Every Marvel movie has an insane amount of hype and pressure behind it, as Marvel Studios is responsible for the most successful film franchise of all-time with beloved characters that even your grandparents could recognize. But the undeniable weight and importance of Wakanda Forever is simply on another level after Chadwick Boseman’s death back in 2020. Director Ryan Coogler, who returns to direct the sequel to his hit film, was donned with a seemingly impossible task within trying to make a worthy sequel to the first supehero film to ever be nominated for best picture, to satisfy us nerds who want to see another adventure with the nation of Wakanda, and most importantly – handle the passing of the character of T’Challa gracefully and seamlessly, all the while moving the story forward. I can’t even fathom how difficult all of these challenges must have been not only for Coogler himself but the entire cast and crew as a whole.. but dear lord, did they knock it out the park regardless of the uphill battle.
The film begins right after T’Challa has passed away from an unnamed illness, and both his family and the people of Wakanda are found reeling from this enormous loss. From the get-go, Wakanda Forever finds a beautiful line to walk-on between truth and fiction; seeing these characters mourn the loss of T’Challa feels therapeutic and highly-emotional for audiences, but it also, impressively, never feels performative or exploitative. Ryan Coogler and his screenwriting partner Joe Robert Cole find a way to navigate the feelings of these characters gracefully in a way that feels honest and sincere – it also never really gives the audience easy answers. It shows all the ugly sides of grief, and asks the question of how we’re supposed to grow and learn from losing the people we love the most. It’s genuinely so touching and beautiful, from the moment the film begins to the minute it ends.
On the other side of the film, we have the character of Namor (Tenoch Huerta) – the ruler of Talokan. Without getting into spoilers, the people of Talokan and Wakanda (but more specifically that of Shuri (Letitia Wright) and Namor) clash in an all-out war. While this may seem like it’s a bit heavy in a film that deals with the loss of Chadwick/T’Challa, Ryan Coogler finds a way to weave the narrative threads together beautifully. The character of Namor is one of the biggest highlights of the film, as he’s one of the best villains (if you don’t subscribe to the mantle of anti-hero) of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe; and it’s mostly due to Tenoch Huerta’s incredible performance as the character. Seeing Namor clash with Shuri (Letitia Wright also kills it) and the rest of Wakanda is inherently exciting and riveting, but it’s all the more powerful because Coogler truly takes the time to properly develop the character and the Kingdom of Talokan with care and nuance.
For a film that hinges so much on spectacle and action, it’s one of the best looking and sounding Marvel movies ever produced. Autumn Durald Arkapaw’s cinematography is absolutely immaculate here, as she brings so much vibrance and style to both Wakanda and Talokan; also delivering some truly beautiful action sequences that feel the most stylish the MCU has ever been. In terms of sound, the score from composer Ludwig Göransson is.. insane. I’ve been a big fan of Göransson’s work for years now, as I think he’s one of the most unique and expressive composers in the business today. But his score for Wakanda Forever is simply on another level, as he only adds to the already tense action sequences and the beautiful, cathartic emotional moments with a sweeping melody that perfectly matches each and every scene. It’s also deeply impressive how he both expanded on the score and theme for Wakanda and its character in this movie, while also delivering some truly electrifying music for that of Namor and all of Talokan.
Are there moments within Wakanda Forever‘s 161 minute running-time where it feels like it might be juggling one too many things? Sure. But what’s most impressive about Coogler’s work here is how he makes it all tie-together and fit the story and message he is trying to convey. While this is undeniably one of the longest Marvel movies to date, there is simply nothing about it that I’d trim down on, as it feels like one of the most artistically-inspired films that the studio has ever put out; full of so much genuine emotion and truth behind its themes of grief and love persevering. This is not only the best film that Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has to offer, but it’s one of their very best films all-together. A more than worthy sequel that moved me to tears more than once.