By: Michael Walsh
In February 2018, Marvel Studios released Black Panther. It was the first superhero film with a predominantly black cast.
Then this Marvel film launched a cultural phenomenon that culminated in the movie being the first superhero film nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, where it won three of its seven nominations. Chadwick Boseman played the titular character, first introduced in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. He would go on to play the character again in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, and posthumously voiced the character in the Disney+ show, What If…? having passed away from colon cancer in mid-2020. Boseman’s passing left the creative team of this film with the unenviable task of continuing the story of these characters and developing the world they inhabit, all without its leading star.
In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), Shuri (Letitia Wright), M’Baku (Winston Duke), Okoye (Danai Gurira) and the Dora Milaje fight to protect their nation from intervening world powers in the wake of King T’Challa’s death. As the Wakandans strive to embrace their next chapter, the heroes must band together with old and new allies Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) and Riri Williams (Dominque Thorne) to forge a new path for their beloved kingdom. Especially when it comes under attack from the hidden undersea nation of Tālocān ruled by its king, Namor (Tenoch Huerta).
Set one year after the passing of King T’Challa from an incurable illness, director Ryan Coogler and his team have crafted a mature and emotional story that both pays tribute to Boseman and his character, whilst still continuing the story of Wakanda. The film balances honouring his legacy with expanding the world of the characters, knowing when to slow down for more impactful moments of emotion, and accelerating into more extensive action set pieces. Letitia Wright rises to the task of leading the film, delivering a pained and powerful performance as Shuri comes of age. She is wracked by the guilt that she could not synthesise an artificial heart-shaped herb to heal her brother. As well as holding deep resentment toward her deceased cousin Killmonger who destroyed the herb. Her central emotional struggle motivates the film forward as she is driven by her anger and grief.
Like the first film, it features a rich ensemble, and is a visual feast of gorgeous Afrofuturistic fusion.
This chapter focuses on grief, loss, legacy, closure, and hope. An obvious piece of cathartic cinema for those involved as they grieved their friend, and channelled that into the characters’ loss as well. It is a more than fitting tribute, and emotionally beautiful film, that this reviewer thinks is better than the first and ranks amongst the best of the MCU. Like the first film, it features a rich ensemble, and is a visual feast of gorgeous Afrofuturistic fusion. Newcomers Dominique Thorne and Tenoch Huerta are marvelous additions to the strong ensemble, with Angela Bassett delivering a commanding turn as Queen Ramonda. Her character must lead her nation, whilst grieving the losses she has incurred.
Coogler has delivered a powerful tribute to Chadwick Boseman, and an excitingly fresh and mature entry into the MCU. One that continues to build upon the themes of colonialism and isolationist politics from the first film. With improved visual effects, larger set pieces, and higher stakes, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is one of the best films to come out of the MCU.
Reel Dialogue: Is death the end?
Partway through the film, Queen Ramonda, reminds Shuri, that in Wakanda, death is not the end, for those who pass live on in the ancestral plain. Shuri is less than convinced, declaring that it is all superstition and that she can only rely on science. This raises the question for the audience, is there anything after death?
For Christians, the Bible teaches that death is not the end for those who believe in Jesus. This reality comforted many in the early church who were persecuted and killed for their faith. Many of their fellow believers took comfort in knowing they would one day see their friends and family again, alive in the New Creation, enjoying eternal life together. For Christians, there is hope after death. Do you share this hope?
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” Hebrews 12:1
Article supplied with thanks to City Bible Forum.
Feature image: Movie Stills
About the author: Michael Walsh is a Missions Engagement Minister in Sydney, and an avid film fan. His love of film is surpassed only by his love of God, and his desire to make the Gospel known.