I usually try to have my reviews up quicker than this, but Wakanda Forever is a heavy film that requires some time to reflect. It’s a film that sits with you long after the credits roll and I needed time to process it.
Wakanda Forever has had a rough journey getting to the big screen. Its first major disruption was the pandemic, which made the entire industry grind to a halt. Then when studios started adapting to those circumstances, we lost Chadwick Boseman, which forced them into a rewrite. A rewrite while mourning the loss of a friend, which just adds to the whole ordeal.
Then, many months later after that emergency rewrite, the production was disrupted again by anti-vax conflict. That’s part of the story I don’t want to dwell on at the moment, but it certainly happened.
But somehow we made it here to the other side of production. Ryan Coogler, despite the worst set of disruptions imaginable, made a cohesive and thought-provoking film. And he did it while keeping the action, style, and heart that we’ve come to expect from Marvel Studios films.
Ryan Coogler performed a miracle. Wakanda Forever is a masterpiece despite the circumstances. In fact, some parts of it lean into it in the best way. It’s remarkable to see.
-This Review Contains Spoilers for Wakanda Forever–
Touching Tributes to Chadwick Boseman
There are numerous tributes to Boseman in the film, but the most memorable is the silent Marvel Studios logo at the start of the film. These intros are usually used to show us the most recent MCU characters and pump us up with upbeat or ominous music. This time we only see scenes for T’Challa and there is no accompanying music.
This isn’t a film that needs us to be pumped up. Wakanda Forever is a film that requires reflection, and the logo intro prepares us for that. Boseman’s loss is felt from the moment the film began, and the reoccurring tributes and references to T’Challa are meaningful and appropriately dispersed throughout the film.
Other tributes include an emotional funeral sequence, a mural, and numerous flashbacks at key moments. Boseman may be gone, but his presence is felt strongly. He’s left behind a remarkable legacy and this film honors it perfectly.
Wakanda Forever and the Stages of Grief
The film follows the characters as they each go through their own journey with grief. Shuri’s is particularly focused at the center of the plot as her anger coincides with the climax of the story. At a crucial moment, she can either let her anger and desire for vengeance control her, or she could make a better choice for the future of her people. She chooses to step back and make a wiser choice.
It’s another Boseman tribute that pushes her through the anger and into a calmer stage – bargaining. Flashbacks of her brother bring her back from the ledge. Shuri reflects on the words from Killmonger and comes to a conclusion about what she must do. She spares Namor for the sake of both her people and his, letting go of some of the anger that could have destroyed her.
It isn’t until the final moments of the film that she passes into the acceptance phase. In fact, it doesn’t come until the mid-credit scene (the only bonus scene in this film, so feel free to leave after that one). With that acceptance of her grief comes hope for the future… and a nephew.
Yes, we have a mini T’Challa now. I’m not sure what the plans are for this character, but they have my attention.
An Oscar for Angela Bassett
We also follow Queen Ramonda’s grief, though she unfortunately didn’t have time to get to any form of acceptance. The anger she felt was palpable, though, and Bassett’s performance is truly Oscar-worthy.
Genre films, whether it’s fantasy, science fiction, or superhero, tend to not get any acting or writing awards. The praise for effects and sound is numerous, but other components of these films tend to get ignored. Perhaps this performance will break that trend, though. It deserves it.
Bassett put her whole heart into this role. She had me on the verge of tears repeatedly. When she commanded the attention of the characters on screen, I could feel the audience in the theater sit up a little straighter, as though she was addressing us directly. It’s an incredibly powerful performance.
Enter: Riri Williams
One of the most anticipated new elements of the MCU is the addition of Riri Williams. The way she was pulled into the plot by making a vibranium detector was clever, and made her entrance feel logical. Now that she’s here, she has a great future ahead of her in the MCU.
It hasn’t gone unnoticed that she attends MIT, which is also where MJ will be going. I’m not clear if Zendaya has any more MCU content contracted at this point, but I agree it’d be pretty cool to have these characters cross paths.
We’ve been left with a dubious conclusion for MJ’s character, however, so I’m not sure that’s in the cards. Zendaya is also much more famous than she was then, so I’m not sure they’d be willing to pay her new price tag for a cameo. Bringing MJ back into the plot in a more meaningful manner, however, would be very cool. If Zendaya is up for it, of course.
Riri is so fun, though, and the actress is absolutely charming. I’m very much looking forward to the future of Ironheart.
Wakanda Forever has a Solid Ensemble Cast
This film would not have been nearly as good if Coogler hadn’t made the ensemble so deep and richly realistic in the first film. Wakanda Forever is able to go forward without Boseman’s presence, though his loss is certainly felt. It doesn’t feel like that missing piece is detrimental to the plot or the cohesion of the story, though, which was no doubt a major challenge in the writing process. How do you honor a legacy without erasing its impact on the plot? Exactly like this.
