The Conservative Critic
Wakanda Forever? Or Wakanda ForNever?
Four years after the release of the original Black Panther and two years after the death of its titular star, Chadwick Boseman (who died of colon cancer at the young age of 43), Wakanda Forever was released November 10, 2022 with some pretty big shoes to fill.
Admittedly, I went to the film with pretty low expectations. There were several factors leading up to the release which flagged for me that the creators didn’t expect rave reviews. The marketing for the film was extremely limited using almost no footage from the movie and I wasn’t seeing a ton of promotional product placement outside of their deal with Coca Cola products (Sprite) and the release date pre-empted the Holiday season peak rush (veterans day is a weird release for a movie of this scale – I would expect Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve). That being said, according to Rotten Tomatoes, critics gave strong albeit not rave reviews and audiences seemed to like it a lot.
This will be a no spoiler review and therefore a little limited in scope.
But what does the Conservative Critic think? Is it entertaining? Does it have artistic/intellectual value? Is it liberal propaganda?
The Conservative Critic Meter Check: Wakanda Forever
Overall rating: Good
Wakanda Forever is ostensibly good. It’s one of those where nothing will seem wrong to viewers while in the moment but when they leave the theater the whole thing kinda falls apart. It’s like eating oysters. It’s what you wanted and they do taste good. But no matter how many you eat you’re still hungry.
While the performances, especially by Letitia Wright, are strong and the costuming and makeup once again are stellar, there are some odd and problematic cinematography choices rooted in the storyline. There are also more than one character who seem to have no relevance to anything happening in the plot and yet enjoy quite a bit of screen time. Additionally the musical score is not nearly the caliber of the original and some of the wokeness is distracting and almost silly at times.
However, with all its problems, the story does move pretty quickly and there are a ton of Marvel worthy fight scenes as well as a very emotional celebration of the life of Chadwick Boseman which I’m sure has bolstered audience sentiment. Overall, it’s a good movie.
Is it entertaining?
Rating: Yes, lots of action
The film kicks off with an emotional scene addressing the death of the character T’Challa but more importantly of his real life actor. But from there it’s one fight after the next including car chases, motorcycles, and even more exciting surprises. The film is absolutely stuffed with stunt work and some beautiful fight choreography. Despite its long run time, there aren’t many boring moments in the film and viewers are certain to remain entertained through the duration.
Does it have artistic/intellectual value?
Rating: Lots right and lots wrong
What the film absolutely gets right is the costumes and makeup. Letitia Wright’s character, Shuri, in particular has a clear progression in her costumes showing the changing character and the plot progression. Her makeup is truly sensational. She looks so much like Chadwick Boseman in some scenes viewers will do a double take. The actor in real life and in the last film doesn’t have much of a resemblance to Boseman. But her cheek bones, nose and eyes are all highlighted and contoured in just the right way to let me see T’Challa in Shuri and it is really impressive. Makeup is one of those great movie magics that often gets overlooked. Especially when it’s subtle.
Additionally the performance by Wright is extremely compelling. Her range of emotion was believable, powerful and easy to get behind. She is opposite Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o and Angela Bassett who won a Screen Actors Guild award in 2019 for the role she reprised in this film but still really takes the screen and makes it hers.
However there are problems. The musical score is very generic unlike the first film which incorporated African music as well as music related to the other locations they were in and popular American music rooted in black culture. This film sort of tried but didn’t try very hard. The new song by Rhinana at the very end of the film is emotional and beautiful but it doesn’t have the power of Kendrick Lamar original songs from the first film.
Some of the cinematography is truly baffling. Without spoiling it can only be said that I am not sure I have ever seen underwater segments filmed as badly as they are filmed in Wakanda Forever and furthermore that I find plotlines that involve being underwater to be a bad idea because of how hard it is to film properly. Though, it can be done because Bethany Hamilton’s documentary, Unstoppable, has some absolutely stunning underwater work. So I wonder why Marvel didn’t choose to get the best equipment and best underwater artists to ensure a better experience?
For reference on what’s possible:
Additionally not all the characters actually made sense in the movie and it sort of seemed like there was a lot of shoehorning and plot tooling going on without really pulling everything together. The writing was a bit sloppier this time around.
Overall, not Marvel’s best and certainly not as good as it could have been with a bit more vision and care.
Is it liberal propaganda?
I knew it would be woke so I braced for it and of course it definitely is. In this case, the big theme is “women > men” (what is a woman though?) where there are very few men in the movie at all and all the women are given 100% of the best fighting and screen time. I love women in powerful roles. I am a woman. But men do exist and in the first film there were quite a few men in their world. So it’s odd and jarring to just decide only girls this time.
Then there were the quippy gen z one liners from a new character I can’t reveal. Gag worthy I promise you. There are also continued “colonizer” quips which is honestly a completely offensive taunt considering modern Americans have had no part in colonizing any country and cannot help the race they were born as. The “apologize for being white” movement is really regressive and this movie, albeit lightly, promotes it.
Finally, at the end of the film (this is not a spoiler) two of the women in the movie indicate they’re a couple. Even though it had 0 to do with the plot, the characters do not even kiss on the mouth and there was no exploration of their relationship whatsoever, I’m sure Disney feels they get an ally star on their Rainbow report card. It was pathetic.
Wakanda Forever is overall a good movie worth checking out but is far from the 95% rating audiences are giving it and a little shy of the 84% critics have been giving it.