Aleasha Hintz — Staff Writer
“Wakanda Forever” surprised me. For a phase four Marvel film, it surpassed my low expectations. It is no secret that the Marvel franchise has had few outstanding movies come out since Endgame, but “Wakanda Forever” was a refreshing reversal of this expectation, yet still has some flaws.
The movie begins with a poignant dedication to Chadwick Boseman, the original actor who played Black Panther (otherwise known as King T’Challa) until Boseman passed away in August 2020. The traditional Marvel introduction was replaced with shots of Boseman in previous films: no music, just a moment of silence. I shed a tear before the movie even started.
Then viewers were thrust into a sobering chaos. Princess Shuri frantically runs simulations in her lab, synthesizing a now extinct heart-shaped herb, to try and find a cure for T’Challa’s illness. The opening scene set the trajectory for the movie to be a powerful exploration of grief, family, and community.
Shuri (Letitia Wright) and her mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) grieve together in the tradition of their Wakandan ancestors, drawing near to each other in their grief, trying to salvage their fraying family. Meanwhile, a recent attack on scientists with a vibranium detector was blamed on the Wakandans, even though they were uninvolved. The leader behind the attack, Namor (Tenoch Huerta) reaches out to Shuri and Ramonda, negotiating to get them to find the scientist that made the vibranium detector, because they have their own source of vibranium to protect. Needless to say, the plot is tense.
The rest of the film follows Shuri, wading through the complicated mess of her own feelings and attempting to create alliances between the mysterious leader’s secret nation (called Talokan) and Wakanda. The plot can get a bit convoluted, but overall, it carries itself to the situation while avoiding any major missteps. Some characters’ decisions, for example, make sense but appear rushed, which makes it difficult to buy completely (this is especially notable at the end of the final fight scene between Wakanda and Talokan).
The world-building plays a large part in making the film great. Wakanda’s design is beautiful, and they did it again with Talokan. Talokan takes influence from Aztec myth, becoming a sort of Atlantis for the Marvel cinematic universe. Its citizens are water-breathing people because of a plant that has similarities to the heart-shaped herb. Wakanda and Talokan have much in common, but Talokan’s extremism makes it difficult for the two nations to come to an agreement on how to protect their respective vibranium resources.
“Wakanda Forever” is a beautiful addition to the MCU. But the greatest thing about it is that it’s still somewhat distant from the rest of the MCU. “Wakanda” and “Wakanda Forever” could almost stand on their own, and they might even outlive the MCU in relevance all on their own.