Chadwick Boseman's unexpected and tragic passing brought the world of cinema and comics to a complete standstill. On the surface from a creative perspective, he was beginning to hit his peak as an actor, riding a wave of immeasurable success. His untimely passing left an obvious void within the Marvel Cinematic Universe regarding his performance as King T'Challa/The Black Panther.
Director Ryan Coogler found himself in an impossible situation, given the script he wrote was complete. There were also questions as to whether he would venture into the direction of recasting the role. After completing the stage of crafting out a rewritten script, he began the task of continuing the unfortunate task of filming the story without Boseman.
"Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" brings the return of Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett, Winston Duke, Martin Freeman, Lupita Nyong'o and Danai Gurira reprising their respective characters from the previous film. The story takes place after the events of "Avengers: Endgame" with the nation of Wakanda reeling after the death of King T'Challa. Incorporating the real-life passing of Boseman into the theme of this film creates organic emotion and allows it to move forward in its natural succession.
Wakanda is under a barrage of pressure in sharing its resources of the precious rare metal vibranium with every world government in existence. Unbeknownst to Wakanda and the rest of the world, there's a new secret civilization emerging that has resources that rival Wakanda. The new threat is the debut of Namor, a human-mutant hybrid that lives underwater, commanding an army of warriors, seeking to create an alliance with Wakanda, in which both worlds could conquer the surface world with their similar ideologies and resources.
The film had what would seemingly be an impossible task of creating a story that would essentially match the quality of Boseman's performance in "Captain America: Civil War," his solo film, "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Avengers: Endgame." Expectations were at a fever pitch; curious minds pondered how the themes, plot and writing were going to overcome the emotional and tragic setback of the death of a beloved actor who made "Black Panther" a household name.
Admittedly, I was one of those concerned fans and viewers. My expectations were primarily associated with the emergence of Namor. During my childhood, my father was a huge fan of the Namor character. He read the comics, watched the animated series, and ironically enough - two of his favorite superheroes are underwater-based characters. The fascination I developed for the character of Namor came from my father. Needless to say, I was glad at how my initial concerns were proven wrong with not only the writing but also the acting and tone of the film. However, "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" met and exceeded my expectations at the same time. This film brought about a massive improvement from past issues I've had with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Previous cinematic outings I felt relied too much on humor, not focusing on the intensity and emotion of specific revelations and events, utilizing humor in a manner that removed any and all necessary emotions of a specific scene.
"Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," in my opinion, next to "Captain America: Winter Soldier" and "Avengers: Infinity War," is quite possibly the darkest, most emotional and tense story given the confines of what occurred. I embraced how balanced the humor was with how it wasn't distracting from how serious the new threat of Namor represented. The action sequences are a massive and significant improvement over its predecessor; visually the film has more of a pristine, precise and otherworldly atmosphere that I found majestically mesmerizing.
The acting in this film is absolutely intense, with the raw emotion and the grief within the cast regarding Boseman. Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett and Lupita Nyong'o all are at the top of their game with their powerful performances. Their dialogue and reactions resemble the authentic spectrum of characters attempting to heal from deep pain. Once again, the fact that there wasn't a dependency on the humor department allowed the story, character development and the necessary emotion to flow naturally.
Tenoch Huerta's performance as Namor was absolutely perfect for me. I must admit in the beginning given they removed Namor's comic book connection to Atlantis, I was prepared to deduct two points. I've always embraced the mythological lore of any mysterious underwater kingdom that activates the imagination of new or old lifeforms existing at the bottom of the sea. Coogler practically displayed significant horror film directing with how Namor and the Talokans were introduced. Articulating the tense moment when they arrive is very difficult to describe, in all honesty. Whatever words anyone is able to use to accurately describe that initial scene, feel free to let me know. All I can say is from my point of view, it had me on the edge of my seat.
Worries were put to rest upon watching the performance and the revelation of the underwater kingdom that Namor leads. Let me say it's moments of which I am describing that are why the theater setting is imperative. You cannot capture the feeling of an underwater civilization by simply watching it on the TV, phone or laptop. The magic itself has to be witnessed on the big screen in order to embrace its natural beauty and complexity. Only way I can describe the moment is how it defines the word ethereal. Tenoch's performance as Namor will absolutely be defined as one of the greatest depictions of an iconic Marvel character in cinema history.
The film succeeded as a beautiful and emotional tribute to Boseman. The visuals, musical score, acting, emotional weight, action sequences and serious atmosphere made it an outstanding feature from beginning to end. "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" for my final rating receives a deserved 10/10 and two-thumbs-up reaction.
Isaiah Ridley works at Beacon Cinemas in Sumter. To watch his movie reviews online, find him @Izzy's Cinematic Escape on YouTube.
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