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Freeman Cebu Entertainment

‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ is fitting tribute for the deceased king

Januar Junior Aguja - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines —  “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”, the 30th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), would have been a different movie if Chadwick Boseman was alive today.

According to the film’s director Ryan Coogler in an interview with Inverse, it would have focused on Boseman’s T’Challa regretting the time he had lost while he was absent for five years.

Viewers may recall that T’Challa, along with many of the universe’s superheroes, were “snapped” out of existence by Thanos in “Avengers: Infinity War” before he was brought back to life five years later (within the universe’s timeline) in “Avengers: Endgame”.

“T’Challa was going to be grieving the loss of time, coming back after being gone for five years”, Coogler said. “As a man with so much responsibility to so many, coming back after a forced five-year absence, he was grieving the time he couldn’t get back.”

With the actor’s passing in 2020, the film re-aligned its focus to the other characters around T’Challa as they mourn the loss of their Wakandan king, reflecting the real grief of the cast and crew towards Boseman’s demise.

While the film was re-focused to an ensemble cast playing fan-favorite characters, T’Challa’s sister Shuri, played by British actress Letitia Wright, was the heart and soul of the entire film.

Wright’s alleged anti-vaccination views may still leave a bad taste in the mouth of those aware of the controversy. However, her wonderful performance reminds everyone why Shuri was a well-liked character in the first place.

Strengthening her performance was Shuri’s heartfelt character development as she feels the guilt and the remorse over her brother’s passing.

Angela Bassett gives a powerhouse performance as Queen Ramonda who has to perform her duties as Wakanda’s head of state while lamenting the loss of her son. Viewers can sense her deep grief, while also understanding her need to move forward to keep the highly-technological African nation running.

Marvel fans can still expect the classic lovable arrogant warrior M’Baku played by Winston Duke, while also appreciating the surprising maturity of his character in the film. Okoye, the Dora Milaje leader played by Danai Gurira, gets a much more grounded character development as certain events in the film forced her to accept her abrupt, life-changing circumstances.

Nakia, the love interest of T’Challa played by Lupita Nyong’o, is a much different character in the film than when we last saw her in the first Black Panther film as she lies low and away from Wakanda to mourn the loss of T’Challa by herself.

The “Black Panther” sequel also introduces new memorable characters. Namor, the film’s antagonist played by Mexican actor Tenoch Huerta, doesn’t exactly feel like a villain. His motivations to protect his people in the secret underwater city of Talokan are strongly reasonable, perhaps more reasonable than the previous Black Panther villain Killmonger whose purpose to dominate the world with Wakanda’s signature metal Vibranium looked selfish in comparison.

Audiences may find their new fan-favorite in Riri Williams, played by up-and-coming actress Dominique Thorne. Riri’s youthful energy provides a much-needed contrast to the film’s mournful tone to keep things going as Shuri needs an intellectual peer to come up with ideas.

Riri has a fair amount of screen time given that the film still needs to focus on the Wakandans. Those who enjoy Riri won’t have to wait long to see her again when she headlines her own mini-series “Ironheart”, which is scheduled for a 2023 release on Disney+.

MCU fans who were disappointed that the stakes of Doctor Strange in the “Multiverse of Madness” were underwhelming, or that “Thor: Love and Thunder” focused too much on the humor may find it refreshing that “Wakanda Forever” creates an interesting conflict between the citizens of Wakanda and Talokan.

This clash creates an uneasy tension that keeps viewers glued to their seats as the motivation of the conflicting nations to protect their people are perfectly valid and complex. This engaging viewing experience was something that felt missing in the previous two MCU films.

That being said, the resolution to this conflict leaves a lot to be desired as the final battle felt like a cop-out, given the increasing tension established. The lackluster resolution robs viewers of the chance to discuss the complex themes in the film of how uncolonized nations need to protect themselves from exploitation.

The most important question that viewers may have about “Wakanda Forever” is if it paid a fitting tribute to its deceased king. Fans will be happy to see that the film not only pays tribute to the actor perfectly, but it also incorporated T’Challa’s death seamlessly into the plot. One may need to prepare tissues when T’Challa’s death is brought up.

MCU fanatics can expect one post-credit scene in the film, instead of the usual two as is the Marvel tradition. The mid-credit scene takes place immediately after the film’s ending where viewers might be emotional. As MCU post-credit scenes are used to tease upcoming projects in the franchise, this particular mid-credit scene is incredibly refreshing for its emotional resonance and it might be the best post-credit scene in the Marvel film franchise.

While “Wakanda Forever” may have a bit of turbulence in the plot’s crucial moments, the film managed to have a smooth landing at the end as it impeccably pays tribute to Chadwick Boseman and his character, T’Challa.

The film showcases incredible character growth and outstanding performances from the ensemble cast – something that the movie-going public may respect for their resilience amidst their grief of the loss of their king on and off-screen.

CHADWICK BOSEMAN

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