Cert – 12, Run-time – 2 hours 41 minutes, Director – Ryan Coogler
After suffering the death of King T’Challa, the Black Panther, the country of Wakanda finds itself weakened and vulnerable after opening up to the rest of the world and receiving threats of war from an underwater civilisation.
The authenticity of the fictional country of Wakanda was praised as a large team effort. The highly visceral style which was on display was reflected in the overall sound – which led to a handful of rightful Oscar wins for the film in the creative categories. Yet, Wakanda was also authentic because of its characters and the internal conflicts which could impact the outside world. Now the country has opened up to the rest of the world there’s a global want for vibranium, the rare, almost indestructible, metal only available in that part of the world. There are tensions rising with other countries, including the US, who all believe that the peaceful nation could use the metal for weapons of mass destruction. All while they try to recover from the death of King T’Challa – the opening scenes certainly create an emotional build-up and response in the wake of Chadwick Boseman’s passing.
Without the defence of the Black Panther Wakanda finds themselves at perhaps their most vulnerable and weakened state. Particularly when threatened with war by leader of the underwater Talokan civilisation Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejía) who asks the grieving queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and princess Shuri (Letitia Wright) to find the scientist who created the drills that have invaded his land or else he will destroy Wakanda. However, it turns out that this scientist is college student Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne). It’s with this introduction that Wakanda Forever really starts to find its flow. It’s introduced most of its characters and set itself up, now it can truly get into its narrative.
There’s certainly still a lot to see and get through over the course of the nearly three hour run-time (which manage to go by rather quickly), but the generally flow of the film is rather good as your kept engaged throughout. It’s the aforementioned authenticity of the titular country which manages to do this. Not just visually and audibly but in terms of the way that those within the nation interact with others and prepare for battle against forces which they haven’t seen before – forces which feel grounded and believable in their reasoning for threats and attacks, perhaps adding further interest in various fight and battle sequences.
There are a number of undeniably ‘cool’ shots within a number of these scenes, including a handful which linger through co-writer (alongside Joe Robert Cole) and director Ryan Coogler. Add to that the visual flair brought about by the cinematography and there’s clearly a strong visual effort that’s been brought into play to further bring you in to the creativity of the world on display. It mixes well with the third act in particular where there’s an understated nature to the build-up and escalating action held within it.
Further propelled by what has come beforehand in terms of the film narratively taking a step outside of familiar surroundings, particularly for the central characters. Looking at how Wakanda interacts with the rest of the world now that it has opened up and finding themselves in an increasingly uncertain situation as everything seems to have disappeared from around them.
While there’s plenty of action what truly propels and engages within Wakanda Forever is the dramatic side of things. A nation still mourning and trying to recover while in an already uncertain situation. Something shown and developed among the more present supporting characters, not just the likes of Danai Gurira’s fierce yet effortlessly funny Okoye and Lupia Nyong’o’s Nakia, in instances such as discussions between the various tribal leaders of Wakanda – including Winston Duke’s returning M’Baku. The same goes for the way in which we see the oceanic world of Talokan and the people within it. It adds to Namor as a character and that new realm as a whole. Creating yet another villain within this particular franchise, after the first film’s Killmonger, where you can understand their motives and reasoning, but they certainly go the wrong way about resolving it.
That is where Wakanda, and indeed Wakanda Forever, succeeds the most. Once it properly delves into this point after a slightly lengthy set of introductions – somewhat lessened by the simple use of fade edits from one scene to another to avoid feeling jumpy and somehow less busy – it finds its stride and manages to run with it for most of the remaining run-time. There’s plenty of humour along the way amongst the action and dramatic stakes which are well grounded by Cole and Coogler and the entire cast of the film. All of whom you can tell are dedicated to telling this story about a country, a group of people, trying to prevail. And in the end it succeeds because of all the detail and effort that has been put into the various different aspects of making an authentic place and people, as grounded as possible (of course with a number of sci-fi, fantasy and action tints) within a world which further reflects that.
While the build-up might take a bit of time to introduce the various different characters there’s no denying that the pay-off of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is successfully engaging because of the various believable dramas which push the authenticity of Wakanda and the world it’s opened up to, playing out amongst plenty of enjoyable action.