Black Panther Wakanda Forever review

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever suffers under the weight of trying to do too much

2 stars out of 5.

With the release of every new Marvel film, my soul withers a little more. Beyond the fact that they’re films I find painfully uninteresting, they represent a cultural trend of homogeneity that I find personally objectionable. They’re also films that bring people a lot of joy. They’re not merely successful due to Disney’s predatory practices and manipulative marketing; a substantial audience genuinely loves them. The obsoletion of film criticism has never been as obvious as attempting to engage with the material on screen or with audiences. Most people don’t care what critics say, and that’s fine, but engaging with overworked Disney films is an exercise in futility. 

By no means is it worth really picking on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever as a terrible offender in this sense. It’s not. Though vaguely more interesting than your average Marvel product, it’s pretty much par for the course. There’s no denying that they did their very best when faced with the titanic hole left by Chadwick Boseman’s premature death. 

Danai Gurira and Angela Bassett in Black Panther

Even looking back at the first Black Panther film, though, appreciating its artistry and power also requires ignoring a lot of its faults; the serialized interconnectedness of the Marvel films never fails to feel cheap, and the rhino chase is awful at best. As most of these films are so transparently uninteresting, it’s hard to blame audiences for picking and choosing moments, performances and small flourishes as taking up more space than they actually do. Just look at the cartoonishly over-the-top response to the violence in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness as somehow proof that Sam Raimi was able to leave his mark. Not only did a large portion of the audience reject his trademarks as dumb, but they were also barely present. Though Disney is happy to tie these projects to auteurs like Raimi and Ryan Coogler, it’s silly to pretend these are anything more than overdone, repetitive corporate products.

The first part of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, focused on the passing of Boseman, is undeniably moving. There’s tenderness and care that feels well-meaning and pays tribute to Boseman’s outsized presence and dignity. Yet, it’s also very quickly apparent that Marvel films are ill-equipped to bear the weight of personal and sincere filmmaking. It begins to crack under the overwhelming mass of too many competing expectations. Without Boseman, the film feels untethered, pulled in too many directions at once.

Black Panther Wakanda Forever
Letitia Wright in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Even as a long-time Marvel skeptic, it’s evident that the quality of the films increasingly feels rushed and botched. The effects and action sequences increasingly look unfinished. To keep up with the public demand and to compete with the far cheaper TV products, these movies are churned out with only the barest of care and consideration. Time is the enemy of these corporate products because, at any moment, the audience can lose interest, and the whole enterprise might fall apart. It also doesn’t hurt that even the shoddier Marvel movies manage to clean up at the box office. The quality matters far less than the spectacle. 

It doesn’t help that, at 162 minutes, the film experience feels endless. The film can’t sustain its momentum. Wakanda Forever does a passable job dealing with grief, but Marvel movies are too big and too corporate to deftly handle with appropriate radicalism and nuance themes related to colonialism. The plot is all over the place and, ultimately, feels rudderless. 

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is not better or worse than any other recent Marvel movie, but its overall dourness and length start to wear thin a little faster than average. It’s less a fault of the film individually (though, like all Marvel movies, it’s okay at best), but the sustained weight of all the other films starts to pile onto each other. Even for diehard fans, I find it hard to believe there’s any excitement of discovery left for any of these movies. If Black Panther: Wakanda Forever can’t inspire audiences, I can’t imagine what possibly can. ■

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (directed by Ryan Coogler)

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever opens in Montreal theatres on Friday, Nov. 11.

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