Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Movie Review (2022)

What’s crucial about “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is the way Coogler centers righteous rage. Ramonda’s first big scene is her admonishing the UN for expecting her to share vibranium with the world, even as they try to steal the resource from her nation. Bassett, with a capital A, acts in a sequence where her voice booms, her gaze is fixed and implacable, and the venom is palpable. And yet Shuri, who has buried herself in her laboratory and developed dangerous weapons, has it worse. She wants to see the world burn. Their shared anger forces a host of short-term decisions that lead to further escalations with Namor – who desperately wants to avenge his mother and his ancestors. The film tries to place the trio as different stages of grief, but in trying to get viewers up to speed on the atrocities Namor has experienced, it becomes slow and over the top.

Perhaps somewhere there was a way to connect these arcs together. But that would require better visual storytelling than the film offers. Too often the dialogue remains on the surface, either by providing reams of exposition, by externalizing exactly what the character is thinking, or by trying to conflate the real loss the actors feel with the characters. The latter certainly gives these artists a needed chance to process their wounds on screen, but when did filmmakers forget how to show without telling? Why are contemporary blockbusters so keen to hold the audience’s hand by giving every little detail? At one point, after Namor explains his entire background, Shuri responds with, “Why are you telling me all this?” It feels like a note Coogler gave himself.

The shortcomings in dialogue and story, and how often “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” bows to IP-driven needs, would be easier to deal with if the visual components weren’t so creaky. The jittery fight sequences are too hard to follow: unplayable compositions blur into an incomprehensible sludge with every cut from the editors Michael P. Shawver, Kelley Dixonand Jennifer Lame. Admittedly, there were projection issues with my viewing of the film, so I will refrain from totally dismissing the overly dark lighting, but the very framing of the cinematographer Autumn Durald Arkapaw, working with the film’s abundant visual effects, nevertheless lacks a sense of space. Scenes from everyday life in Wakanda – black people shopping, communities laughing and enjoying each other’s company – that once filled the viewer with joy feel artificial here. The nation’s vast landscapes, once filled with splendor, are now grim backdrops. Some of that awe is recaptured when we see Talokan and its vast Mayan architecture and decorative murals. But you wish, like “Black Panther,” that Namor got his own movie first, where these scenes could breathe, and we could become as integral to this realm as we were to Wakanda.

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