Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is unlike the rest of the Marvel movies. Not only is it the follow-up to a movie that became a sensation and redefined the possibilities of the MCU, but it’s an extremely public opportunity to pay homage to the franchise’s former face, Chadwick Boseman, after he died in 2020; not just a blockbuster, but a chance to grieve. After experiencing it, The Ringer staff divulged their thoughts …
1. What is your tweet-length review of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever?
Neil Francisco: A beautiful work of art from Ryan Coogler that celebrates Chadwick Boseman, and an astounding display of Shuri’s growth as she deals with tragic losses.
Ben Lindbergh: I reserve the right to reevaluate if and when I rewatch Wakanda Forever in a less emotionally charged setting—though that was the way it was designed to be seen—but I left the theater thinking, “I liked that better than Black Panther.”
Kai Grady: Ryan Coogler did it again with Wakanda Forever. He handled the loss of Chadwick Boseman with such grace and elegance and painted a beautiful, unforgettable story. Sidebar: Letitia Wright and Angela Bassett were in their Ziploc.
Miles Surrey: An emotional and somewhat unwieldy sequel that, much like its predecessor, loses momentum in a clunky third act. But as with anything Ryan Coogler makes, Wakanda Forever is still a very fun time at the movies.
Alison Herman: Wakanda Forever isn’t the best Marvel movie, but it may be the most surprising relative to its degree of difficulty.
Khal Davenport: Now I don’t need to see that Avatar sequel, right?
2. What was the best moment of the movie?
Herman: Any shot that shows off the Oscar-winning work of costume designer Ruth E. Carter and production designer Hannah Beachler. Both Black Panther movies are feasts for the eyes, a visual encyclopedia of pan-African aesthetic references with a far-future sheen. I could read a coffee table book of stills and behind-the-scenes breakdowns and get as much out of it as the actual movie.
Lindbergh: The funeral sequence. Especially the breathtaking slow-motion shot of the dancers, which I wanted to last even longer. (I thought Wakanda Forever looked good overall, and I’ve been flummoxed by complaints about its visual effects. I know it’s trendy to find fault with the MCU’s CGI, but nothing here took me out of the movie. It was fine!)
Davenport: Okoye and Attuma’s battle on the bridge. There’s something in there that feels like an homage to in-your-face kung fu flicks—think the scoreless, black-and-white battle the Bride has with the Crazy 88 in Kill Bill Vol. 1—and I loved seeing Okoye test her strength with an absolute beast.
Surrey: The attack on the American underwater mining operation by Namor and his people was a genuinely suspenseful set piece—humans poking their heads out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean is creepy as hell—that showed how much of a threat Talokan could pose to the rest of the world. (Also: tough beat for Lake Bell.)
Francisco: I loved Shuri seeing Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger. The way their conversation culminates in the Wakandan throne room as it burns to the ground—it’s like she’s talking to an actual demon.
Grady: The best moment also happened to be the most difficult: the quiet montage at the end of the film full of scenes shared between T’Challa and Shuri from the first movie. It’s a beautiful collection of moments between on-screen siblings turned real-life friends. As tears stream down Wright’s face, the palpable sense of pain and grief that both the character and Wright, herself, are experiencing is so authentic. It’s impossible not to feel that whirlwind of emotions as they seep through her performance.
3. What was your least favorite part of the film?
Davenport: That two-hour-and-41-minute running time, honestly.
Herman: When the Wakanda invasion went down and I realized there was a whole other loud, long, choppy battle sequence to go before the end credits, my soul left my body.
Lindbergh: I’m not totally clear on how Shuri healed herself; I thought the film was somewhat overstuffed with MCU setup in a way that underserved, say, the Riri Williams plotline; and I’m still slightly confused by why Lake Bell and Robert John Burke were cast to be cannon fodder in a single scene. Also: No offense to Anderson Cooper, but I think it’s time to end distracting, real-life-newscaster cameos in the MCU.
Francisco: Okoye losing her spot as general of the Dora Milaje seemed extreme. I get that Queen Ramonda had to do something, but I don’t think the film would have been all that different if Okoye had remained in her post and assisted in Shuri’s rescue.
