The highly-anticipated Marvel film 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever' does not begin with the 'customary' Marvel theme music and glimpses of the big league superheroes of the franchise. Nor does it keep the audience curious and starry eyed with its opening scene. Instead, it rekindles the memories of one of their much-loved Marvel actors, Chadwick Boseman, who played King T'Challa aka Black Panther. Boseman passed away due to colon cancer at the age of 43 in 2020.
The film sets in motion with a prayer for Wakanda's King T'Challa, who is bedridden with an unknown disease. Soon, the strongest nation in the world loses its ruler as well as its sole protector.
King T'Challa's sister Princess Shuri and mother Queen Ramonda, who is now Wakanda's only hope, are gripped in grief and finds it hard to move on after their loss. Meanwhile, T'Challa's resolution to reveal Wakanda's true nature and share its resources to the world, when he succeeded the throne, becomes a costly decision for the nation. Other countries desperately send mercenaries or create devices and special task forces to detect and acquire the 'real' wealth of Wakanda- Vibranium (a fictional metal which is considered to be the strongest element on Earth with extraordinary abilities).
But is really Wakanda the only place on Earth which has an abundant resource of this powerful metal that can turn destructive in the wrong hands forms the rest of the story. This is when the makers take their audience to an underwater nation named Talokan, a place similar to DC's Atlantis.
Talokan is an ancient civilization that possesses the same reserve of vibranium as Wakanda, giving its people superhuman powers such as to breathe underwater. The film also mentions that Talokanils received these powers after their ancestors consumed the 'heart-shaped herb' (similar to the ones that give powers to the Black Panther). With T'Challa's revealation to the world, the ruler of Talokan, Namor aka the feathered serpent god K'uk'ulkan, is forced to protect his people and nation, thereby deciding to wage a war against the surface world.
Though initially Namor approaches Queen Ramonda and Shuri with a proposal to be an ally in his fight, things turn bitter following a number of incidents that irk Talokanils. Subsquently, Namor and his people attack Wakanda, giving the latter a choice either to join the former in their war or face destruction. The second-half of the film unfolds Wakanda's struggle and efforts to regain its 'heart-shaped herb' which is the only way to win the war against Talokan and protect itself from further invasions.
Letitia Wright as Princess Shuri runs the show, depicting a young woman's jeopardy in choosing the right decision for her nation. She has also delivered an exceptional performance as a character who is bound by her duties amid her inability to move on from grief and agony.
Mexican actor Tenoch Huerta Mejía, who played King Namor aka K'uk'ulkan, has added life to the character, which has an anti-hero yet appealing shade to it. Danai Gurira as Okoye, Winston Duke as M'Baku, Lupita Nyong'o as Nakia and Martin Freeman as Agent Everett K Ross are also a delight to watch, adding few light moments to the film.
Marvel has yet again shown Wakanda in its grace and beauty, without ceasing to produce the same in Talokan. The franchise has also done a brilliant work in introducing a new character Riri Williams aka Ironheart (played by Dominique Thorne) and an unlikely cameo by a character from the prequel.
Ryan Coogler directed 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever' has been produced by Kevin Feige under Marvel Studios. The film also features a lead single “Lift Me Up” by Rihanna, marking her comeback.
A 'Black Panther' sequel without Chadwick Boseman aka King T'Challa is not something Marvel fans would have expected until a few months ago. However, the franchise has not left any chances to pay tribute to the late actor, reinforcing the Wakandan belief that death is never the end. Altogether, 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever' is a visual treat and one cannot leave the theatre without mourning for an actor and a favourite character who has gone too soon.