It goes without saying that I loved Marvel’s Black Panther when it hit theaters back in 2018 and even more when it came home. So like the rest of the world hungry for more, I couldn’t wait for a sequel, but the tragic death of main star Chadwick Boseman in 2020 left us curious how Disney would pull that off. When it was announced the film wouldn’t recast T’Challa many wondered what a sequel would even look like, let alone fit into the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever does a good job answering these concerns, but its long run time and odd pacing issues hold it from reaching the greatness its predecessor so easily scaled.
The film wastes no time in mourning and giving tribute to T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), which is handled nicely before the famed Marvel Studios logo even appears (which sports footage of Boseman in a purple glow in the logo for a nice touch). A year later, T’Challa’s sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) and her mother Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) are still mourning his loss and doing their best to carry on.
Naturally the Marvel action begins to kick off with some scientists discovering the famed material Vibranium deep in the ocean, which was thought to only be in Wakanda. Before the scientists can dig it up, they’re killed off by a group of underwater people led by Namor (Tenoch Huerta), who does so in order to keep his people and city hidden away from humans.
As a follow up to this, Namor confronts Ramonda about it and lets her know he’s going to find and kill the person responsible for creating the machine that allows humans to find Vibranium, but this upsets Ramonda as the world thinks Wakanda is responsible for the scientists deaths. So she orders her head guard to find the creator, which turns out to be a young lady in college named Riri (Dominique Thorne).
Shuri tags along for the mission and slowly makes friends with Riri, only for both of them to get captured by Namor and his elite guard. From here the film goes into how Wakanda, Namor’s kingdom, and the rest of the world will react to this conflict and what follows. To say anymore would give away some of the surprises, including cameos and returning characters from the first film.
It’s also hard to go further into director Ryan Coogler’s second Black Panther film without running into a lot of the problems that hold it back from greatness, such as focusing on too many things happening at once. Like we get a look at Wakanda and its troubles, then jumping (or should that be swimming?) over to Namor and his kingdom, then back to Wakanda, then the CIA, with it constantly switching between these at a moments notice.
Then we have Riri who just happens to be able to craft an Iron Man suit (and will soon have her own series on Disney+ next year). So yeah, there’s a lot going on that can be not only overwhelming, but bogs the film down as it feels like for every step it takes forward, it takes a few back. Add in running at close to three hours, and it feels like the movie is just too much most of the time.
Even with its problems, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a good follow up to the original film, but it could have been so much more. I respect what Ryan Coogler and his team attempted to do, especially with the unenviable task of continuing without Chadwick Boseman, and its heart feels like it’s in the right place. But the Marvel Machine must move on, and it’s impossible not to have that feeling of “it could’ve been better if they had did such and such…” afterwards.