By Lori Perkins
It’s a very different movie than Black Panther, and that’s not a bad thing. This sequel to the block-buster Black Panther film of 2018 is very much connected to the zeitgeist of our times, and therefore reflects the empowerment of women and formerly colonized people, as well as all the loss we’ve experienced in the pandemic, and specifically the untimely death of Chadwick Boseman.
The movie starts with the funeral rites for T’Challa, the Black Panther character played by Boseman, and gives the audience a chance to feel the loss for both the direction the mythos could have taken and the absence of the talented actor. It’s kind of perfect.
And then we launch into what has happened since then. There is no Black Panther to watch over Wakanda because the plant that gives the panther its power is extinct and Shuri, T’Challa’s sister, doesn’t seem interested in the role. Her mother, Queen Romanda, is ruling and the rest of the world now knows about vibrainium and wants a piece of it, at all costs.
As if that’s not enough, a previously unknown underwater civilization, Talokan, emerges to inform Queen Romanda that they, too, have vibrainium, and that if the Wakandans don’t align with them against the greedy western nations who have historically shown their hand over the years with ruthless colonization, they will wage war on Wakanda, and then the rest of the world. And they assure Queen Romanda that they have more soldiers and vibrainum than Wakanda does.
The king of Talokan, who goes by Namor, is a 400 year-old demigod who can fly and breathe in and out of water. In the comics, he was the sub-mariner, a weird guy in a green bathing suit with wings on his ankles. The Talokans are descendants of a Meso-American tribe who took to the water to escape Spanish colonizers in the 16th century.
Meanwhile (and this is where the plot gets a little heavy), a 19 year-old MIT student has created a robot that can find vibrainium and this has been appropriated by the U.S. (who else?). They are on the verge of finding the Talokans. It is a do or die situation.
The Wakandans find the teen scientist, but so do the Talokans, and both she and Shuri are kidnapped. It’s a battle royale over land and sea, which the Wakandas eventually win. In the process Shuri finds her path to become the people’s Black Panther (also finding a way to regenerate the plant).
But, when the dust settles, you realize you have watched a movie with an almost entirely female power structure in the Wakandans, and hardly any white men (there is a token white man in the role of CIA agent Perry Ross and a token white women in the CIA Director).
And, of course, there’s a kicker, to let you know that the role of the Black Panther will return to a man’s representation soon enough, which makes this one movie in the Marvel universe quite unique.
Wakanda Forever indeed!