Note: We recommend reading this after you’ve watched the film to avoid possible spoilers.
Wakanda Forever (2022) just released on Disney+ earlier this month and I was all over it like Ulysses Klaue on vibranium. Reader, I was not disappointed.
Given the major changes that happened to the script after the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman in 2020, I had no idea what to expect with Wakanda Forever, but I knew it would be emotionally difficult to watch. (I avoided the film for the first few days, and waited for a time when I had the emotional bandwidth to enjoy it.) Despite the tears, Wakanda Forever also evoked the laughter and awe out of me. It is one of Marvel’s best.
At the start of Wakanda Forever, all Wakandans are reeling from the unexpected death of King T’Challa. While in mourning, they’re quickly called to action by an unknown threat that turns out to be a result of a decision made by King T’Challa at the end of Black Panther. In the middle of this chaos is where the film begins.
Honoring Chadwick Boseman
First off, I believe the writers and filmmakers did a fantastic job of honoring the memory of Chadwick Boseman and King T’Challa. His image, the moments of silence, and the ritual ceremonies were breathtaking and emotionally gripping. The meta experience of watching the characters mourning another character in the film with the knowledge that they’re also real-life mourning one of their peers was a separate experience of its own.
His passing and the way it impacted multiple characters was a consistent thread throughout the film. It seemed that no one took it as hard as his sister, Princess Shuri. There is such a change in her character from the first film to this one; no longer is she the happy and bubbly genius working her lab. She is serious, resigned, and intent on avenging her brother. The loss she experienced and continues to experience in this film is massive. Nevertheless, her agency as a decision-maker for Wakanda, her innovative ideas, and strength never falter.
T’Challa’s decisions (specifically when he chose to share Wakanda’s resources aka vibranium with the rest of the world) before he died seemed to have a positive impact at the end of Black Panther, but had other repercussions in this film.
Wakanda as a Matriarchal Society
In the beginning, Wakanda experiences a shift toward being a strictly matriarchal society, and the power in that is seen and felt in the very first United Nations meeting scene. Queen Ramonda (btw, Angela Bassett looks amazing, y’all) and the Dora Milaje led by General Okoye shine in their roles as ruler and protectors of Wakanda. The fictional nation is based on powerful African societies that were matriarchal for thousands of years, before the existence of the patriarchy as we know it. The return to this type of society in modern times on screen is compelling and much-needed, imo.
However, this shift is not without its difficulties. Queen Ramonda is challenged like she never has been before. General Okoye (one of my favorite characters) makes a decision that results in life-changing consequences. She has to face living in a way that she never has before; her pain is palpable. Princess Shuri has to step into a whole new role, and contends with her emotions while still not having fully processed her brother’s death. The movie centers powerful women making decisions, and I’m here for that.
Also, it must be noted that the action scenes are outstanding. In Wakanda, women are the protectors, lead the military, develop the weapons and the strategies, and just kick ass in general.
Namor, played by Tenoch Huerta, is the gray-area villain introduced in Wakanda Forever. He and his people clash with Wakandans as it becomes evident that they have a lot of things in common. This clash becomes the main conflict in the film. His backstory is very closely based on the Spanish colonization of Mexico and the Indigenous peoples living there. He is the leader of Talokan, which is a kingdom based on ancient Mesoamerican societies that adapted to living underwater in an attempt to avoid being killed or enslaved. Writers got creative with infusing this piece of history (which was all based on the advice of Mesoamerican scholars) with fantastical elements like otherworldly powers and vibranium. There was a good chunk of the movie dedicated to Namor’s background that I deeply appreciated.
Tenoch Huerta has been vocal about racism and colorism in the industry, and the need to expand darker-skinned Latinx visibility in major films . In an interview with Variety, he said “I love these kinds of stories with representation not being the core of the story. The story itself was important but representation is part of the narrative.” The Black Panther films are not about BIPOC working toward positions of power or agency; they are born into it. He’s done a lot of other interviews on similar topics that are worth looking into. (This clip has got to be my favorite.)
It was so refreshing to see a complex character like Namor in a Marvel movie, and for the actor to be outspoken about these issues. More Latinx representation moving forward like this, Marvel, okay?
Wakanda Forever is a tribute, but also a mantle to be carried. I believe the characters, and actors, did the story justice, and I look forward to where the narrative leads. This movie packs a great story, incredible characters, intense emotion, and fun action scenes. A re-watch is in order soon.