By god_spawn 12 Comments
Excelsior, fellow Comicviners. It is I, the tired and old neighborhood GS. Today I am going to review the recently Black Panther sequel in Black Panther Wakanda Forever. There will be spoilers down below, I will do my best to mark them in black so if you don't want to see them don't look at them, or ctrl F that ish to the in conclusion for the overall take. So here we go.
Black Panther Wakanda Forever is the sequel to Black Panther, directed by Ryan Coogler, starring Angela Bassett as Queen Ramonda, Letitia Wright as Shuri, Winston Duke as M'Baku, and Danai Gurira as Michonne I mean Okoye. It welcomes new comers Dominique Thorne as Riri Williams, and Tenoch Huerta as the antagonist in Namor. A new threat emerges from the deep to threaten Wakanda after the passing of their protector and King T'Challa. A young scientist invents the only machine on the planet that can detect vibranium. It is up to Shuri and Okoye to find the scientist to protect her from the Navi, I mean Atlanteans, I mean not-Atlanteans, I mean the Telokans, and any other worldly powers searching for her while protecting their home of Wakanda from the invading forces.
Acting: First thing out the gate, this movie was acted very well. Laticia Wright really stepped up her game here to carry as much as she could in a film that was definitely missing its centerpiece in Chadwick Boseman. No one will replace Chadwick. This doesn't try and do that. It very much understands this and tries its best to play around it, and I feel that is when the movie is actually at its best. Its the moments when the characters talk, and grieve and show the emotions that they have while exploring loss but also presenting poise and firmness that one must have when ruling a nation as powerful as Wakanda. Angela Bassett to me literally stole every scene she was in. They tried to make her look old and weathered, and tired and hurt. But she gives powerful deliveries and speeches and just owns the room when she is on screen. As I said before Laticia really does step it up. Her dynamic with Okoye is done very well. We see Shuri grow and develop with her struggles, and I find her to be a much more enjoyable character for it. Danai is just so good at what she does. Whether its showing emotion, fighting, stoicism, she is fantastic. Winston Duke is great as M'Baku, being kind of the comedy relief at times but also just dropping small, golden nuggets here and there that are much appreciated. Tenoch Huerta does fine with what he's given. He's caring to his people, he's intimidating when he has to be. Unfortunately, I will get to this later, the depiction of Namor in this movie falls short IMO. And Lupita Nyongo does great with little time she actually has in the movie.
Cinematography: The cinematography in this movie is definitely a step up from the first one. If I'm being honest, the CGI fest and fights in the first movie, the weird rotating camera angles etc all kinda hurt my eyes. This movie did a lot better in its camera shots. The fight scenes were much better in this movie. The landscape is beautiful, the shots underwater were done very well. I think Coogler just did a better job directing those types of imagery here in this movie than the first one.
Music: The score was done fairly well. No problems there. It was heartfelt when it needed to be, almost eerie at times, picked up in the action. Sometimes the songs did fall or drag on longer than they should have IMO, but overall it was fine.
SFX: Kind of going back to the cinematography, the effects in this movie were much better than the first one. The underwater shots were good, Telokan looked visually impressive for the most part. Wakanda is stunning as usual. The movie was a good looking film.
Chadwick Tributes: The tributes to Chadwick in this movie were some of the best parts. All heartfelt, solemn, and at times I wasn't sure if it was the actors actuing or the people expressing how they felt with Boseman's passing. The passion there was beautifully done and I think they honored him in this moments wonderfully.
Serious Tone: We got a serious tone in the movie. Some jokes here and there were funny but overall,
The Plot: The plot wasn't good. I will flat out say everything felt kinda forced. A civilization no one has ever heard of in Telokan wants this scientist that made this machine that can find vibranium and in order to protect his city and people, Namor just shows up in Wakanda somehow and threatens that they need to find the scientist or he will unleash an army big enough to "have a soldier for every blade of grass in Wakanda". So they got to find Riri Williams to protect her and now the US Government is after them, and she becomes the most important person in the universe because vibranium can only exist inside Wakanda and preposterous it be anywhere else. And because this scientist exists to build this machine, Namor can't risk the world finding Telokan so he will kill her then destroy the rest of the world, but wants Wakanda to join them so they can all do it together and then just live in peace. Kind of a weak motif but that is what they went with.
Pacing: This movie was way too long. It had no reason to be almost 3 hours. It had too much happening that it felt overstuffed. Lots of moments just never were able to breathe. Riri Williams didn't need to be here. The stuff with Martin Freeman and the Americans didn't need to be here. Then we get something like the queen's death when she drowns. They show her swimming one moment then run into the throne room and she's just face down in the puddle. They try and revive her to no avail, then they're at her funeral and her pod gets lifted up into space. Nothing in this whole 2-3 minutes of scenes were impactful yet I had people in the theater crying over this. There was a flashback kind of scene in the end fight that just dragged on forever. There was just pacing issues all around in this film that could've been avoided if they cut some of the extra fat and I think it would've made the movie better. And because of this issue I found the film struggling to really depict who the main character was supposed to be. I think Angela Bassett and Okoye really carried the first 2/3's of this movie and kinda forgot Shuri was there, She does shine in the end, but wasn't this supposed to be her movie about becoming the Black Panther? Didn't feel like it.
