Review for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
I may be drifting on inertia when it comes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There haven’t been too many films since Endgame that have really thrilled or enthused me in the same way as the films prior, not helped with the sense that Marvel are a little lost when it comes to the Multiverse saga that they appear to be setting up. It’s probably still bad news when it comes to my wallet, and good for Marvel’s balance sheet, as my inertia can really last. It took me 10 years to stop buying into Star Trek after I fell out of love with it. Even then, I never really saw what was brilliant about the first Black Panther film, certainly didn’t see the same brilliance that had fans and critics alike singing its praises. And now the sequel is here, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, having to deal with the loss of the titular character, given that actor Chadwick Boseman passed away prior to its production. The easy route would have been to recast, but for Wakanda Forever, they took the tougher route of writing the character out to respect the memory of the actor.
King T’Challa died of an illness that could have been cured with the heart-shaped herb that bestows power on the Black Panther, the herb that Killmonger destroyed. T’Challa’s sister Shuri tried in vain to engineer a replacement for the herb, and she and her mother Queen Ramunda have been in mourning ever since. That doesn’t mean that Wakanda is no longer a player on the world stage as the previous king intended. And they still have to protect their precious vibranium resource. And if the world’s powers can’t get it from Wakanda, they’ll look elsewhere.
When a Vibranium prospecting rig is attacked and destroyed in the Atlantic Ocean, Wakanda is the chief suspect, but there is a new player on the scene. The undersea kingdom of Talokan also has vibranium resources it wants to protect, and their leader, Namor is ready to pressure Wakanda into joining them against the outside world hungry for vibranium. The first thing they want Wakanda to do is to find and turn over the scientist who developed the technology used to detect the metal so they can be eliminated. But when that scientist turns out to be a 19-year-old college student, Shuri and her mother take a position that puts the country of Wakanda into harm’s way.
Black Panther gets a 2.39:1 widescreen 1080p transfer, and the choice between DTS-HD MA 7.1 Surround English, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Spanish, and DD 2.0 Stereo English Audio Descriptive with subtitles in these languages. And ditto... meaning, new film gets a picture perfect transfer, the audio is nice and immersive, the action comes across well, detail and colours are excellent, the effects are up to the usual standards, and as is so common with comic book movies these days, there is so much CGI used that the term ‘reality’ should no longer be applied to the photographically captured image.
You get one disc in a thin BD Amaray style case. The fatter cases and o-card slipcovers are consigned to the realm of the UHD releases only now. The disc boots to a slightly animated menu and you’ll find the following extras on the disc.
Envisioning Two Worlds (10:55)
Passing the Mantle (5:50)
Gag Reel (2:28)
Deleted Scenes x4 (10:11)
Audio Commentary with writer director Ryan Coogler, writer Joe Robert Cole, and director of photography Autumn Durald Arkapaw
My problem with the first Black Panther movie was that for me the MCU was about setting these comic book stories and characters in what looked like the real world. Introducing fantastic elements that broke that illusion made for a painful snap in the suspenders of disbelief. In other words, the idea of a more technologically advanced civilisation existing on the planet alongside the rest of the world’s nations was a concept I couldn’t buy into. Along comes Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and it introduces another such kingdom, which no one on the planet even knows about.
Also, just a few days ago, I reviewed Aquaman, which I compared to Black Panther for exactly the same reason, and now I’m getting visions of Ouroborous, as Wakanda Forever’s second hidden techno civilisation is, just like Atlantis, an underwater kingdom that is intent on waging war on the surface world, and dragging Wakanda into it, by hook or by crook.
For me, the story in Wakanda Forever just falls flat, and the depressing thing is that there was an opportunity for a great story in there. Right from the start, it’s about politics, and about possessing this powerful resource. The outside world wants what Wakanda has, the vibranium and the technology that comes from it, and when Wakanda doesn’t want to deal, they look elsewhere, potentially threatening Wakanda’s interests, and shifting the balance of power. There’s a chilling moment when Everett Ross, the CIA operative from the first film, is ordered to destabilise Wakanda’s government. Now that would have been a good film, the kind of film that the Captain America movies turned out to be, challenging our conceptions of the good guys and the bad guys. Really, the Ross character is a little wasted in this film. Although with a bit of hope, the end of the film does suggest that the next Black Panther film might go that way.
Instead, the villains turn out to be the underwater blue Mayans, who declare war on the tribal technocrats, and we get another CGI action mayhem finale. I also know that there is a desire to be faithful to the comics and the iconic imagery, but that doesn’t always translate well to live action. Certainly, a guy with pointed ears, zooming around the sky thanks to tiny little hummingbird wings on his ankles is impossible to take seriously.
It’s not a total bust though, as Wakanda Forever does have a really strong emotional core to it, the arc that Shuri and those around her go on is very effectively done. It’s about loss, it’s about grief, and it’s about mourning, and how loss affects people. As the film begins, we see her desperately trying to save her brother, and failing. And that is a loss that she hasn’t even started to process after the year time-skip. The challenge of the Mayan Smurfs forces her to do so, and grow up as well, and it isn’t a smooth journey. This aspect of the story is told well, and really did draw me in, even while the rest of the film was leaving me cold. The Blu-ray release is up to Marvel/Disney’s usual standards.
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