It comes as no surprise, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is as large scale as anything else in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Continuing Phase 4’s pattern of tackling the grieving process, there’s also plenty more to chew on in their latest venture. Director/co-writer Ryan Coogler returns to Wakanda with plenty of breathing room, allowing the story to continue, along with the expected character arcs and expanded world building you’d hope to have in a sequel. The passing of Chadwick Boseman is felt in every frame — Boseman did come up with sequel ideas before his passing — while every character tries to find their place in a world without a king.
This is no spoiler — King T’Challa has passed. Mourning T’Challa, Shuri (Letitia Wright) and her mother, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), find themselves in a new position. None too soon, Namor (Tenoch Huerta) comes calling, after blame is placed on Wakanda when a U.S. diving ship discovers a destroyed machine that can detect vibranium. Thought to only exist in Wakanda, Namor sets out to decide whether Wakanda is an ally, or enemy, while setting his sights on the scientist, 19-year-old MIT student Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne), who built the machine from scratch.
Meanwhile, the CIA’s Agent Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) is trying to keep everyone calm stateside, by maintaining secret contact with Shuri and Okoye, much to the chagrin of his new director, Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss). Namor fears the world will use vibranium to advance weapons of mass destruction, while Wakanda wants to clear their name, even if it means outing Namor’s secret underwater kingdom, Talokan. Now, it’s a race against time, with Ramonda sending Shuri and Okoye (Danai Gurira) to find Riri before Namor and bring her back safely to Wakanda.
Make no mistake, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever may be a whole lot of movie, but it also feels very self-contained for the MCU. While there may be some seed sprinkling happening, and the start of ties to upcoming films and Disney+ series, it also feels very old school. At least compared to some of the bolder strides coming out of Phase 4. Tonally, it would fit right into Phase 3, had it been made before Boseman’s passing. Considering Coogler had such a heavy load to bear — crafting a new movie without its star and biggest inspiration — he provides a thoughtful, introspective, and downright tear-jerking endeavor.
Namor makes for a phenomenal addition to the MCU and I will be there for any future efforts containing him, or the jaw-dropping world of Talokan. And Bassett gives an award-worthy performance of her own. It’s interesting that two of the best villains come from just two of the massive slate of the now 30 films within the MCU. Make no mistake, tears will be shed, the box office will overflow, and a new Black Panther shall rise. Wakanda Forever takes the shadow of Boseman cast lovingly over it and runs with it. The pacing never feels slow, the characters manage to keep us interested in what comes next, and we all finally get one last chance to pay tribute. Wakanda Forever indeed.