The supporting cast of the first Black Panther film was mostly women, which means that we unexpectedly get another women-led installment in the MCU. Besides M’Buku and Agent Ross, the men are largely side characters or the antagonist (and we’ll talk more about Namor later, for sure). The most powerful nation in the world is led by women and it’s, quite frankly, damn cool.
It wasn’t originally planned to be that, but circumstances and a solid cast of characters allowed it to come into being. It’s another Coogler miracle.
Lesbians of Wakanda?
Wakanda Forever also brought us something new: Wakandan lesbians. It wasn’t significant enough to avoid being cut in foreign markets, though. At this point, ‘can it be cut without damaging the plot’ is my new standard, and Disney is consistently struggling.
So far the only MCU property that made the LGBTQ+ representation significant enough to avoid cuts is Eternals. I have some mild hope that the second season of Loki could give us something more, but I’m keeping my expectations tempered. Most of that is banking on rumors and hopeful shippers trying to will it into being. (Me. I am a shipper trying to will it into being. Hush now.)
The representation in Multiverse of Madness could easily be cut (though Disney resisted), and the representation in Love & Thunder, though plentiful, was still largely gags or side conversations that could be surgically removed with some effort.
I’m grateful to these films for trying, but we need to keep going forward on this. Love & Thunder deserves praise for the quantity at least. The tone of that film didn’t lend itself to having it meaningfully integrate into the main plot, though
The journey towards LGBTQ+ representation in the MCU has just begun. We’re experiencing some growing pains. Thankfully, though, it is growing.
In Wakanda Forever, the representation comes via Aneka and Ayo, two Dora Milaje. It’s not uncommon for women warrior teams to be the source of sapphic love stories. Valkyrie, too, was a source of representation through a relationship with her fellow warrior.
Is this kind of relationship too tropey? Maybe. But I enjoy it anyway. I have a weakness for badass women, so I have no complaints about how we got these characters. In fact, I need more of them. Right away. Like, now.
Val and Agent Ross Were Married??
Aneka and Ayo’s relationship wasn’t the only big reveal. Apparently, Val and Agent Ross were married at some point. Which honestly… I can’t imagine? That seems like it’d have been a frustrating, if not outright toxic relationship. But hey, they’re divorced, so maybe they realized that too.
I’m not sure if both characters are going to cross paths again sometime soon. I believe that Ross will be on Secret Invasion and Val will be in Thunderbolts. Sometimes casting is kept secret, though, so who knows. They’re significant enough to the main heroes that they could pop up anywhere.
Side note: I still think Agent Ross is a Skrull. Him and Happy. But we’ll see. If I’m right, I will be shouting “I told you so” until the day I die. You have been warned.
Namor is My Kind of Problem
As soon as I first saw Namor in the trailer released at SDCC, I knew Namor would be my kind of problematic character. I love the sarcastic arrogant bastards with loads of trauma, sympathetic motivations, and a high body count. I don’t know why, okay? But I just do.
Namor is precisely that. His motivation is that he wants to protect his people from the surface world, which has a habit of colonizing new places and destroying cultures. From his point of view, it makes sense that Wakanda would be a natural ally. They’ve also resisted colonization, but have faced increased threats from other world powers due to the resources they have in their homeland.
I don’t think Namor’s decision to turn violent is entirely unreasonable, either. No, I’m not advocating real-world violence, but it’s logical for this character. He has the responsibility of an entire species relying on him. That’s a lot to defend without doing some occasionally unsavory things.
In fact, the end result ended up being a mutual protection agreement with Wakanda, which is adjacent to what he wanted in the first place. The only difference is that Shuri managed to talk him down from wanting to take on the entire world, settling for a quiet protection agreement instead. My favorite fish guy and his people live on.
There are no solid plans for him to return in the future, but I do hope that changes. He was amazing. I would understand if this was the conclusion of the Talocan story, however. They’ve earned peace. I’ll just miss him greatly.
Onward: From Wakanda Forever to Quantumania
The next MCU project on the docket is Ant-Man & the Wasp: Quantumania. It’ll be a dramatic shift from the very grounded story of grief here, but the universe is unraveling and someone has to deal with it. That someone shouldn’t be anyone in Wakanda at this point. They need time to grieve. Maybe they can help at a later point, but not now.
I’m grateful we can get a diverse array of films in the MCU. From spy films and heist films, Afrofuturism and horror, and from the grand tale of a splintering multiverse to the intimate story of a woman processing her grief and fighting for her people. The MCU has something for everyone. You only need to find the right film or show for your interests.
Wakanda Forever is in theaters now. Quantumania is 95 days away from the date this article has been published. Not that I have a calendar I can reference that tells me exactly how long until the next MCU project is released or anything. Haha. No way.
Anyway, Phase V starts with Quantumania and Phase VI in 823 days with Fantastic Four. See you then!
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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