Grady: Any of the moments between Everett Ross and Valentina. Not that I don’t enjoy their presence, it’s just that their placement felt clunky in this context. Their scenes did very little for the story, and while I understand that they were pushing the larger MCU forward, they ultimately felt nonessential.
Surrey: As much as I love Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the only purpose of her subplot was to promote future MCU projects.
4. How do you feel the movie handled the passing of Chadwick Boseman?
Lindbergh: As respectfully, poignantly, and compellingly as possible.
Davenport: Beautifully. The Marvel Studios title card featuring only shots of Boseman broke me, but I appreciated the tribute to the king.
Grady: Making a sequel that pays tribute to its late lead star and is also a successful movie is a near impossible task. In Wakanda Forever, they pulled it off.
Surrey: The grief that the characters and the actors experienced is palpable in almost every scene. There was plenty of sniffling going on both times I saw the film.
Herman: I appreciated that T’Challa’s cause of death is almost exactly the same as Boseman’s: not a world-saving fight with some supervillain, but a human illness few knew about or had time to prepare for. It helps the audience channel our real grief through the story on-screen, and opens up all kinds of fruitful themes about the limits of intellect and quasi-magical technology.
Francisco: The film is a true dedication to Boseman. The line between Boseman and T’Challa is so blurred that the audience is forced to buy in that much more. You can really feel how devastated both the nation of Wakanda and the actors in the cast are.
In What If…?, T’Challa (voiced by Chadwick Boseman) says, “In my culture, death is not the end. They are still with us as long as we do not forget them.” This film allows us to remember both Chadwick Boseman and T’Challa, in an artful and somber way.
5. Finish the sentence: Shuri becoming the Black Panther is …
Herman: … predictable, yet satisfying.
Francisco: We witnessed Shuri inspire a generation of young STEM students a few years ago, and now she’ll inspire even more young girls to grow up to be strong and fearless.
Davenport: … fine. I’m not bothered by it, and think they did the best they could by making her Panther have some grit (the Killmonger aspect is a great layer). After leaving the theater, I wondered whether we’ll get another Black Panther film, or whether Shuri will just pop in from time to time/become an ally to the Avengers when need be.
Surrey: … a sensible narrative choice that will probably go down better if, in the future, Letitia Wright keeps her feelings about vaccines to herself.
Lindbergh: … predictable, appropriate, and possibly the first time that the debut of a new superhero won’t spark a round of behind-the-scenes stories with headlines like, “How [insert actor here] Bulked Up to Play [insert superhero here].”
6. Are Namor and the Talokans bad guys?
Davenport: I think the title of “antihero” that Namor has held longer than there has been a Marvel Comics is a better description, at least in intent. Do they take it too far (or at least seem to enjoy the chaos they cause)? I can see that, but ultimately they’re just taking a more defensive “don’t touch our border” approach, right? It’s not like we were introduced to them in a time when they just started killing people—there were active vibranium searches that were impeding on their territory. Plus, Namor had already seen the atrocities of the surface world; maybe we are the bad guys.
Lindbergh: To echo a pair of problematic faves who also wreaked havoc in a blockbuster released last week, Kratos and Atreus of God of War Ragnarök: It’s complicated. Given Namor’s history, his actions are understandable; judging by how France and the U.S. covet vibranium, it doesn’t seem like the world’s Western powers have evolved a whole lot in the last half-millennium. My compliments to Talokan’s city planners, by the way. The place puts Otoh Gunga to shame.
Grady: Yes and no. They’re “bad guys” in the same way that Killmonger was in the first film. They’re complicated antiheroes who make compelling arguments for their beliefs in a way that the audience understands and even, to some extent, empathizes with. When it comes down to it, the only thing that really sets them apart from our beloved Black Panther(s) is that they utilize brutal violence and relentless force in an attempt to reach their endgame.
Herman: Killmonger convinced me that Wakanda has an obligation to help other formerly colonized peoples around the globe, but Namor’s resentment of the vulnerability that comes with exposure is … extremely valid. No one’s really a villain here.