Riri Williams: I did not like her. Nothing against Dominique Thorne as an actress, I don't know enough about her. But I felt she was arrogant at introduction without the charisma, overacted a lot of her parts. Her suits were horrible looking. She is the focal point around a lot of this plot but every reason they tried to get you to care about her, it didn't work. I felt her inclusion in this movie was more of a detriment actually. It took time away from Shuri's development and character arc and it just muddled things way too much.
Exposition: This movie talks a lot. It does. The Telokans are supposed to be this highly advanced civilization that can compete with Wakanda, but they invade in on whales and have these water bombs, and outside of like a brief glimpse at the city which has this sun thing, there really isn't anything that suggests such. Riri Williams is amazing, and smart and the best at what she does, and the only one that can build such a machine to find vibranium, because? It just kind of expects you to take these things at face value, and doesn't really show it.
The Namor Conundrum
Something different here, I don't normally go into character analyses, but I write a 2 paragraph statement on my disappointment in the handling of Namor. I think Tenoch did very well with what he was given. The depiction of Namor was not great IMO. So if you would like to read that, it does include spoilers, I will leave it here.
Hot take here, guys. They did Namor dirty. I'm a fan of Namor. I actually do really love the character because I used to hate him. Just arrogant, cocky, jobbing left and right. Mr. Steal ya blonde girl. Mr. Imma Kiss my Cousin. But I have grown to really love Namor because as much as I hate Namor, we do get some brief instances of brilliance with him in the comics and it shows he has a weird set of layers to him when done right. He is still the first superhero to fly. He is the first mutant, forget Apocalypse or Selene, amirite? Anyways, things like how he refused to send Hulk into space, or Dark Reign: The List X-Men. That whole issue with Marrina was beautiful in a way and telling about Namor as a character. Namor's dad was a sea captain, fell in the ocean and was founded by the princess of Atlantis. They had the flounder pounder and pop Namor was born. And that whole dynamic leads to a much larger rift in the Atlanteans. With how they handled his origin story here, it didn't land. Let me go into it.
500 years ago Spanish conquistadors brought small pox to a village. Namor's mother was pregnant with him. A shaman had a vision and found a heart shaped herb variant under water. He got it, made a potion and convinced Namor's mother to drink it and the villagers. They fell into a brief coma, turned blue, woke up, found they couldn't breathe on land and then lived in the water. Namor's mom gave birth and he was a mutant, and had ankle wings and pointed ears. His mom grew old, she died. He decided to bury her where the village was. Time passed and they ran into like an enslavement camp. He, as a child at this point, struck a cringe power pose, flew in the air and they destroyed the camp. A priest with his dying breath cursed him to never be loved "No Amor" "Namor" cause that's not reaching at all. The whole scene was cringey and bad. The motive they gave him for his attack on the surface world was rather weak. I get what they were trying to do, representation, and avoid the DC comparisons, but I just think they could've explored Telokan better. How the Telokans got the city they did. We at least had an intro in the first Black Panther movie how Wakanda kinda came to be, here it just is. I think Tenoch Huerta did a fantastic job at the Namor he was given, but I think the decisions that they made to make this version of the character did not strike home. I think most people are either he's "weak looking" and others like him cause "muh vibranium wood smash" and those are what they are basing his character on. He wasn't cocky, wasn't trying to impress any woman which is a big deal in the character. He seemed pretty humble outside of his initial appearance. Referring to people as his children, even though it's Namora. He yielded way too easily. It's all the subtle details which make the actual character a really good one. And they had none of that here. I think it would've been better if they stuck with the source material and maybe modified that a bit, but overall I think as a Namor depiction, it was weak.
This movie definitely has a hole in it. I think without Boseman it suffers. So I will say this...don't go in comparing this movie to the first one. I myself am not a huge fan of the first Black Panther movie. Just thought it was kind of an okay movie but Boseman shined in that movie. He was the best part in Civil War IMO as well. He's a badass in Infinity War for what time he was given. So you can feel that void in Wakanda Forever. So this one tries. I think the actresses, because it is very female led, all stepped it up. It was acted well, shot well, looks good. But that can't save it from its shortcomings to me. The plot is muddled, way too overstuffed, weak motives for the villain, and they tried to make it kind of empathetic towards his cause, but if you take a step back, it isn't a good one. Pacing issues, unnecessary characters added in that just dragged it down. I think Ryan Coogler did somethings better in this movie that the first suffered from like better fights, better cinematography, but without Chadwick it does feel it. And what this movie has in the shortcomings, I think it takes away from the good. If they had no Riri Williams, kept Martin Freeman's angle out, and I appreciate what they tried to do with Namor, it just didn't work for me, I think this movie could've been great. So this is a hard one for me to rate. I give it a 6.5 with potential for a 7. It's not bad, it's more exciting that something like Captain Marvel and Eternals, but I just could never get fully engaged or care about anything going on.