Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever: Directed by Ryan Coogler. With Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke. The people of Wakanda fight to protect their home from intervening world powers as they mourn the death of King T’Challa.
There is nearly nothing about this film that I enjoyed. I hate to say that, as Chadwick Boseman was damn near perfect as the Black Panther, but he was really only great in movies that didn’t have Black Panther in the title, that first one completely lost me in the plot and lack of logic in its science fiction. Director Ryan Coogler and his writing team doubled down on everything that I disliked about the first film and just doubled down on it, with completely nonsensical moments of science, weird lulls in the film, and completely jarring shifts in tone from moment to moment in the same scenes.
It didn’t help that I was set up to be grumpy already, and one of the things I’m going to talk about is a bit of a spoiler, so be fair warned!
For my showing, right before the movie, there’s 30 minutes of trailers. Fine, we’re used to AMC lying about the movie start time, but two things happened right at that 30 minute mark: an advertisement from Target showing off Iron Heart’s full suit of armor, something that would have been great to have seen for the first time in a movie and not some shitty advertisement for a shitty corporation. The second thing is that right after that ad, the movie started and a lady trying to find her seat in my row straight up turns on her cell phone’s flashlight, shining it in everyone’s eyes and making a complete ass of herself. I think I was the only one to say anything, but I did and she told me to mind my own business. She then proceeded to be on her phone for about a quarter of the film, making me even more cranky. Now that I’ve set the mood and started spoiling things for the film here’s some more spoiler complaints.
For the last couple years, Marvel’s been setting up Julia Louis-Dreyfus to be a female villain version of Nick Fury, showing up at the end of Falcon & The Winter Solder and Black Widow, collecting super-heroes to likely join her future team that’s likely to be named Thunderbolts. The movie’s already been announced, we already know she’s in it, JLD is an amazing comedian, her work in Seinfeld and Veep was by all means a fantastic success, but her portrayal as “The Contessa” is downright out of step with what the rest of the MCU is doing and reminds me more of Mr Bean than any serious villain, either political or super. Every scene the character was in here in “Wakanda Forever” was just weird with how out of place the entire thing felt. Also out of place was Martin Freeman, but that was more because the story just didn’t know what to do with him and at best had him in the background doing nothing of interest or importance.
Speaking of background doing nothing, I’m also aggravated that Dominique Thorne as Riri Williams didn’t near the time that she deserved. In the comics, she’s the heart of a couple super teams, smart enough to give Tony Stark a run for his money, and built her suits all herself. In BP:WF she’s a college student that can barely build a suit, can barely fly the suit, then relies on Wakanda’s magically inept super science to build her next suit, and I’m here to tell you, that new suit looks like absolute hot garbage. I’m aware that it’s a MCU take on one of Riri’s comic book suits, but holy hell does it look goofy as all get out.
The best part of this film was Tenoch Huerta as Namor. I’m extremely interested in where they’re going to go with his story and I honestly did not think that the character would work very well on the big screen, after all he’s a budget Aquaman with goofy wings on his feet! It seem that Coogler and his team did the right thing and said “Look, everyone knows who Aquaman is, after all it was one of the few successful DC films in the last 10 years, let’s compare everything that’s similar between the two characters and focus on how they’re different.” The winged feet are still there, but they’re not as silly as they could have been, and as an angry underwater king, Huerta was damn near perfect. Something I also didn’t expect was to ever see Namora on the big screen, but here we are! She didn’t get winged feet, but I liked what they did with her too.
Wakanda has always been ill defined, much to it’s detriment and I think that’s part of why I’m so disappointed by the two main Black Panther films. Their science is all magically perfect, until it isn’t, their city streets all feel like over lit movie sets, their society is both extremely advanced, but still relies on fishing and using spears as their main weapons, all while they have access to some of the most mind blowing advanced energy systems that humanity has ever conceived. Nearly every battle in the movie was a CGI mess of confusion with limited stakes and seemingly random turns of who was doing what.
At the end of the day, this is the movie that wraps up phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This has been a building phase, introducing a new slate of characters, wrapping up older characters, and moving the franchise universe onto the next story. Hopefully we get better things than what this phase has offered, most of this phases movies were just ok to pretty bad like Wakanda Forever. Sure, covid-19 really messed things up on the front end of it, but I think that’s an excuse that doesn’t work in 2022.