Surrey: There’s a crucial difference between being a villain and an antagonist—Namor is the latter. If anything, the geopolitical conflicts in Wakanda Forever underline that global powers with a history of colonialism have driven kingdoms like Talokan to such extremes and should be taking more of the blame.
Francisco: The jury is still out. I’ll tell you what, though. If Namor’s existence brings us closer to the X-Men, I wouldn’t view him as a bad guy. (I’m kidding … kind of.)
7. Which character has the best fit in the movie?
Lindbergh: Queen Ramonda (RIP). Angela Bassett, drop the shoulder routine.
Francisco: Shuri on MIT’s campus in that cold, drippy sweatsuit is gonna have me rethinking my wardrobe choices this winter.
Herman: Shuri and Okoye’s Cambridge fits are hilariously ineffective as low-key disguises but pretty great as actual fashion.
Grady: The all-purple tracksuit with the black Ray-Bans was incredible. Who says Shuri can’t get a fit off and be the Black Panther at the same time? Also, I’ve got to hand out an honorable mention to Riri Williams for her shoe game—I peeped those OG Wave Runners.
Davenport: I honestly liked the fit Riri had on at the end of the film, but Killmonger’s throne room fit was my fave.
Surrey: It might not be the best fit, but you gotta respect Namor spending most of the movie in glorified boxer briefs (and pulling it off!).
8. Where does Wakanda Forever rank among MCU sequels?
Davenport: It’s no Winter Soldier, but it’s close? This film had a lot of work to do: establish a whole new mutant in the MCU, pick up the pieces following Chadwick Boseman’s death, set up a new Black Panther, be a dope film … hell, it even paid off the T’Challa-Nakia relationship at the end. All of that was done with a strong cast (I haven’t even spoken about Angela Bassett’s commanding performance) and some dope visuals. Rank your Marvel sequels how you want, but it’s hard to not have Wakanda Forever close to the top of that list.
Grady: The MCU is notorious for weak sequels, so Wakanda Forever isn’t going up against the toughest of competitors. But there are still a handful of excellent follow-up films in the MCU and this one is near the top for me: It comes in at no. 2, second only to Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Lindbergh: Even without extra credit for the high degree of difficulty, I’d put it on par with The Winter Soldier, Civil War, and Ragnarok, trailing only Endgame.
Herman: Its only real rivals are the Captain America ones, and maybe Iron Man 3. I’ll give this one the edge, recency bias be damned.
Surrey: It’s getting harder to keep track of all the MCU movies, but Wakanda Forever belongs in the top tier of Marvel sequels alongside Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Francisco: This is in the top three for me with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Spider Man: No Way Home. It is definitely the best film of Phase 4, and has reenergized my passion for the MCU.
9. What is the biggest lingering question you have after seeing Wakanda Forever?
Lindbergh: So wait, how do those ankle wings work?
Surrey: I love ocean stuff, so I’ve got several questions: What, exactly, do the Talokan eat? Do they grow underwater crops? Do they adhere to a fish-based diet? Do they have bathrooms or are they just letting it rip in the open? Do they just drink the salt water they’re swimming in when they get thirsty? Is there a corner of the ocean people go to for vacations?
Herman: Can Namor get his own spinoff?
Francisco: With Secret Invasion and Daredevil: Born Again coming up, is the MCU heading back into the spy and street-level stories that we saw with Captain America: The Winter Soldier? How will that lead into The Kang Dynasty and Secret Wars? Either way, it’s an exciting time to reinvest in Marvel.
Davenport: OK, so how does the power of the Black Panther work when it’s … inside you? Have studies been done on whether, say, trace amounts of that power that could show up in blood, DNA, etc.? I know neither T’Challa nor Shuri was born with these powers, but who knows what else T’Challa had been working on in the time between both films. Again, he hid the world from his kid; what other secrets might Toussaint (a.k.a. Prince T’Challa) be holding?
Grady: K.E.V.I.N. knew exactly what he was doing by bringing T’Challa’s child into the fold. His appearance has to be more than just a sweet, heartwarming moment of fan service. So what is the plan for the heir to the Wakandan throne? If I were a betting man, I’d go all in on him being a part of the inevitable Young Avengers team.