The Pitch: Rest in power, King T’Challa, and Chadwick Boseman. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever begins by immediately delving into the loss of the Wakandan leader and superhero, but the character’s death from an unspecified illness is hardly a prologue — it is the foundation upon which writer/director Ryan Coogler and co-writer Joe Robert Cole build the highly anticipated sequel to the first (and only) MCU movie to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.
The loss of T’Challa is gutting for everyone but most especially his sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), who had turned to science for a potential answer to saving him but failed. Also, thanks to Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) burning the Wakandan supply of the heart-shaped herb in the first film, there is no new Black Panther to inherit the powers and the mantle.
A year after his passing, the wounds still haven’t fully healed, but life moves on, as it inevitably must — thus, Wakanda finds itself facing a new international challenge, tied to the country’s perceived dominion over vibranium, a natural element that other countries of the world (not to mention more ruthless entities) would like to also get their hands on.
While Wakanda is fiercely committed to protecting its own supply (and thanks to the Dora Milaje, is more than able to defend itself and its vibranium supply), it turns out they’re not the only secretive world power with a vested interest in the material — and Namor (Tenoch Huerta), ruler of the underwater kingdom Talokan, is determined to protect his people from outside threats to their own supply…
Bring Kleenex: The announced runtime of Wakanda Forever is 161 minutes, which is, y’know, not short. But once you consider all the various elements involved, especially the creation of a new and noteworthy anti-hero with a rich backstory, not to mention also introducing a supporting character whose own Disney+ series is due to arrive next year, it makes sense.
For while there’s also some action along with the elements mentioned above, Wakanda Forever first and foremost is a film about grief — which is extremely fitting for a movie that, in another and perhaps better timeline, would have starred the man who led the original film to both box office and awards glory. There’s fun to be had along the way, especially centered around newcomer Dominique Thorne as Ironheart-to-be Riri Williams. But thanks to that extra screen time, Coogler doesn’t have to shortchange the emotional journey of his characters, who mourn with us.