Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Year: 2022
Production Co: Marvel Studios
Studio: Disney
Director: Ryan Coogler
Producer: Kevin Fiege
Writer: Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole
Cast: Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Guria, Winston Duke, Martin Freeman, Trevor Noah, Richard Schiff, Lake Bell, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Michael B Jordan

I'm one of only five people alive who didn't like Black Panther. However much people of colour around the world felt it represented them (and I wish them all the best in that), the story and visual style were just those of another tired superhero origin story with too much CGI from overworked and underpaid VFX vendors.

The story might have been original (it wasn't), the acting might have been great (it wasn't) and the cinematography might have been distinctive (it wasn't), but I couldn't understand what propelled it to such heights.

I also figured that the sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright) becoming the new Black Panther was a foregone conclusion – both black and female representation are the sweet spots of Marvel Studios' zeitgeist-building m.o.

Yet the film seemed to treat it like it was some unexpected surprise the audience would never have guessed and would lap up as something revolutionary even though – as I tell anyone who'll listen any time this issue comes up – we've come from Hildy Johnson all the way through to Katniss Everdeen. Has there really been a shameful dearth of well-written female heroes?

The story mirrors real life after the tragic early death of Chadwick Boseman. King T'Challa has died from a mysterious illness Shuri thinks she can cure with some mystical plant, but she's too late and the kingdom of Wakanda falls into mourning.

A year later, the Queen (Angela Bassett) is using poise and smarts to rebuff countries all over from their efforts to get their hands on Wakanda's vibranium, but time is running out.

And when a CIA operation finds a deposit on the bottom of the ocean but is attacked by mysterious and magical, blue-skinned creatures (and aren't there plenty of them on screens at the moment?), the rest of the world blames Wakanda for it, with only liaison and friend to the Wakandan leadership Ross (Martin Freeman) holding back full scale war.

But the villain-of-the-week leader of the blue people shows up with his mythological-backstory-of-the-week and puts a fly in everyone's ointment. For some reason I can't remember, he wants whoever invented the vibranium-detecting machine dead to make sure they don't create any more of them and of course it turns out to be a young black female engineering prodigy, and when Shuri finds and vows to protect her of course it introduces a very American girl-bro friendship vibe to the proceedings.

The blue skinned race wants to rule the world and their boss level bad guy wants Wakanda to join him in destroying everyone else or he'll destroy Wakanda first, so the stage is appropriately set for the massive CGI third act battle aboard a Wakanda navy ship.

If I was desperate to find something positive about it, you could say it's not quite the same tired origin story because everything's been established and even though the big bad is eye rollingly boring you don't really know how things are going to get to the wrapped up ending with a new Black Panther installed.

Writers Joe Robert Cole and director Ryan Coogler had a lot more freedom this time around and seem to expand to fill the possibilities. But the guard rails of a Marvel movie are much more rigid, and if you're sick of the aesthetic, vibe and mise en scene of superhero movies and you think a bunch of Americans doing cod African accents pays appropriate homage to their racial origins you'll forget it all as soon as the credits start to roll.

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