SMART MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ a juggling act with powerhouse cast

By Ian Omar Smart | Guest Columnist

Following the massive success of 2018’s “Black Panther” and the unfortunate death of that film’s star Chadwick Boseman, Ryan Coogler and company return to the world of Wakanda with a new Black Panther and enemy that acts as more than a match for the advanced nation. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is now playing at the B&B Theatres Vicksburg Mall 6 cinema.

The story follows the death of T’Challa and his mourning as Wakanda addresses Namor, a flying underwater super being, who leads an underwater kingdom that seeks to destroy the world above ground. He seeks out Shuri and the Queen to enlist Wakanda in his cause. When they refuse to team with him, Namor and his warriors go to war with the fictional African nation, which leads to even more tragedy. Their conflict culminates with a brawl between the new Black Panther and Namor. All of this is wrapped up in a story introducing the hero Ironheart (wonderfully played by Dominique Thorne).

“Wakanda Forever” does its best to juggle the world-building shenanigans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a sincere engagement with grief and a larger story about oppressed peoples and how much they owe to each other. The film doesn’t quite balance those elements very well, but Coogler’s talent as a director and his love for this world overcomes some of the script’s shaggier elements. Like always Coogler highlights great performances from his cast; in particular Angela Bassett, Letitia Wright and Danai Gurira. Even Tenoch Huerta conveys an appropriate amount of menace and authority, but with such a large cast, the supporting players (Michaela Cole, Lupita Nyong’o, and Winston Duke) feel underutilized beyond their function to further the plot. Also coming the same year as the incredible “The Woman King,” “Wakanda Forever’s” action feels lacking, and the culture it tries to communicate ends up feeling less lived-in or thought out.

But if one is able to get past those few elements, “Wakanda Forever” manages to give people the thrills expected from another outing in the MCU saga. While not as thoughtful as the first “Black Panther,” “Wakanda Forever” ends up expanding the story’s scope and introducing charismatic new characters into this already colorful world.

Ian Omar Smart is a graduate of Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University with a degree in architecture. When he’s not drawing buildings, he’s probably at the movies. Smart can be contacted at isiansmart@gmail.com.

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