In the England of our world, it was recently said: The Queen is dead; long live the King. In Wakanda, mystical and hidden from the view of others, the situation is reversed. Because of the tragic death of King T’Challa, his mother, Queen Ramonda (Angela Basset), rules the country again. T’Challa’s younger and smart sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) helps her. She gets support from a new action heroine, Riri Williams, a.k.a. Iron Heart, Together, they continue the legacy of the Black Panther. True to the motto: Wakanda Forever.
CHADWICK BOSEMAN’S LEGACY
As so often, the good die far too soon. In 2020, the early death of Chadwick Boseman not only shocked the fan community worldwide. Of course, his friends, the Black Panther film team, were also deeply touched.
Apart from the pain and grief, they asked themselves whether the planned sequel to the successful first part would be possible or even advisable without Chadwick. Moreover, is it possible to continue the story of the Black Panther respectfully and meaningfully without him? And if so, can this do justice to Chadwick’s legacy?
The unanimous answer of all those involved was: Yes. Additionally, it seems as if the enormous human and artistic loss spurred the entire team in front of and behind the camera to give their best. But one after another.
THE STORY & CAST OF BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER
SHURI – LETITIA WRIGHT
The Black Panther is dead, and his younger sister Shuri blames herself. Because despite her enormous knowledge, the young scientist couldn’t prevent her brother’s death. Deeply sad and still a bit childish, she must learn to take responsibility for her country. Especially now when it’s threatened by the ruler of a powerful underwater kingdom.
Letitia Wright belongs to the young top league of Hollywood. Aside from her role as the sassy princess of Wakanda, the Guyanese-British actress convinced us in other films. At first, she was allowed to play rather small roles in blockbusters like Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One or The Commuter with Liam Neeson. However, in Death on the Nile, which hit theaters earlier this year, she showed us that she’s a serious actress. Even though she celebrated her breakthrough with Black Panther, she was still overshadowed then by her film partner Chadwick Boseman and other characters.
In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Letitia can finally reach her full acting and human potential. And, so the beautiful actress dominates the entire film. On the one hand, she embodies a strong and rationally acting young woman. On the other hand, Shuri is very emotional and daring. Besides, the young princess also shows weaknesses here and there.
Anyhow, Letitia gives Shuri a lot of emotions. In the chaos of rationality and emotionality, Shuri isn’t yet fully aware of her role. But what she does know is that it is not just about protecting Wakanda but also the people on Earth.
RIRI WILLIAMS A.K.A. THE SCIENTIST A.K.A. IRON HEART – DOMINIQUE THORNE
One of those people who Shuri has a special focus on is Riri Williams. With her character, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is an absolute highlight for all MCU fans. Because the film introduces the long-awaited successor to Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man.
Despite her age, Riri Williams is already a top student at MIT’s elite university in Cambridge. Even in our real world, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of the leading universities.
Here, the whip-smart, super cool 19-year-old student has developed a machine that can search for special mineral resources under water. That means it could also detect the universally coveted Vibranium.
This rare metal, previously found only in Wakanda, elicits universal covetousness. Especially under humans. Since they want to use it for military purposes, Wakanda doesn’t release its resources. But, of course, the world’s governments want to take their chance. Therefore, they want to use the machine developed by Riri.
Too bad. There is still a powerful hidden underwater world. that wasn’t seen by any human eye until today. To keep it that way, the king of Talokan, as the underwater kingdom is called, wants to prevent Riri’s invention from being used by any means necessary.
But Riri isn’t just an exceptional student at MIT. Since she was a child, she has been emulating her great role model, Tony Stark.
Now, she is clever enough to follow in his footsteps. Therefore, she designed a battle suit comparable to Iron Man’s Bleeding Edge Armor.
So, Riri’s genius brain gets her into big trouble. Because on the one hand, the world’s secret services chase her. And, on the other hand, the fighters from Talokan want to kill her.
But Riri isn’t just an exceptional student at MIT. Since she was a child, she has been emulating her great role model, Tony Stark. Now, she is clever enough to follow in his footsteps. Therefore, she designed a battle suit comparable to Iron Man’s Bleeding Edge Armor.
To make a long story short, Black Panther introduces Iron Man’s much-anticipated successor, Iron Heart. Series and films will clearly follow.
