T’Challa is dead, and the formerly reclusive nation of Wakanda mourns the loss not only of their king but also of their protector, the destruction of the heart-shaped herb meaning he will be the last Black Panther, and perceiving this moment as an opportunity to take advantage of those distracted by their grief a foolish attempt is made by a hostile force to seize a supply of the fiercely guarded vibranium.
But what if there was another source of vibranium beyond the borders of Wakanda? What if another asteroid had fallen to Earth in the distant past, carrying with it that rare and powerful metal? On the bed of the Atlantic Ocean, an expedition believes that it may have isolated just such a prize but it is attacked by a heavily armed force, and blame falls of Wakanda, believed to be so jealous of the superiority that vibranium gives them that they will kill to preserve it.
The death of Tony Stark in Endgame a planned event and the culmination of a story told across eleven years, the death of Chadwick Boseman in August 2020 was an unexpected curtailment to the story of T’Challa which could not be predicted or circumvented, a key supporting player in Civil War who rose to lead his own film in Black Panther before fighting alongside the Avengers in the Infinity War.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe and its associated media an unprecedented success which has constantly explored new realms and pushed boundaries, for their thirtieth feature film they have had to overcome the insurmountable and acknowledge the death not only of one of their finest lead actors but one who is wholly irreplaceable; T’Challa synonymous with Chadwick Boseman, nobody else could ever be considered to play the role.
Instead, Wakanda Forever has taken that anger and grief and let is shape the story, Angela Bassett proudly holding her head high as Ramonda, Mother of Wakanda, as she faces the United Nations and refuses to capitulate, while Shuri throws herself into her research, unable to hear the words of comfort offered by her mother or think of anything else, Letitia Wright catapulted to the lead of the film though superbly supported on all sides by her sisters-in-arms Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira and Michaela Coel.
Surfacing in the midst of this is a newcomer, Namor, ruler of the hidden kingdom of Talokan, a nation which finds itself in a situation similar to that which Wakanda has existed in for centuries; he could seek to ally himself with them, two outliers of great power faced with a mutual problem, but instead he presents his proposal as a threat to Wakanda and Ramonda bows to no man, especially not one with bloody hands who has compromised noble goals for self-interest.
The Forever Purge’s Tenoch Huerta a newcomer to Marvel, Namor is one of their most interesting protagonists, raised as “the child without love,” el niño sin amor, who saw his people enslaved and destroyed and has risen from that to create a home as strange and beautiful as any seen before, paralleling Wakanda with their powerful technologies which work in harmony with nature, but inflexible where the safety of his people is concerned he is dangerous as an ally or an enemy.
The visual delight of Black Panther recaptured again by director Ryan Coogler, if Wakanda Forever is a long film it is because it has so much ground to cover in terms of story and character, celebrating and honouring Chadwick Boseman with music, dance and dignity and finding a way to move forward without him, the final film of the meandering fourth phase a much-needed time to heal which perhaps sees Marvel rising from tragedy and finding purpose in a world while opening the door for a new generation of heroes to step up.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is currently on general release and also screening in IMAX