“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is a chick flick, but not in the way you’d expect.
This time around the women are the warriors and they run the show following the tragic (real life) death of Chadwick Boseman and the mysterious death of the Black Panther. I don’t know how they could do it, but we really need to see another Black Panther movie shoehorned in between the last two movies bearing his name.
The latest Marvel flick is a killer that should taken the top box office spot from that other comic flick, “Black Adam,” released three weeks ago.
But be warned that at 2 hours and 41 minutes there are some spots where the “Wakanda Forever” lives up to its name. Hit the rest rooms before the movie. Despite a few areas where the film lags, it all pans out by the mid-point. And there is a post credit scene that Black Panther fans will appreciate.
The movie begins with tragedy as the Wakandans consider what they will do without the Black Panther to lead them. It’s up to little sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) to take the mantle of her beloved brother in a new, sophisticated battle costume with the help of Riri Williams (Dominque Thorne,) who is perhaps better on film than in the comics where she appears as Ironheart.
Shuri also has help from warrior women Okoye (Danai Gurira, in her best role since Michonne on “The Walking Dead) and Nakia (Lupiti Nyong’o) among others.
The Women of Wakanda do almost all of the fighting, but there are memorable men fighting as well, the most notable being M’Baku. There’s nothing I love more than seeing a character slowly evolve from being a villain to become the hero. M’Baku, leader of the Wakandan gorilla tribe and rival of the late Black Panther, shows that growth. Winston Duke plays the blustering and belligerent M’Baku with arrogance, strength and loyalty. He’s clearly the good guy this time around, I want to see more of him.
There is also plenty of grist left in the story of Namor, the Sub-Mariner (Tenoch Huerta Mejia). The movie takes a bold step away from the Namor of the comics by making him the prince of the undersea kingdom of Talokan, an offshoot of the Maya Indians. His appearance and the culture of the Talokans are far different than the comic counterparts of Atlantis in the comics. Perhaps this was done to distance Namor from DC’s undersea warrior, Aquaman of Atlantis.
Namor is angry that Wakanda has revealed itself to the world and announced that it has the only supply of the wonder element, vibranium. It turns out that Namor’s underwater city also has vibranium and he fears that his homeworld will be exposed to the world.
There is an interesting moment in the film when Namor offers a moment from his past which may hint at important developments for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
One more note about Namor, comic readers will have to adjust to seeing this Maya-inspired version of the character. We’re used to a guy who looks like a super swimmer, someone who is not weighed down by bulky clothing. Mejia’s Namor is shorter and chunkier than expected and overly clothed, considering his environment. But we’ll get used to it.
The movie also features the first appearance of Namor’s comic foe, Attuma, (Alex Livinalli) where he is a fierce adversary. In the film, he is a loyal ally, which could change. Speculators should clean up their copies of “Fantastic Four” No. 33, the first appearance of the character. The price has already gone up.
Director and writer Ryan Coogler had a challenge of his own, to create a follow up to the first Black Panther movie (which he also directed and co-wrote) and its $1.3 billion legacy without Chadwick Boseman. He pulled it off and makes it look easy.