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Will Ferris
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Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (12A, 161 Minutes)

In 2018, the superhero genre finally went to a place many had hoped for over countless years. Chadwick Boseman starred as T’Challa, King of the hidden African kingdom of Wakanda and their costumed, defender, Black Panther.

Not only did the film have the first all black ensemble cast in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it also gave a rich insight into African culture – music, history, dance, spirituality and became the only Marvel film to be nominated for an Academy award

Unfortunately, in 2020 the world was rocked by the passing of actor Boseman after a four year battle with colon cancer, which he had kept hidden from even his fellow cast mates. No one can deny what an incredible role model Boseman was for not only the black community but creatives on a whole. He will be sadly missed.

A few years on and director Ryan Coogler has delivered a follow up. Wakanda Forever takes place in the aftermath of King T’Challa’s sudden death from an unnamed illness – a bit on the nose, but it works respectfully.

His mother, and highlight of the film Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), is struggling to rule the hidden country whilst her scientist daughter Shuri (Letitia Wright) has thrown herself into designing advanced technology to defend her people, haunted by her failure to save her brother.

With T’Challa gone, the peace alliance between Wakanda and the rest of the world has decayed and world leaders are demanding access to vibranium, the strongest metal found only in the deep waters of Wakanda.

This alerts the attention of an underwater civilisation, hidden away for millennia and led by pointy eared swimwear model Namor (Tenoch Huerta Meija) and his fish people who look alarmingly like the Na’avi from James Cameron’s Avatar.

As a mark of respect to Boseman’s memory, this film really does him justice and is, in some sense, a tribute whilst also attempting to keep the character of Black Panther around for future appearances in the MCU.

But whilst moving the character forward, there are interesting character choices made which allow us to view the Panther in a much different light, with separate morals to that of its noble predecessor.

There’s an interesting focus on death, mourning and the concept of an afterlife. The visuals are great, the script is…ok and Danai Gurira as royal guard Okoye is hilarious and kick-ass cool. Dominique Thorne as Riri Williams, or Iron Heart, is also a really great introduction, even if she does fail to mention Robert Downey Jr. for the duration despite having a suit literally designed after Iron Man.

But the one person who steals the show is Angela Bassett, who is just such a wonderful performer with a stellar screen presence.

Disappointingly, the film does very little to progress the big MCU storyline. In fact, there’s no mention of a multiverse at all. Perhaps we’ll have to wait until next year for any of that to develop. Even more disappointing is the removal of a certain post-credit scene, in which a villainous “Latverian” was due to reveal himself as the string puller.

It would have been great, but I wouldn’t waste your time waiting until the end of the credits.

But definitely stay for the mid.

RATING: 7/10

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