"Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" (2022)- Movie Review"

Writer/Director: Ryan Coogler
Starring Letitia Wright, Angela Basset, Lupita N’yongo

‘Spectacular Sequel’

It’s easier said than done when processing the loss of a cinematic icon as commemorated as Chadwick Boseman. Following his star-making turns in 2018’s “Black Panther”, Boseman appeared destined to a Marvel-ous future. He seemed to have everything actors need to succeed in entertainment business: handsome appearance, intelligence and charismatic screen presence. As a real-life superhero with icon status of Wonder Woman, Boseman represented embodiment of hope for African-Americans. However, recently his short-lived career was cut tragically short by Cancer. As he transformed into household name reaching height of fame, Boseman’s career came towards Endgame. Truth be told, the celebrity was only 43 years old when his career as treasured as Vibranium gold got put on hold. Cancer turned crown worn by Wakanda’s king upside down. Well-aware he had little time left to live, Boseman made making movies his objective. Even though it took a toll on his health, the actor poured his heart and soul into every film role. He kept Cancer hidden in secrecy to avoid news-media scrutiny. Being an actor that inspired African-Americans to conquer racism, the celebrity’s death has been a shock to the system. Not only did the artist’s death send shockwave through black community, but it marked a painful loss for the film industry. Two years after he passed away, there’s scarcely a way to honor the star today. Why has it taken a heavy heart to honor the actor’s art?

Now, Ryan Coogler celebrates the legend in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”. An Action-packed, empowering and feminist sequel, it commemorates a celebrity whose charisma will forever be remembered in Cinema. With this sequel, Coogler constructs a celebration of the icon. Boasting exquisite production-design, meaningful storytelling and phenomenal performances, it’s a Wakanda-ful sequel. Although “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is riveting, it’s not flawless. It’s unevenly paced, lacking multidimensional villains. Nonetheless, it offers exhilarating entertainment for comic-book fans.

Following Boseman’s passing, “Wakanda Forever” chronicles the nation of Wakanda struggling to process the death of its king. Letitia Wright personifies Shuri, a grief-stricken adolescent mourning brother T’ Challa’s heartbreaking casualty. Without the king’s motivational objectives, Shuri struggles looking at life from a positive perspective. However, Shuri’s point-of-views change when defending kingdom from an underwater threat. Witnessing rays of hope, Shuri discovers a way to honor her brother that’s passed away.

Writer/director Ryan Coogler’s always been fascinated with stories of African-American superheroes in an industry that’s often ignored minorities. Following 2018’s Oscar-winning “Black Panther”, Coogler has become a phenomenal African-American filmmaker. With “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”, however, Coogler produces a comic-book sequel. It’s intimidating for filmmakers to proceed making movies following devastating deaths of leading actors. It’s Coogler’s attempt to acknowledge heartbreaking passings of a movie-star, but he accomplishes it successfully. Through appealing cinematography, Coogler conveys mourning of a nation struggling to come to terms with the death of a king. Emulating the Russo Brothers’ “Avengers: Endgame”, Coogler successfully employs close-ups symbolizing emotions experienced during a Stark-ly beloved celebrity’s funeral. Alongside cinematographer Autumn Durald Arkapaw, Coogler creates a feast for the eyes. Coogler honors the African star, crafting a film that demands to be seen on the big-screen.

If deceased African-American celebrities don’t attract attention, however, there’s several reasons see “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”. Accompanied by stunt-coordinator Chris Denison, Coogler thrives employing slow-motion to stage action sequences that empower African-American women. For instance, slow-motion is effectively used to convey the formidable fighting skills of Wakanda women during the homeland invasion sequence. During awe-inspiring sequence, Wakanda’s women forced defending homelands from mysterious sea-monster intruders. One appreciates slow-motion that is expertly employed to convey formidable courage of feminist warriors in Wonder-ous visuals reminiscent of Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman”. A common criticism against Marvel blockbusters is their excessive slow-motion (ex. Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers”). Nevertheless, techniques succeed. Furthermore, Ruth E. Carter’s costume-design is praiseworthy. Evoking Gina-Prince Blythewood’s “The Woman King”, costumes commemorate African-Americans. Through production-design, Coogler celebrates African-American culture.

