It’s no secret that this year has seen a considerable amount of sorrow all over the world. Coming from and within all types of people. All sides of the spectrum. Those we’ve come to love, admire, and even aspire to be are leaving us far too soon. Whether in our respective lives or in the industries we hold most dear, including cinema. This year alone saw the unfortunate passings of legends like Sidney Poitier, Nichelle Nichols, James Caan, Louie Anderson, Artis “Coolio” Ivey Jr., Gilbert Gottfried, William Hurt, and most recently Kevin Conroy. Just to name a few. Each one leaving a diverse body of work that brought so much to entertainment and beyond in a variety of ways. And even though it’s technically been a little over 2 years now, the devastating loss of the great Chadwick Boseman was another that shocked countless in and out of Hollywood.
An indomitable talent through and through. A life ended far too soon in the wake of cancer. Even though Boseman’s career spanned over a dozen features, most of them made a mark or highlight in cinema and the community because of his vigilant dedication to each role. He brought strength and resolve in portraying baseball icon, Jackie Robinson in 42 (2013). Overflowed with creativity and confidence portraying the godfather of soul, James Brown in the underrated Get On Up (2014). Radiated intelligence and dignity in his portrayal of Thurgood Marshall in Marshall (2017). AND literally seeped ferocity out of his pores, portraying Norman Earl “Stormin’ Norm” Holloway in the historically timely and frenzied Da 5 Bloods (2020), and the list continues. Such a hugely impressive and multifaceted career with some of these distinct projects having a commonality in Chadwick working while enduring countless surgeries and chemotherapies because of his diagnosis. He wasn’t just a fantastic actor but a gracious, helpful, and honorable human being who did legitimate good in the world, especially with those who were also battling illnesses as well as the Black Lives Matter movement. A movement that, despite hatred and ignorance trying to destroy it, actively continues along with the ideals that created it in the first place. He was a strong part of that and much more. Definitely a true hero in every sense of the word.
One of the biggest accomplishments in his career was bringing marvel comics’ King of Wakanda, T’Challa, to glorious life in not only Captain America: Civil War (2016) but one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s biggest and culturally magnificent hits, Black Panther (2018). An exhilarating triumph in every category from writing, directing, acting, production design, costumes, music, special effects and of course, significance. It wasn’t just another comic book film, but a staple of positive and generational upheaval in the community. A meaningful analogy for real-life struggles that tapped into a history of African-descended people imagining freedom, land, advancement, and national autonomy. It soared over boundaries, shattered the social and racial glass ceiling, broke box office records, and elevated many topics, injustices, and revelations into the spotlight. All of this under the incomparable direction of Ryan Coogler, the oscar-winning score of Ludwig Göransson, the sensational cast, and Chadwick leading the film with his marvelous, further star-making performance.
And now, years later, Coogler, Göransson, the original cast, and an eager audience have returned to one of the most powerful nations in the world with Black Panther Wakanda Forever (2022); an exquisitely thrilling, insurmountably moving, emotionally complex, and bittersweet conclusion to the spectacular phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Multiverse, and a resounding dedication to the actor who embodied King T’Challa.
As the story goes, a year after the sudden death of their beloved King, the country of Wakanda along with Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), princess Shuri (Letitia Wright), general Okoye (Danai Gurira), Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), and tribesman M’Baku (Winston Duke) are still in mourning as they’re collectively trying to forge a new path for their nation. Soon, the obsessive and intrusive search for vibranium by the other world powers in areas unguarded by Wakanda alerts a mysterious group of blue-skinned, water-breathing people. These people are called the Talokanil, from the city of Talokan; an underwater kingdom deep in the Atlantic Ocean and ruled by the noble yet vicious Namor (Tanoch Huerta). Now, the Wakandans must fight against this new threat that could not only submerge the entire country under the waves, but lay siege to the entire surface world. A battle for the future ensues.
Right of the Bat, it’s safe to say that this film…is an unmitigated achievement of epic proportions. From the technical aspects we once again are witnessed to breathtaking locales, strong effects, encompassingly vibrant music, masterful production values, and highly detailed costume designs. We’re dropped right back into the sights, sounds, culture, traditions, religion, politics, and spirituality of Wakanda in a gigantic manner. Major kudos once again to all involved who put so much work into making this world within worlds so gorgeously inviting and serene. As if that’s not enough, we get an introduction into the lavish, underwater world of Talokan, which is unmistakably based off of indigenous, aztecian, mayan, mesoamerican, and mythological influences. Another stroke of genius considering the story has a theme of outside forces trying to strip away power and resources from an advanced or ancient civilization. Palpable stuff. We’ve been introduced to many worlds and cultures during the entirety of Phase 4 so it’s fitting that this is one of the biggest visual feasts. At this point the MCU, MCM, whatever you want to call it is almost beyond measure…and believe it or not, there’s still more to come.
Now…let’s get into the nitty gritty. The themes of grief, trauma, and loss has been one of the main driving forces throughout phase 4, yet here it reaches a whole new level of complexity and gravitas. With Chadwick’s memory and presence draped across this entire story, many of its moments and performances settle upon a higher artistic and authentic resonance, reaching an engulfing, sombering meld and awareness that really draws you in. Naturally, there’s shades of rising hope, uplifting resilience, quiet tranquility, and consuming rage that affects the players involved, but this real-life tragedy reflects upon the faces of the struggles and victories. At times, the acting doesn’t feel like acting (With Bassett, Wright, and Huerta leading the sensational cast with their multi-layered showings), and the arcs exude extensive oomph and emotionality, hitting harder or softer than intended. This also comes into focus with the film’s extensive runtime, which may feel like a slow burn, but truly accentuates the process of loss as an audiences goes through it along with the characters. And it’s just as tough and gut-wrenching with each stage but…by the end, it truly felt like a journey to a purposeful and impactful end.
Bottom line, this wonderful film accomplished everything it set out to accomplish. Not only was it an exceptional sequel to its groundbreaking original, a compelling conclusion to Phase 4, an excellent introduction to Namor as well as the Talokanil, but at the end of it all, it was a satisfyingly poignant, poetically heartfelt, and vividly powerful eulogy to Chadwick Boseman. A cinematic experience worthy of his life and legacy. One that will certainly live on…now and beyond.
For Chadwick. Forever.
Review written by Marcus Wilturner