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SYFY WIRE Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Critics hail ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ as a powerful tribute to Chadwick Boseman

Most critics agree that Ryan Coogler’s MCU sequel somehow rises to meet an impossible mix of fictional and real-world challenges.

By Benjamin Bullard

We’re only days away from the enormously anticipated premiere of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, a film that carries the heavy dual task of pleasing moviegoers as an entertainment spectacle, while simultaneously acknowledging the immense void left by the star who brought Wakanda’s place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to life.

At age 43, Chadwick Boseman (King T’Challa aka Black Panther) passed away in 2020 after only four MCU appearances — including, of course, his character-defining role in 2018’s Black Panther. Plans for a sequel to the box office-shattering first film were already underway at the time of Boseman’s death, leaving returning director Ryan Coogler and the original film’s cast and creators to mourn Boseman’s loss while weaving the story of a beloved and fallen MCU hero into the thematic fabric of Marvel’s concluding Phase 4. 

RELATED: Looking for more superhero action? Stream Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider, and more on Peacock right now.

Now the finished sequel is nearly here, and early reviews for Wakanda Forever are starting to pour in. From previous trailers, fans already know that Coogler and the cast have taken a serious and somber approach to paying tribute to Boseman and the iconic hero he embodied. But does the movie succeed as a whole? Can Wakanda Forever work as both an homage and a must-see Marvel tentpole, complete with all the action, conflict, and — dare we say it? — even fun superhero moments that drive dedicated comic book fans and casual viewers alike into theaters?

The early consensus appears to be a resounding “yes,” with most reviewers awed by Coogler’s straightforward and earnest approach in addressing Boseman’s passing. Most describe Wakanda Forever as an emotional eulogy for both Boseman and King T’Challa that reveals a genuinely fierce devotion from its female-led cast of bereft Wakandan heroes, while introducing a searingly effective new baddie in the form of Namor (Tenoch Huerta). Criticisms focus on the movie’s hefty runtime, as well as a plot some say sometimes struggles and meanders with all the new story threads required by the sequel’s unique real-world challenges.

Overall, though, the critics appear to almost unanimously agree that Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is must-see MCU viewing, not only for the honor it does Boseman’s memory, but for the powerfully distinct tone it strikes as a late entrant into the Phase 4 MCU movie canon.

Read on for a sampling of what reviewers are saying:

Watching Wakanda Forever, it’s almost unavoidable that we feel the absence of Boseman’s heroic dramatic center of gravity. The movie doesn’t have the classic comic-book pow of Black Panther, and it’s easily 20 minutes too long (we could probably have lived without the Talokan backstory). Yet Wakanda Forever has a slow-burn emotional suspense. Once the film starts to gather steam, it doesn’t let up…T’Challa is gone, but somewhere he is smiling. Owen Gleiberman, Variety

Faced with the challenging prospect of following his $1.3 billion-grossing blockbuster without the charismatic lead actor who provided that first film’s noble heart, Ryan Coogler delivers an emotionally resonant tribute to Chadwick Boseman in the early scenes of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever that will leave no fan unmoved….It’s impossible for Wakanda Forever to match the breakthrough impact of its predecessor, but in terms of continuing the saga while paving the way for future installments, it’s amply satisfying. — David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter

Wakanda is still clearly a Marvel property, with all the for-the-fans story beats and secondary characters its ever-expanding universe requires, but it also feels apart from any one that's come before. And while a Black Panther without Boseman is undoubtedly nothing like the film's creators or any of its cast wanted it to be, the movie they've made feels like something unusually elegant and profound for the multiplex; a little bit of forever for the star who left too soon. — Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly

With Wakanda Forever, director and co-writer Ryan Coogler has…created a fitting remembrance of both Boseman and T’Challa, an impressive combination of mourning, and a reckoning with legacy and loss, all within a superhero film that is one of the best Phase 4 MCU films…Wakanda Forever isn’t perfect, but its ability to handle this tightrope walk between exploration of loss and a larger superhero film makes this one of the most moving MCU entries so far, and one of the best films to come out of Marvel’s Phase Four. — Ross Bonaime, Collider

…[F]or all of the film’s shuddery pacing, thoroughly mediocre action setpieces, and the clumsiness with which it’s forced to double as backdoor pilot for Disney+’s Ironheart series, Coogler’s subthread of the MCU continues to operate at a significantly higher strata of thought, artistry, and feeling than the rest of Marvel’s assembly line. Every major character in Wakanda is left to determine whether T’Challa’s memory will be a blessing or a torment, and the movie around them is so wracked by the same tension that even its most formulaic moments are heavy with a human weight that blockbusters seldom have the strength to carry.  David Erlich, IndieWire

Wakanda Forever is an effective, emotional farewell to T’Challa - a meditation on forging one’s own future out of a painful past - but with a plot that has to introduce an entirely new nation and pave the way for a new wave of Marvel stories, it does struggle under the weight of all that expectation…Coogler’s efforts are at their most powerful when Wakanda Forever is in conversation with the loss of T’Challa – of Chadwick Boseman. The specifics of Wakanda Forever’s long-winded plot will likely leave little impact, but that doesn’t stop the new Black Panther from standing tall. — Tom Jorgensen, IGN

There are moments in Wakanda Forever where it feels as though the film itself might buckle under the weight of not only the expectations heaped onto it, but of the loss that animates its core premise. When it manages not only to meet the verve and creativity of 2018’s Black Panther, but ultimately to tell its own successful story, it feels no less astonishing than a man with wings on his ankles soaring through the air. As surely as love can blossom out of heartache, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has transformed tragedy into triumph. Toussaint Egan, Polygon

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever arrives in theaters nationwide beginning Friday, Nov. 11.