Dominique Thorne is a new face, not only in the MCU. So far, we’ve only seen her in supporting roles in Judas and the Black Messiah and If Beale Street Could Talk. However, in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, she really cranks it up, i.e., she plays great.
Her character, Riri Williams, also represents the counterpart to the Princess of Wakanda, Shuri. Because even if the two young scientists are similar in many respects, they are ultimately fundamentally different. We can’t wait to see how Riri Williams will continue to unfold as Iron Heart in the MCU.
In any case, in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever she cuts a very good figure. She complements the film’s emotionality, which is sometimes very strongly caused by real grief over Chadwick’s death, with a lot of joy, humor, and a likable portion of cheekiness.
KING NAMOR (TENOCH HUERTA)
Of course, the secret services that are on Riri’s heels pose a great threat to her. However, this is nothing compared to the adversaries who rise from the depths of the sea to turn off the young scientist’s life. These blue figures, led by the mysterious Namor, seem to know no compromises.
Namor is the king of Talokan, that ancient civilization of underwater-dwelling people. They idolize him as the feathered serpent god K’uk’ulkan.
As so often in the MCU, fiction and reality flow seamlessly into one another. Indeed, K’uk’ulkan was a Mesoamerican serpent deity of the Yucatán Maya people. Also, other Mesoamerican cultures, like the Aztecs, worshiped that Feathered Serpent. Also, the famous Mayan pyramid in the Mexican state of Yucatán is dedicated to him.
And that’s the greatest thing about Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Because what was missing in the first part is lived out to excess here: ethnology.
With King Namor, we not only dive deep into the ocean. Moreover, we also delve into the fascinating world of the original inhabitants of South America, who were oppressed, expelled, enslaved, or murdered by the Spanish conquerors more than 500 years ago.
And so, it’s difficult to regard the rather vengeful Namor as a villain. Because his story is very emotional and heartwarming. Yet it’s he who threatens Wakanda and the rest of humanity.
You will see if Shuri and Riri can stand up to the Merman in Wakanda Forever. But we can reveal that, once again, the Marvel casting team placed great emphasis on authenticity. Remember the time when white actors wore make-up to portray natives of South America, Africa, or Asia? Fortunately, productions are going in a different direction today.
Tenoch Huerta is not only of Mexican descent, but he’s a star in his country. Huerta has acted in almost 50 films and TV productions so far. On the international stage, we know him from James Bond: Spectre or The Forever Purge.
In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, he plays the Mexican god in a very haunting and complex way. In addition, his character is one of the oldest in Marvel Comics. Therefore, we can assume that we will see Tenoch, a.k.a. Namor, soon again. May it be on the big screen or on Disney+.
NAKIA (LUPITA NYONG’O)
Since King T’Challa’s death, his wife has not made herself particularly popular with his family. The reason why she didn’t even come to his funeral you’ll find out at the end of Wakanda Forever. Before that, of course, she helps Queen Ramonda and her people resist the dark menaces.
We don’t need to introduce the great Lupita Nyong’o. In addition to Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and its prequel, we know her from many films. Starting with science fiction and action movies such as the last Star Wars trilogy or Non-Stop with Liam Neeson, to award-winning masterpieces such as We by Jordan Peele or 12 Years a Slave, produced by Brad Pitt and directed by Steve McQueen.
OKOYE (DANAI GURIRA)
With Nakia apparently turning her back on Wakanda, Okoye remains in a position of responsibility as general of the Dora Milaje. The warrior would give her life for Wakanda. She lives the motto Wakanda Forever with body and soul. Besides, she thinks she’s invincible. And she almost is. Until Okoye meets the fellows of King Namor.
Not only does her character impress with incredible martial arts skills, but Danai Gurira also fascinates with her strong performance. Wild, powerful, and at the same time emotional, she plays the leader of the Dora Milaje. In addition, she also shows a lot of humor and self-mockery in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
Aside from Black Panther and the Avengers movies, we mostly know Danai from The Walking Dead series. There she plays the character of Michonne. In addition to that, we also saw Danai – who is also a screenwriter and activist – most recently in Godzilla vs. Kong.