Another extraordinary “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” component is the screenplay. Coogler’s screenwriting strength is acknowledging the passing of celebrities by using flashbacks storytelling. If there’s a downside to Marvel’s movies, they are commonly criticized for using lighthearted humor avoiding serious subjects. Case-in-point: Jon Favreau’s “Iron Man” tackled serious subject of terrorism with an inappropriate sense of humor. Fortunately, however, Coogler doesn’t shy away discussing serious subjects. Evoking Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods”, Coogler effectively uses flashbacks capturing heartfelt emotion associated with real-life passing of deceased movie-star. Recalling four tormented Vietnam soldiers fondly remembering their squadron leader, Shuri recalls heartwarming moment spent with her brother in flashback. Through ingenious technique, Coogler allows the world to mourn the death of real-life actor. Flashbacks are tricky techniques to employ in movies. Flashbacks are appropriate for serious-minded origin stories focusing on superheroes struggling to overcome their parents’ death (ex. Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins”). However, the technique succeeds. Through a thoughtful screenplay, Coogler commemorates a movie-star that’s passed away.

One marvels at magnificent performances.

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Letitia Wright delivers a career-defining performance as Shuri. Following “Black Panther” breakthrough, Wright’s has proven to be an astonishing actress with aptitude for portraying African-American warrior women. With “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”, however, Wright showcases the character’s evolution. If predecessor sidelined Shuri merely as comical relief, Wright conveys the character’s belief in overcoming grief. Recalling Lashana Lynch in Cari Joji Fukunaga’s “No Time to Die”, Wright creates a compelling black spy. With riveting expressions, she embodies anger, bravery and mourning of adolescent using technology to overcome her brother’s heartbreaking passing. It’s a fantastic performance from an African-American movie-star.

The supporting cast is spectacular, crafting Wakanda-ful chemistry. Angela Basset’s amazing, embodies emotion of a queen struggling to keep sensitive her heart from tearing apart witnessing her son depart. Lupita N’yongo’s lovely, capturing sorrow of lonely widow turning toward teaching cope with grief losing her hero. Finally, Tenoch Huerta’s unforgettable.

Despite magnificent performances, however, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” can’t overcome the foreboding shadow cast by its superior predecessor. Coogler’s decision to integrate underwater civilization subplot is provocative and groundbreaking, but affects the pacing. Due to a misjudged subplot, sequences highlighting underwater civilizations are less entertaining than Shuri’s central missions. Stories of non-human civilizations appear appropriate for sci-fi blockbusters (ex. James Cameron’s “Avatar”). Moreover, the sequel is undermined by lackluster villains. For instance, Namor is an one-dimensional antagonist that lacks reasonable motivation behind his world-domination destruction. Unlike Killmonger in “Black Panther” whose sympathetic childhood trauma motivated him to terrorize Wakanda, Namor’s persona follows a conventional villain formula. As the Russo Brothers’ “Avengers: Infinity War” demonstrated, for comic-book movies to succeed antagonists need reasonable creed. Marvel’s blockbusters succeed based on memorable antagonists, and consequently the sequel falters.

Nevertheless, comic-readers will recognize “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and so will moviegoers seeking heartwarming entertainment. A Wakanda-ful sequel, it proves Cinema is a powerful way to say farewells towards deceased stars passed away. If it’s possible to imagine alternate world where Black-Panther didn’t pass away miraculously survived Cancer tragedy, one would like to think the King of Wakanda would be obliged for being crowned king by Marvel’s fanbase communities.

Nearly two years after an African-American teenager whose dreams of entering filmmaking industry were cut tragically short by Cancer chemotherapy surgeries, hopefully it will spark interest in an actor whose movies deserve be celebrated for opening doors to minorities.

It’s high time Hollywood celebrated an actor whose charisma as treasured as the Vibranium found in the kingdom of Wakanda will forever be sorely missed from Cinema.

In a world undergoing the painful process of mourning a devastating passing, it demonstrates Cinema has the power to allow audiences to come to terms with the death of Ledger-dary icons.

At a time when the world still hasn’t recovered from being torn apart by witnessing Chadwick Boseman depart, it’s a Wakanda-ful tribute toward cinematic icon whose movies regarded as pieces of art continue to hold a special place in moviegoers’ hearts.

4/5 stars

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