Black Panther: Wakanda Forever ★★★★
Starring Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett, Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong'o, Tenoch Huerta Mejia
Phase Four of the MCU has ended with an ode to a legend lost too soon - Chadwick Boseman. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever sees the residents of Wakanda mourn King T'Challa as an underwater city poses a threat on their tech-advanced world.
The film begins with heartbreak and anguish; a moment of reflection needed for both the actors and the audience and all is performed effortlessly. Culturally mesmerising and painstakingly moving, a funeral sequence takes us back to a Wakanda we have grown familiar with, appreciating real ceremonies and traditions seen in parts of our world.
Letitia Wright leads things as Shuri, Princess of Wakanda who is trying to create more of the herb which lets their feline protector live on. Her passion is slowly turning to anger and the need for her to follow in her brothers footsteps is a recurring theme throughout.
Angela Bassett returns as Queen Ramonda and steals every scene she's in. There's an energy that feels so authentic and is shadowed by the familiar people of Wakanda and by new characters too. In particular, Dominique Thorne's Riri Williams who, although not given much to do, makes a good first impression in an over-populated superhero universe.
There are several verbal conflicts throughout from a combination of characters and every one is written and performed with the fluidity of the water that flows beneath Wakanda.
And in that water lives Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejia), a new threat to the universe with wings on his ankles and unpredictability in his eyes. Although his motivation is weakly developed, with the film fleshing out its lengthy run time in different ways, there is an air of uneasiness whenever he is around, and the creativity found in their entrances makes for some fun CGI whale sequences. That being said, a CGI-filled final battle makes for some clunky moments and unsurprising conclusions as is now often expected in big superhero films.
Everyone did their job here, Ryan Coogler directs with admiration and confidence; the costume work from Ruth E. Carter and her team is dripping with societal nuance and the score from Ludwig Göransson with an accompanying soundtrack establishes new and old vibes with every beating breath.
Boseman's presence is still felt throughout. The world that T'Challa lived in was accepted so fondly because of his performance, and now without him there the universe must try to survive. And in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever it does so with grace, respect and charm. Wakanda thrives, and so does its people.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever available in cinemas now