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Wakanda Forever is as Good as Movies Get

"Only the most broken people can be great leaders."

Wakanda Forever opens with a punch-you-in-the-chest tribute to Chadwick Boseman, and, let me tell you, there was hardly a dry eye in the theater. The movie grabs your guts right away and doesn’t let go for two and a half hours.

This movie is an achievement. Ryan Coogler has not only told a powerful story, he's elevated filmmaking at the same time.

The story of Wakanda Forever kicks off with vibranium-related drama. Now that Wakanda is out of the shadows, the rest of the world wants their grubby hands on Wakanda’s most precious resource, but Queen Ramonda assures the U.N. she will never trade an ounce of it. The rest of the world can’t be trusted. (It's hard to argue with her.)

With their technological prowess, the people of Wakanda easily shrug off attempts by other countries to steal vibranium. Unwavering, the queen always chooses the path of non-violence, even when U.N. soldiers are captured in Wakanda borders attempting a violent theft.

It’s a touching commitment to keeping the peace that T’Challa worked so hard to bring, but it feels doomed to fail.

The delicate balance is destroyed when Namor arrives from the advanced, underwater city of Talocan, a place where vibranium is abundant. Since the surface world is looking for vibranium, he believes it's only a matter of time before they find and plunder the hidden world of Talocan. Wakanda is given a choice: go to war with the rest of the world, or go to war with Talocan. The Wakandans maintain their efforts to find a peaceful solution, but Namor always counters with his own ruthlessness. Like a ticking time bomb, his every move shoves Wakanda closer to an inevitable war.

Forever follows the people of Wakanda, trapped in this impossible situation, still recovering from Killmonger's actions and T'Challa's death, as they desperately hold a crumbling world together.

Coogler’s achievement, other than crafting a gorgeous film, is weaving this epic tale into lives of the Wakandans who live the story.

I was looking forward to seeing more of Danai Gurira as Okoye, and I was not disappointed. Every one of her appearances was either stunning or hysterical. (Or both. She makes it look easy.) Angela Bassett gives a heart-felt performance that projects more strength than any of the hulking heroes who fill Queen Ramonda's world. And Lupita Nyong'o gets more time in the spotlight as Nakia, showing us Wakanda's prowess when they operate off the grid.

Winston Duke continues to make M’Baku the heart of Wakanda, both aggressive and wise, simultaneously providing warmth and strength to his people. He's also one of the few Wakandan leaders who takes time to enjoy his life while the world is in chaos. I also find his stubbornness very charming. No vibranium weapons for this guy. He heads into high tech battles with a big stick and a bigger laugh.

Letitia Wright soars as Shuri, who captured our attention in Black Panther and carries Wakanda Forever perfectly. She’s not T’Challa. She’s her own person, bringing her own contributions, and by the end of the movie she’s stepped out of T’Challa’s shadow and firmly into her own potential.

The writing is incredible because each individual’s narrative is given time to shine without ever taking tedious breaks from the overarching story. It’s one of the most perfectly crafted movies I’ve ever seen.

On a more personal note, you'll probably find yourself relating to Wakanda’s struggle.

Do you ever feel like people are asking you to take an extreme stance on every little thing? I feel hemmed in on all sides when an important topic comes up, like I have to choose an unforgiving, hardcore position on every subject or I'll be the one left out in the cold. Sometimes I want to give in, but that would be the easy way.

It’s easy to brush aside the people we disagree with and cocoon ourselves with like-minded friends. What’s difficult is to walk the path of peace, the one T’Challa laid out for Wakanda. It’s difficult to forgive others in an effort to create community; I'd rather build higher walls and narrower ideologies to keep out anyone who makes me uncomfortable.

It looks easy on screen, but in my day-to-day life I wonder if I have the courage to follow the more difficult path. Either way, I’m thankful for the inspiration provided by these stories.

Rest in Peace, Chadwick Boseman, and may God bless you.

Let’s Geek Out:

-Namor is an oddball in the comic book world. He flies, but no one else from Talocan does that. (He’s the second oldest Marvel character, which means he was invented before writers had to explain that stuff.) Sometimes he just floats around like Superman, and sometimes he has wings on his ankles. Wakanda Forever went with the ankle wings. Bold choice.

-Namor has always identified as being “not white.” I have no idea what ethnicity he was originally supposed to be, but the film settles on something Meso-American, which works. It makes Atlantis Talocan exotic and familiar at the same time, and suits a few Aztec stories.

-This is Coogler’s first film to use anamorphic widescreen. It’s a challenging format. You can fit more stuff on the screen, which makes battles scenes a lot cooler, but more work goes into each frame. This is the gold standard for epic films, and Coogler handled it beautifully.

-According to the producers, this closes out Phase 4 of the MCU. It’s a lot of scattered stories that don’t appear to be going anywhere, but that’s exactly how it should look at this point.

-It’s been said that the underwater scenes are on par with Avatar. That’s not true. They’re better than Avatar.

-There's no post-credits scene. I'm not joking. There's a mid-credit scene, but that's it. My wife and I persevered through all of the credits, really needing to hit the restroom after a long movie, and when the lights came up we realized we'd brought our bladders to critical mass for no reason. Don't let this happen to you.

Final Analysis: Beautiful, engaging, and perfectly put together. Five out of five Wakandan salutes.

4 comments:

  1. Namor's flying comes from his mutant abilities.

    I haven't seen the movie yet, but I'm really looking forward to it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you know Namor is a mutant then you're really gonna like it!

      Delete
  2. Thank you for the thoughtful review. I was gonna see it eventually, but now I'm looking forward to it. Did you have a take on Riri? I'm curious if the upcoming Ironheart will have a strong lead.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you asked. Riri come through as a unique personality, which is hard to do in such a crowded film. I think Ironheart has potential to be a lot of fun given her screen presence.

      Delete

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