Wakanda Forever is the final film in Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), a phase which was disappointing and under-whelming both critically and commercially. The good years of 2018 and 2019 have been followed by three years of steady decline, which of course was also partly due to the devastating global pandemic. This Black Panther sequel is emblematic of all the problems facing the MCU.
S P O I L E R S
Wakanda Forever’s first obstacle was the sudden death of Chadwick Boseman. Marvel’s decision not to recast T’Challa was perhaps a sentimental one. Recasting actors is nothing new for the MCU eg. Bruce Banner, James Rhodes etc. Did Marvel do this cynically to gain as much social capital as possible? Certainly, it may be argued that this sequel is weaker because of T’Challa’s absence.
While the movie does its level best to mine the dramatic consequences of T’Challa’s death, it also throws Leticia Wright into an unlikely role as T’Challa’s successor. Sure, Shuri was Black Panther in the source material but Wright – as accomplished an actor as she is – is no action performer. There is a palpable disconnect. Which makes the final battle between Shuri and Namor hard to swallow.
Speaking of Namor, Wakanda Forever addressed the inevitable Aquaman comparisons by re-imagining Namor’s origin story completely. All well and good. But can you imagine the MCU’s version of Shuri (i.e. Wright) defeating Namor – said to be as strong as the Hulk – in hand to hand combat? Sure, there was the evaporation chamber and all that but still….
The other main problem with Wakanda Forever – a common accusation against MCU – the incessant setups that did not forward the narrative whatsoever. Riri Williams (aka Ironheart) is the prime culprit here. Her origin story was very badly handled – no links to Tony Stark whatsoever diminished the power and engagement of the source material.
Not to mention that the Ironheart armour she wore was horribly designed. Even if it was faithful to the source material, that does not mean that the film could not have improved on that eyesore! To rub salt on the wound, she is not allowed to bring the armour home and thus has to start from scratch in her own Disney+ series? Why was she even in this movie???
And what about that post-credits scene? Introducing a new T’Challa in this manner was again trite and sentimental. Presumably, this allows the MCU to re-introduce young T’Challa as the new Black Panther down the line. There were so many other ways of handling this eg. a Black Panther variant with Killmonger instead etc. Or simply recast the character.
Wakanda Forever is an enjoyable and watchable MCU movie, if deeply flawed. The only positive, in our view, is the nuanced introduction of Namor to the MCU. Hope to see Namor soon in other MCU projects.
Read our non-spoiler review here.
Now showing in cinemas.
… still there’s more …