Letitia Wright reprises her role as Shuri in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios/Getty Images).

(“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” trailer courtesy of Marvel Entertainment)

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” wastes no time dealing with the elephant in the room.

While the original “Black Panther” came off as a triumphant celebration of the beauty and strength of African culture, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” understandably takes on a more solemn, melancholy, dark and emotional tone.

And while “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is not as celebratory, vibrant or culturally significant as “Black Panther,” it is still fire, paying tribute to a fallen superhero in a moving a beautiful manner.

For decades, many young Black children yearned for a superhero on the big screen that looked like them.

And to finally get one in the form of King T’Challa (aka the Black Panther) made the wait well worth it with his air of dignity, class, power and sophistication.

However, when actor Chadwick Boseman (who played the role of King T’Challa to perfection) passed away suddenly after losing his secret battle with cancer, many fans of “Black Panther” believed that no one could or should fill his shoes.

More importantly, many Marvel Comics fans believed that the studio should not recast T’Challa, at least for the time being in honor of Boseman’s legendary work.

Luckily for “Black Panther” fans, the comic story eventually sees T’Challa’s sister Shuri (Letitia Wright, “Avengers: Infinity War”) take on the role of the Black Panther.

Therefore, the outcome of that reality is inevitable from the jump.

But “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is so brilliantly made from a visual and emotional standpoint that the predictability will not take away from the movie’s greatness.

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” begins as Shuri desperately tries to save her brother from an illness with Wakanda’s technological advancements.

But despite her best efforts, nothing can save T’Challa’s life, and nothing can save him from joining the ancestors in eternity.

However, T’Challa’s death does not just impact the royal family.

It also puts the country in danger because the world has finally discovered how powerful Wakanda really is thanks to the presence of vibranium, the world’s most powerful metal, within the nation’s border.

Throughout the original “Black Panther,” T’Challa had second thoughts about opening the country and its resources up to the world because he knew that if other countries knew how powerful his nation was, it would open them up to attacks from the outside world.

Somewhat reluctantly, T’Challa opens up Wakanda outreach centers in other countries to share Wakanda’s blessings with the less fortunate.

Unfortunately, opening up Wakanda to the world opens it to attack.

And without the Black Panther to defend Wakanda, many nations and mercenaries see the country as vulnerable to outside forces.

In “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” Wakanda, with its Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett, “Soul”) as ruler, gets verbally attacked by United Nations countries for not sharing vibranium with the world.

Furthermore, Wakanda’s outreach centers in countries like Mali find themselves under assault by mercenaries looking to get their hands on the precious metal, vibranium.

Even the United States is on a mission to cop some vibranium in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” finding the elusive metal on the floors of the Atlantic Ocean.

Although the Americans believe they have found vibranium belonging to Wakanda, the world soon finds out that vibranium exists outside of the borders of the African country.

What the Americans stumble up unknowingly is another world below the surface world, where an entire underwater kingdom known as Taloka exists.

The Taloka kingdom is run by its own powerful king Namor (Tencoch Huerta), who has a long running beef with the people of the surface world.

In “Black Panther, Wakanda Forever,” Namor knows that it is the Americans that have located his underwater vibranium.

Therefore, Namor fears if the Americans get close to his vibranium, the country might get close to discovering his underwater empire, which would put his people in danger.

Not knowing about Taloka, the Americans blame Wakanda for an incident that happens at sea.

However, Namor knows the truth about America, Taloka and Wakanda.

The underwater king knows that the Americans have a scientist named Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne, “If Beale Street Could Talk”) that has created a device that locates vibranium.

Although Namor encourages Ramonda and Shuri not to inform the Americans about Taloka and its vibranium, Okoye (Danai Gurira, “All Eyes on Me”) encourages Ramonda to allow Shuri to leave the lab and go out into the field with her to find the American scientist before she is captured by the people of Taloka.

Okoye thinks getting Shuri out of the lab and into the real world will do her some good as she deals with her brother’s sudden passing.

However, when the people of Taloka have an encounter with Shuri, Riri and Okoye in America, Ramonda is in danger of losing all her loved-ones in a few short years.

While “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” might not have as many quotable lines as its predecessors, the visuals are more stunning like the rising casket being raised to the heavens.

Furthermore, the underwater scenes in Taloka are breathtaking.

And although “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” does contain some predictability, the movie has enough surprises to keep fans guessing.

Many of the famous characters from “Black Panther” like M’Baku (Winston Duke), Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and Wakanda’s favorite “colonizer” Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) return in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”

But the sequel also injects some new life with new characters and new stars.

However, the character that is most intriguing in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is Shuri.

The jovial and bubbly litter sister from “Black Panther” has gone away.

She has replaced her joviality with a sinister side that is understandable but not as likable as the character many fell in love with in “Black Panther.”

But while Shuri is not as lovable, it is hard not to love how “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” pays tribute to its fallen king because no one will ever truly deserve the throne more than the beloved, T’Challa.






Todd A. Smith
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