When Princess Shuri (Letitia Wright) is told, “Your brother is with his ancestors,” it’s poignant. For Marvel fans will relate the on-screen passing of King T’Challa (Black Panther) with the tragic death of actor Chadwick Boseman in real life.
A funeral rite follows with Wakandans dancing in all white to a jaunty beat as T’Challa’s royal coffin moves upwards like he’s being received by his forefathers in the heavens.
Director Ryan Coogler with co-writer Joe Robert Cole make the race and gender mix overflow with nostalgia lurking as a backdrop as Shuri won’t seek closure.
But mourning is on hold as the greedy and white west in its quest for vibranium, the mineral unique to Wakanda, puts Queen Ramonda (Angela Basset) on the mat in the UN.
“Vibranium is for mass destruction,” expounds a schoolmarmish west, sounding morally superior.
The queen keeps her head high and retorts, “You are the danger.”
It sets the tone for Wakanda to protect its interests even as a new inimical force rises from the waters deep below. It’s the Talokans, led by an invincible Namor (Tenoch Huerta) with wings on his feet.
Whether a battle with the feds in America, a genius 19-year-old on a Virginia campus or an all-out war between Queen Ramonda and the Talokans, it’s a big score on the gender meter and for the uniquely coloured. A score that comes off as too calibrated and less organic.
Namor, the first Talokan born in water, has no love for what’s on land. But he and his people are outraged and have to surface to fight for what’s theirs underwater.
Between campus scientist Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne), warrior Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) stepping out of Haiti, the Queen and the Princess, it’s the women who wield spears, win wars and have a majority share of grey cells in and out of the laboratories.
The women are the warriors.
The women are the rulers.
And they’re coloured.
In the west too, whether it’s the commander of the craft on the vibranium trail or the estranged wife and boss woman that Federal agent Everett Ross (Martin Freeman), friend of the Wakandans, answers to, it’s one gender at the wheel.
Queen Ramonda exudes dignity and stately composure combining the statesmanship of a ruler with the heart of a mother, the keeper of family secrets, even as she watches Shuri go through the healing process.
The overlong ‘Wakanda Forever’ is strewn with one-liners like Shuri’s, “My favourite colonisers,” before she heads to America, and philosophy like, “Only the most broken can become great leaders”. It’s a spectacular Marvel show, superbly choreographed with grand music, flying cars, speed crazy bikes and wars that shake the earth.
Sometimes it’s a tad too prolonged, it feels like too many stories are being told simultaneously and even if it’s blasphemous, Angela Basset hams it up rather royally.
But ultimately it’s Shuri arc. From too bereaved to seek ritualistic closure and “I’ll burn the world” anger to accepting the wisdom of alliance partnerships and taking her people by the hand to lead.
Because Black Panther will live again, a family secret wrapped within.
But the throne is never unchallenged.
And Marvel sequels are on a permanent roll.
Watch the trailer of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever