Random Thoughts on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Thoughts in no particular order but grouped thematically. Spoiler warnings in effect!

IMDB Wakanda Forever Wright Huerta Underwater

Characters

Erik’s thoughts:

  • Angela Basset as Queen Ramonda gives a devastatingly powerful performance. She conveys so much grief, love, and determination with very spare acting choices. She commands the scene every time she is on screen.
  • One of the things I have always appreciated about the world of Black Panther is how much room it makes for characters to listen, learn, and grow. We saw it with T’Challa and Nakia in the first movie; here Shuri and M’Baku show it best.
  • Another wonderful thing about Black Panther has been how much room the movies make for women to have stories that aren’t about relationships—romantic or familial—with men. T’Challa’s death naturally hangs heavily over Wakanda Forever, but the movie also balances that with incredibly important relationships among women.

Eppu’s thoughts:

  • Tenoch Huerta was great as an all-powerful, unhinged Namor. He rotated through cracked, creepy, companionable, and perhaps even a little lonely. (After all, we didn’t see him connect with anyone else other than Shuri.) The way he tried to physically intimidate Ramonda by leaning way, way, WAY too close during their beach conversation still gives me the chills.
  • LOVED the amount of women again: women with real agency, and lives and goals of their own. Like real people, imagine that! (Well, perhaps not Director de Fontaine—she smells like a future baddie, and a hammy one at that like Rumlow / Crossbones was—but to be fair we didn’t see much of her yet.)
  • I knew to expect tributes to Chadwick Boseman, but wouldn’t have guessed how much there was. And the opening credit where the letters spelling Marvel Studios were all filled with images of T’Challa—that was perfect. The usual Marvel theme would’ve sounded garish, too. RIP.

Story

Eppu’s thoughts:

  • I found that the pacing worked for me; I didn’t feel bored nor overwhelmed. It was really nice that the characters were given time to process, to just sit for a bit instead of rushing headlong at a breakneck speed. (I’ve long loathed the old rule of there-must-be-an-action-scene-every-7-minutes or whatever; that means you don’t have a story strong enough to hold the audience’s attention.)
  • It was really nice that Ramonda and Shuri had a moment when they left their high tech behind and just sat in the bush at a campfire, talking. It felt true—we Finns certainly detach from the city life and go enjoy nature from time to time.

Erik’s thoughts:

  • The movie felt like it was pulled in too may different directions. It was strongest when it stayed focused on Shuri and her relationships with her mother and the memory of her brother. Riri Williams was fun, but felt like a distraction from Shuri’s story and didn’t have enough time or focus to develop on her own. Nakia’s story was underdeveloped. Everett Ross and Director De Fontaine felt like they had wandered onto the wrong set while filming something else.
  • There is a beautiful echoing of T’Challa’s story in Civil War. Like T’Challa before her, Shuri’s early days as Black Panther are driven by grief and anger as she turns outward the rage and self-hatred that she feels for failing to save the life of someone she loved. T’Challa ultimately learned that revenge is self-destructive by watching Tony Stark and Steve Rogers fight. Shuri arrives at the same point after seeing the spirit of Killmonger, fighting Namor, and hearing her mother’s voice one last time.

Visuals

Erik’s thoughts:

  • Talokan is beautifully designed. It doesn’t look like a surface city built underwater but like a place built by and for people who live and think in three dimensions.
  • I love getting to go back to Wakanda and see more of the visual design. From clothing to technology to architecture, there is so much to see, so many layers and textures.

Eppu’s thoughts:

  • Superhero movies have a tendency for really flashy environments, so I was surprised how, well, watery they made the Talokan design. It felt more realistic (like The Abyss) instead of ostentatious (like Aquaman).
  • I loved seeing so much of Mesoamerican designs and colors! Granted, it’s not my strong suit, but it looked authentic enough.

Concepts

Eppu’s thoughts:

  • Shuri’s bucking against the traditions felt completely in character, and her coming round didn’t feel rushed. (For once—in my experience, mainstream movies and tv series have a tendency to rush the reversal, while artsy movies wallow in it.)
  • It was fantastic to have so many languages on screen! I don’t care that I don’t know them all—although it is very neat when I do, don’t get me wrong—because the main thing is it’s showing an international world, not just telling us the characters live in one. (Captain America: The First Avenger, I’m looking at you and the horrible fake German accent you gave poor Hugo Weaving and Toby Jones to do.)
  • The ship battle at the end was a disappointment, given how awesomely it started (the Dora Milaje jumping over the side supported by Jabari). You could argue that the sloppy Wakandan preparation is due to not having had fair fights in a long time, but Shuri at least used to care about the lives of her fellow citizens. It’s like she dragged people off to a suicide mission. Then, when the Wakandans decided to leave, no-one though to look down the sides of the Sea Leopard, or to safeguard their sonic weapon pointing underwater? Smacks of more arrogance.

Erik’s thoughts:

  • There is a long history in pseudoarchaeology circles of using the idea of a lost civilization as a way of denying the creativity of indigenous peoples. In particular, claims that Mesoamerican cultures were founded or taught by visitors from Atlantis are part of a narrative that feeds into white supremacism. I was worried about what we would see in this movie, but I’m happy that they turned that narrative around: Talokan was not a lost civilization from which the Maya drew their culture but a new civilization created by Mayan people themselves in response to the horror of colonization. I’m also glad that the name “Atlantis” was never even mentioned.
  • I wish we had gotten a standalone Talokan movie before this one. If this movie didn’t have to do the work of introducing us to Talokan and Namor, it would have had more time to develop its other elements and characters.
  • We’ve been rewatching some older Marvel movies lately. It’s interesting to see how the end credits scene has evolved from an Easter egg to a marketing ploy for upcoming movies to a chance for comic relief to an integral part of the storytelling.

Nitpicks

Erik’s thoughts:

  • Talokan was really dark. Realistic for a deep underwater city, but frustrating in a visual medium.
  • Ms. CIA bugged Shuri’s kimoyo beads? Really? Where did she get the technology to do that?
  • Why did we never see the Wakandans trying to rip off the Talokanis’ water breathing masks when fighting in air? That seems like such an obvious vulnerability to attack, especially when they’ve already talked about trying to dry out Namor.

Eppu’s thoughts:

  • Just the one stinger? Come on!
  • It seriously rubs me the wrong way how many people mispronounced Namor’s name. Even Shuri did it right after he told her the name’s origins and she had the chance to hear it. Nay, it’s not NAY-more. Na-MOR. (You don’t even have to speak Spanish to get it right; compare to the first vowel and stress in a-LIVE.)
  • Everett Ross and the CIA infighting felt disconnected, yes, but I did appreciate knowing what’s happened to him. Clearly Marvel is laying the groundwork for something here. (Reminds me of that random stinger with one of Zeus’ sons being given a mission of some kind at the end of Thor: Love and Thunder.)

Image via IMDB

In Seen on Screen, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

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