M’BAKU (WINSTON DUKE)
In the prequel, M’Baku wasn’t necessarily King T’Challa’s best friend. Nonetheless, he is a loyal friend to Wakanda. Even more. After the Black Panther’s death, he takes on something of a brother role for Shuri, who is now on her own. Even if she keeps defying him. On the one hand, M’Baku is a fearless warrior. But, on the other hand, he also conveys an important, peaceful message. In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, you will find out what it is.
We also know Winston Duke from Jordan Peele’s film We. Furthermore, he starred with Zazie Beetz in Nine Days and alongside Mark Wahlberg in Wonderland.
AYO (FLORENCE KASUMBA) & ANEKA (MICHAELA COEL)
What would Wakanda be without the Dora Milaje, Wakanda’s all-female special forces? As second-in-command, Ayo is responsible for the troops. Aneka, on the other hand, is still a rebel. The two also established the queer community in the MCU.
We were lucky to have a short conversation with Florence Kasumba during the Berlin premiere. Watch this.
QUEEN RAMONDA (ANGELA BASSETT)
Since the country’s protector is dead, Queen Ramonda not only has to cope with the death of her son. Moreover, she must handle other hard blows of fate.
Besides, Ramonda also faces the diplomatic challenge that Wakanda remains an ally to the humans but not granting them access to the coveted metal Vibranium. When the ruler of Talokan, King Namor, gives the queen an impossible ultimatum she is finally in a bind.
Be it as Tina Turner, a secret agent, a voodoo priestess, a doctor, or a queen, Angela Bassett has thrilled us in a wide variety of roles since the early 1980s. However, the role of Ramonda seems to be tailor-made for the actress.
In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, she plays the queen of the mysterious land with such poignant dignity and authenticity that we almost want to salute her.
BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER – CONCLUSION
Frankly, we didn’t feature Black Panther at the time of its release. Too little Africa was reflected in the highly acclaimed action spectacle that featured the first black superhero.
However, in Black Panther Wakanda Forever, everything comes together that we expect from a modern film of this kind.
On the one hand, Wakanda Forever delves much deeper into the black culture. The costumes are just stunning. Traditional rites and the continent itself get much more scope now.
Another flaw of the predecessor was the sheer lack of emotion. At no point did I identify with the characters or the story. This is completely different in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. And this isn’t just due to the tragic loss of Chadwick Boseman and his departure as the Black Panther.
Of course, all those scenes dedicated to Chadwick touch our hearts deeply. But we are also emotionally touched in many other sequences that have nothing to do with the protector of Wakanda or his actor.
Letitia Wright’s acting contributes to this. She lives out the most diverse emotions effortlessly. First, she is strong, then weak again, only to be funny and a short time later very thoughtful.
Not only with her role but with her entire performance, she symbolizes authentic and impressive empowerment. In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, she develops by the minute into the first black superheroine whose appearance is long overdue.
She succeeds in doing this without building fronts or using clichés. It looks completely natural and impressively strong.
The warmth gives in this cold time – which means not only autumn but what is currently happening in our world – also a character who many probably did not expect. Be that as it may, especially Winston Duke as M’Baku gives the film a decent portion of humanity and depth.
The film also does not hold back with a partly covert, partly offensive criticism of our real world. Of course, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is not an anti-war film. Still, his message is clear. And so those rulers of this world, who are still stuck in a martial age, should at least grapple with the values that Marvel is trying to send with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
Therefore, the Black Panther’s job isn’t just to protect humanity from evil. Rather, he is the most powerful ambassador of the black continent. His struggle is also to make it clear to the die-hards that Africa is the cradle of mankind. Marvel has the power to show everyone around the world that this fascinating continent, its history, culture, and traditions, and – most of all – its people and their descendants, wherever they may live today, must be honored, admired, respected, and taken close into our hearts. We were able to experience how beautiful and clever they are on the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Black Carpet in Berlin. Please watch the video above.
Last but not least, it seems that all actors did their best to honor Chadwick Boseman’s legacy and carry it on for the next generation. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is an outstanding film that puts an end to the cinematic disappointments we experienced with films like Amsterdam or The Menu this autumn. Therefore, we give 9 points and say Wakanda Forever, and off to the cinema!
Text: Marco Kokkot
Images: Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.