No, this is not Marvel’s redemption


Graphic by Angel Harper

Shuri embraces her new black Panther suit and abilities while also honoring her brother T’Challa.

Phase 4 of Marvel has been underwhelming. “Thor: Love and Thunder,” “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” and others, feel rushed – underdeveloped products that are churned out simply to meet a production deadline. They often consist of weak, shallow characters coupled with obnoxiously bad CGI, which leads to a mediocre or bad experience. I hoped the sequel to my favorite Marvel movie, “Black Panther,” would be different.

But Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was no redemption for Marvel.

The movie did shine in a few moments. It handled the death of Chadwick Boseman very well with an emotional funeral scene and a beautiful tribute in the ending. The actors normally nail it in Marvel movies, and their performances in this movie was no exception. I loved how the writers gave Shuri a distinctive arc based around coping with the grief of losing her brother.

Letitia Wright portrayed Shuri’s guilt and grief so well that I couldn’t help but feel it myself. The guilt of losing her brother played a key role in her growth as a character. Her grief was the main reason for many of her actions and she comes to terms with it in the end in a fulfilling way. Marvel did a good job with her, M’baku and Queen Romonda.

Where Marvel did fall short was Namor’s character.

He is supposed to be the antagonist of the movie, but it’s not so clear cut. At first Marvel made his backstory sympathetic, rooting his motivations to protect his nation. That’s exactly what he comes across as. Just a man trying to protect his nation by keeping it safe and isolated. However, his actual actions in the movie is that of a warmonger, which is the exact opposite of what he is portrayed as. Instead of a wary and cautious king, he is forced by the writers to be a ruthless and blind killer. I was baffled that Marvel would turn on their own storytelling.

To add salt to the wound, Wakanda allies with him at the end of the movie when he had just murdered the Queen of Wakanda a week before. It boggles my mind how Shuri forgave him or at least chose to not punish him for his crimes against Wakanda.

Shuri didn’t seem to be the best choice for taking up the black panther mantle. M’baku or Nakia, T’challa’s girlfriend, would have been a better character to become the next Black Panther. M’Baku, especially, was trusted in the first movie when Shuri and Nakia brought him the last of the heart shaped flower to be the panther. He also almost beat T’challa during the ceremony which proves his strength in combat. Nakia could also easily take on the responsibility of the Black Panther because it was similar to her work as a spy. Shuri taking the mantle of the Black Panther, the protector of Wakanda, doesn’t make sense. She had already been characterized in the first Black Panther as the genius sister inventor, and she doesn’t seem to have the same level of combat experience as the previous two.

Another weird writing decision was making Wakanda look weak. You would think “the most powerful nation in the world” would be able to hold its own against an enemy, but they get crushed by a few fish people. I wished the movie showed the Talokanians as being really powerful instead of making Wakanda seem frail. The writers should have showcased all the weapons and defenses that vibranium allows Wakanda to have. All these weapons that they are protecting the world from. Instead, we get nothing but the helicopter planes that we saw in the last movie.

But my biggest qual about “Wakanda Forever ” is the inclusion of Riri Williams, played by Dominique Throne. She was shoehorned into the movie because of “Ironheart,” a TV show airing on Disney+ next year. Marvel wanted an excuse to introduce this new character beforehand and this was the movie they decided to put her in.

She had no character development and added nothing to the overall story. She was merely reduced to a plot device to move the story along and create some conflict between Wakanda, Talokan and the Americans. I didn’t understand her inclination and it felt like Marvel was just trying to replace Tony Stark. Her suit in the final battle was also hilariously cheesy, reminding me of the 90’s power ranger era.

Marvel is falling off; they are so preoccupied with the next big thing that they don’t spend time and effort on what they are working on now. I don’t think this movie was terrible, but it did not live up to my expectations of being the predecessor to one of my favorite movies, and definitely not a revival to a fading dynasty.