Even in the production logo sequence for the new movie, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Marvel Studios pays tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman, the unforgettable actor who played T’Challa/Black Panther in the original film. The man and the character are both sorely missed, but nevertheless writer/director Ryan Coogler still delivers an awesome and exciting story that I’m certain will make most Panther fans happy and proud.
If, like me, you are a fan of Marvel’s first-ever superhero, Namor, the Sub-Mariner, then you have even more to be excited about with the original mutant’s big-screen debut. And even though his origin has been reworked and updated, Subby (played by Tenoch Huerta) comes off pretty much how I’ve always imagined he would, with panache, pointy-ears, arrogant attitude, feathered-feet and all.
Even though Namor was there first (sorry, Aquaman), his connections to Atlantis are given deference to what is actually a much more interesting back-story. In the MCU, the Sub-Mariner now has history with 16th-centry Mesoamerican Maya civilization, complete with elaborate feathered headdresses and body-jewelry. His underwater realm is called Talocan and he is known as the Talocans’ ruler/god, K’uk’ulkan.
So, you might be asking, “What about Wakanda…?” Okay, yeah, Wakanda is still very cool too, and in fact this film’s production design in both land and sea realms is simply incredible. This is a film you could watch with no sound and no words and still be completely entertained. (Not that we recommend watching while wearing noise-cancelling headphones.)
The plot here revolves around the coveted Wakandan vibranium. The world wants to get its grubby meat-hooks on it, but Queen Mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) will not allow it. Meanwhile, genius college student and scientist-for-hire Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne) has invented a machine than has tracked vibranium to the ocean floor, where (you guessed it) the Talocans use and protect the precious metal.
Namor assumes the vibranium hunting gizmo came from Wakanda, and when he finds out it didn’t he demands the Wakandans find its inventor and deliver her to him – while not saying a word about his peoples’ existence. MCU-styled chaos ensues and, before you can say “Yibambe,” the two civilizations are at war with each other.
The ensemble cast is excellent with Letitia Wright returning as Shuri, T’Challa’s brilliant sister; Lupita Nyong’o as the warrior Nakia; Danai Gurira as Okoye, the leader of the Dora Milaje special forces; Winston Duke as M’Baku, the Man-Ape; and Martin Freeman as Everett Ross, the Wakandans’ friendly contact in the outside world. Bassett as Ramonda delivers an especially powerful performance.
The soundtrack here is also first rate. As everyone knows by now, there’s the new “Lift Me Up” song by Rihanna, but there are a lot of other great tunes and a wonderful score that works perfectly in the film.
The Wakandans versus the Talocans war is edge-of-your-seat thrilling and the Talocan use of sea creatures and water in battle is unique and incredibly cool. I really have only one beef with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and that is a betrayal of Namor’s base character towards the end of the film. He does something he would never, ever do under any circumstances and it was pretty disappointing, because they had his personality captured so perfectly… until they didn’t. Ugh.
Thirty films now into their reign and Marvel Studios is still doing a great job of bringing my childhood dreams to life on the big screen. Wakanda Forever is another big score, so now lets finally bring Namor into the Fantastic Four universe! What do you say?