United in grief

United in grief

The loss of a beloved lead actor forms a bond between cast and audience in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

United in grief
Danai Gurira and Letitia Wright in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. DISNEY+

The second instalment to Black Panther (2018) has become one of the most anticipated films this year, not only because fans are so excited of the continuation of this unique superhero story or the fate of the people of Wakanda, but also audiences are curious at which direction Marvel Studios is going to take this popular franchise, especially after the loss of main character King T'Challa played by the late actor Chadwick Boseman. What is it like having to balance loyalty to a fan base with a performer as regal and elegant as Boseman, along with the future of the franchise?

While some MCU fans may have quite a few theories on the new story or the possibilities of re-casting a new actor for the role, the previous posters and trailer for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever have proven that it's Letitia Wright, who reprises her role as Princess Shuri, will be the one who steps into that role, filling those big, heavy shoes left behind by Boseman. And Wakanda Forever is just about that. The new film comes with a moody tone that stimulates very high emotional drama about loss, grief and poignant sadness, something not quite like anything we have seen from the MCU in the past.

Not only does the movie pay a deeply moving tribute to Boseman, the story is also essentially about family, and the nation's persistence to prevail after the loss of their king. With Princess Shuri, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and General Okoye (Danai Gurira), the surviving Wakandans have to fight to protect their nation from intervening world powers in the wake of T'Challa's death. As they strive to embrace their next chapter, the warriors must band together to forge a new path for the kingdom of Wakanda.

The film is visually stunning, costume design was fantastic, the special effects and look of the underground city were gorgeous, and there's amazing action sequences and choreography. There's a strong political element in this film. After losing their protector, Wakanda is viewed as vulnerable and they must defend their own as there are more arrivals of outsiders. And we see the political aspects of Wakanda are what makes this particular world so different from other projects in the MCU, and I just love what this particular franchise brings to Marvel.

Angela Bassett's performance as Ramonda is such a powerhouse here. You feel every word she speaks as her character has to keep it all together after losing everything, all while being the mother and queen of Wakanda. Letitia Wright, whose character Shuri was more like a little sister and lab nerd in the first film, now is tasked with a lot more emotional moments and she had to carry a lot of rage. There's a transition to her character. What she's lost, things that go on, this matures her character, which is quite similar to what happened with Tom Holland's Peter Parker in Spider-Man: No Way Home.

As MCU is wrapping up its Phase 4 and about to move on to Phase 5, there's quite a few new characters introduced in Wakanda Forever. One of them includes Riri Williams aka Ironheart (Dominique Thorne), the latest superhero character that is going to have its own series on Disney+ next year. The introduction to her character begins quite strong and she's very pivotal to the story in the first half. But as we progress, she becomes more of an afterthought, which is unfortunate. It felt like it didn't naturally fit into the story, and instead felt more like she's there in the plot to only serve as a setup for Phase 5 and the series.

Overall, this movie had done the impossible after suffering a sadly huge loss. This film was thrilling, complex and layered beautifully with the many emotions that grief can bring. The high drama, political aspects and not enough action may not be everybody's cup of tea, especially for young kids, but Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is still a very solid film that is made with heart, and deserves nothing less than a theatrical experience. It looks epic and spectacular in IMAX.

  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
  • Directed by Ryan Coogler
  • Starring Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett, Tenoch Huerta
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