Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a touching tribute to Chadwick Boseman… but a bad film


Chadwick Boseman at Comic Con. Photo courtesy of Flickr

Beau Sansom, Staff Reporter

*Warning: the following article contains spoilers for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever*

It’s been over two years since cinema fans have had to grieve the loss of beloved actor and “Black Panther” leading man Chadwick Boseman. His tragic and untimely death left many fans to wonder how the Black Panther franchise would continue on without the titular star. Hopes were high after the first trailer for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” dropped back in July, but the question remains, does the sequel live up to the hype? 

There are several moments in the film that are emotionally heavy as the absence of Boseman’s character, T’Challa, is felt by all of the characters who held him close to their hearts. With the king gone, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), Shuri (Letitia Wright) and the Dora Milaje led by Okoye (Danai Gurira) must fight to defend Wakanda from peril at the hands of Namor (Tenoch Huerta), leader of the underwater nation Talokan, as he wages war against the surface world. The shift of focus onto Shuri as the main character was done out of necessity and was handled as best as could be expected. CNN’s Brian Lowry addresses this shift best in his review of the film. 

“Black Panther had already been defined in part by its strong female characters, including the king’s loyal guard, the Dora Milaje, and sister Shuri [Wright], a genius inventor,” Lowry said. “The sequel, however, forces them to grapple with defending their people while in the throes of grief, which again, mirrors the delicate juggling act the entire film represents.”

Unfortunately, outside of the touching emotional tributes to Boseman, there is not a lot to like about this movie. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” treads upon the same ground already covered by its predecessor. The plot of this film is essentially a rehash of the first film’s story from the perspective of a different character, Shuri. 

Shuri and Wakanda’s return to the big screen is just as action packed and visually stunning as the previous films with probably the best musical score out of the Panther franchise, courtesy of returning composer Ludwig Göransson. Unfortunately all of the flash, amazing music and top-tier acting in the world cannot save a movie with a bad script, and the script for Wakanda Forever is downright lazy. Film critic Richard Brody makes an excellent point about the film’s script in his own article.

“The images of Wakanda Forever allow for little creative interpretation,” Brody said. “The performances are slotted into the plot like puzzle pieces. The script is the main product, and it’s engineered with the precision of a high-tech machine, with all the artificial artistry to match.”

My biggest problem with the movie is how it handles its characters, both returning and new. 


Shuri was a character with a great deal of potential and immense room for growth as she was slated to be the star of the film. Unfortunately the writers decided to give her the exact same character arc as her brother T’Challa in the previous films. In this movie, Shuri must accept the mantle of responsibility in her role as the new Black Panther. She is forced to battle her desire for revenge against Namor for the murder of her mother, Queen Ramonda at the halfway point of the film.

This character arc is essentially a one-to-one redo of T’Challa’s journey in not only the first Black Panther but in the character’s debut film “Captain America: Civil War” where he must learn to let go of his need for revenge after the film’s villain, Zemo, kills his father. Following the events of Civil War, T’Challa himself would re-evaluate his growth as a person during his showdown with the vengeance driven villain Erik Killmonger in Black Panther, echoing the same themes present in Civil War. With Shuri now having to overcome a lust for vengeance against Namor, that makes this the third time this character arc has been used in the Black Panther franchise.

Speaking of Namor, his character is essentially the same as Killmonger in Black Panther, a powerful individual seeking vengeance for the wrongs committed against his people at the hands of colonization. Like Killmonger before him, Namor commands an immense amount of power as ruler of Talokan, and is given every opportunity to use it to right the wrongs against his people in a peaceful manner and yet refuses to out of sheer hatred. The only real difference between Namor and Killmonger is that Namor can breathe underwater and fly. Fishmonger was the latest in a long line of weak Marvel villains, ripping off Killmonger who is already considered a poorly fleshed out villain by many, including film critic Chris van Dijk.

We don’t see and only get a vague idea of Killmonger’s activist education,” van Dijk said. “A great part of his mission was motivated by vengeance and this makes more sense, yet the film keeps reminding us of his more noble intentions. All of this would have been interesting to explore, but since this is a Marvel film, we only get the bare minimum of his interesting motivations.”

Perhaps the most frustrating addition to the film is the character Riri Williams played by Dominique Thorne. Riri is a brilliant young inventor who accomplished the unthinkable by constructing a device that can locate and mine deposits of vibranium, the coveted super-metal thought only to be found in Wakanda. Unfortunately, Riri is given absolutely no character development in this movie as most of her dialogue is filled with nothing but quippy one-liners and science gibberish. She feels more like a plot device than a character, which is a shame because Dominique Thorne is clearly a talented actor that deserves better than what the script gave her to work with.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a film that had a mountain of challenges to overcome before its release and unfortunately it just couldn’t conquer them all. Despite the respect and adoration shown to Boseman in the movie, the script and character directions ultimately keep the movie from being the masterpiece it could’ve been.