a favorite. Newcomer to the cast, Dominique Thorne as Riri, added comic relief as well. This is thanks to her reactions to the extraordinary circumstances she finds herself in. Many of the cast deserve nominations for their performances. Sometimes, as an audience, viewers forget there are people behind these films. Making a sequel after a loss…there are no words. Understanding the collective grief, Ryan Coogler and the entire cast deliver a cathartic viewing experience for everyone. 

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever still of M'Baku (Winston Duke) standing in water pointing.
Winston Duke as M’Baku in Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER. Photo by Eli Adé. © 2022 MARVEL.

Tenoch Huerta is stunning as Namor and mirrors T’Challa’s beliefs. His eyes convey passion and love for his people. They also show pain. Because with love comes determination to do whatever is necessary to protect your people. Sometimes, that means making choices that bring emotional anguish and guilt. Every time he is on screen, you want to hug him. That is the difference between Talocan, Wakanda, and the U.S. Talocan and Wakanda’s choices stem from love for their people, not hate for another or a desire for power. 

Entrancing Assailment Of The Senses

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever still of Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett).
Angela Bassett as Ramonda in Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER. Photo by Annette Brown. © 2022 MARVEL.

The costumes transfix in their beauty. Ruth E. Carter’s costume designs convey the majestic beauty people in Wakanda epitomize. But they also allow for individuality. The mourning attire of white is brought to stunning life and even someone like me, who abhors white, cannot look away. Colors, makeup, and hair combine to breathtaking effect alongside spiritual, uplifting music. The vocals the Talocans make in the water are ethereal notes that resonate after the song ends. Sounds and visuals together present residents of Wakanda and Talocan with beauty that surpasses, indeed shatters, anything that came before. 

Hard To Choose A Side

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever still of Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejía) standing, holding a spear.
Tenoch Huerta Mejía as Namor in Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER. Photo by Eli Adé. © 2022 MARVEL.

Both films deal with battles between Black and Brown communities. What is at war are two ideologies regarding how to protect their respective homelands. This leaves you uncertain about how you should feel. Also, both wars were about attacking colonizers. In the former film, Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) wanted to give Black people the tools to fight back. In Wakanda Forever, Namor wants to circumvent an invasion by striking first. Neither of these sentiments is wrong. Historical and present-day violence the U.S. unleashes makes it challenging to argue.

In both films, you want both sides to win, or at least neither to lose. So as I watched, I did not cheer for Talocan to lose, but rather a resolution. Shuri and Namor connect through their pain and anger. Both ooze hurt and their scenes together are amazing. So, you do not want these two beautiful, culturally rich nations at odds with each other. As such, you pray for a peaceful resolution. But I am tired of seeing films uplifting the community, while pairing us against each other. 

Given The Conflict
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever still of Talocans, Attuma (Alex Livinalli) and Namora (Mabel Cadena) and two others preparing to fight.
(L-R): Alex Livinalli as Attuma and Mabel Cadena as Namora in Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

Ross’s (Martin Freeman) continued presence from the previous film to this one irks me. His condescension in the first movie is typical. U.S. history views countries like Wakanda as inferior and weak. Curious to see how they would resolve this, the first film opted to settle it with Ross taking a bullet for Nakia. Then the tension vanishes. Ross also plays a role in the final battle and proves pivotal in stopping Killmonger’s plans. 

In this film, again, Ross feels unnecessary. In an ideal or pessimistic mood, you could see Ross’s continued inclusion as a “we get there together” or a need to place a good white character in the film for some viewers to latch on to. Since Hollywood ignorantly believes a movie, diverse or not, requires someone for white people, I go with the latter. It is exhausting watching the continued pandering to a demographic that has been catered to for generations. Also, giving a white “good guy” while showing conflict between our communities feels worse.

A Journey Through Grief And Hope
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever still of Shuri (Leticia Wright) in white mourning attire.
Letitia Wright as Shuri in Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

Despite my issues with Ross in both films and outside situations—like Letitia Wright’s nonsense and that Black critics again fought for access to screenings and talent—I love Wakanda Forever like I love Black Panther. In time, these outside factors may harm both films if nothing changes. But Marvel needs to deliver the promise outside the film. You cannot show a beautiful world and deny others in the community the opportunity to walk in it. Nor should Black critics be an afterthought for access. You cannot want our dollars in theaters while ignoring our voices. To have films that showcase our importance, our humanity and our worth and behave that way is offensive.

Wakanda Forever ends on a note that, although T’Challa and the beloved actor Chadwick Boseman are gone, hope remains. What you take away from Wakanda Forever will depend on where your ideals lie. Recommended, but keep some Kleenex handy. Black Panther was a movement, a step into a world we all yearn for. Wakanda Forever is that world mourning, raging, and persevering toward something more despite losses. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever feels raw in its honesty and though problematic in parts, I loved it.

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