In the shadow of the death of the much beloved Chadwick Boseman, many were unsure of how Marvel would tackle this latest film without giving into grief, I think it’s safe to say it found that balance in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
Having spoken on the topic of grief so much since Chadwick’s passing was announced, this wasn’t going to be an easy run for anyone in production of Marvel’s Wakanda Forever. The film is riddled with tributes to Chadwick’s character T’Challa whom audiences spend time with in the first 20 minutes of the film as he was laid to rest.
This important moment allowed for reflection on who T’Challa was to many, The Black Panther but also more importantly recognised him as an older brother and a son. Letitia Wright and Angela Bassett have reprised their roles as Shuri and Queen Romanda as well as Danai Gurira, Head of the formidable all-female army, the Dora Milaje.
It’s not a spoiler to say that one of these women, including T’Challa’s love interest in the first film, Nakia, played by Lupita Nyong’o, would be in the line to be the next Black Panther (or Pantheress, as my father tried to reason) but it was about to be a two hour and 41 minute journeying to get there.
Faced with a new threat presented to Wakanda from underwater, ‘villian’ Namor, played by Tenoch Huerta Mejía, leader of the Atlantis-style city Talokon, seeks to have the Wakandans join him in the protection of vibrainium against Western powers or crush Wakanda in order to keep his own people safe. Underlying themes of abolition and anti-colonialism run strong throughout the film as we are treated to flashbacks of the Spanish laying waste to Central America.
In an interview with Variety, Director Ryan Coolger told journalists how he learnt how to swim so as to assist with directing underwater scenes, “If the camera’s in the water, actors are in the water, I’ve got to be in there too”.
With around half of the film taking place underwater, it’s obvious that there is a significance there, rebirth and new beginnings and as Coogler told Variety, it wasn’t just the director who had swimming and free diving lessons. Anglea Bassett and Lupita Nyong’o did also, as well as Namor’s right hand woman, played by Mabel Cadena who can now boast to hold her breath for six and a half minutes underwater.
Overall, the film is visually stunning. From the scenes of T’Challa’s burial to the squenced fights of the Dora Milaje, Talokonians, Wakandans and others, it is clear that love and pride of making something dedicated to Chadwick ran deep in this process. Comedic relief is well timed, and stops the film from getting over bogged down in those moments of grief brought on by soundtrackless moments honouring Chadwick. Provided the likes of Winston Duke’s formidable and literally larger than life M’Baku, Danai’s Okoye and new comer giving Shuri a run for money, Dominique Thorne as college student, Riri Williams.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is in cinemas now.