Letitia Wright stuns as bona fide hero in Ryan Coogler’s ‘Black Panther’ 2

The second installment in the “Black Panther” franchise holds a candle to Chadwick Boseman’s legacy while also lighting the way to the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Walking into “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” I must admit I was nervous. The script for the film had undergone massive changes to account for Chadwick Boseman’s death, production faced many delays due to Covid-19, and lead actress Letitia Wright suffered a traumatic injury during filming that left her with a fractured shoulder and a concussion.  

I expected the film’s plot to completely fall apart and feel disconnected. Most of the post “Avengers: Endgame” Marvel movies have been lacking at best, and I wasn’t sure that Shuri, who was mainly used for comedic relief in the original “Black Panther,” was going to be a strong enough character to shoulder the weight of the story.   

This film proved me spectacularly wrong. Not only did Ryan Coogler’s sequel prove to be a touching gift to the late Boseman, it boasted a brilliant plot with remarkable characters and even more remarkable performances.   

In the aftermath of T’Challa’s death, Wakanda is without its protector as a new underwater nation emerges, led by the mutant Namor. Under threat of attack, Queen Ramonda, Shuri and Okoye must defend their country from the unknown strength of this kingdom and restore the Black Panther once more.   

The thing that struck me the most was how the movie was predominantly female led. Normally in films with a female lead, the supporting characters are overwhelmingly male. In “Wakanda Forever,” however, the only male lead is the villain, Namor. It was refreshing to see a film aggressively highlight the strength of its female characters and not shy away from the opportunities they bring.   

Wright is a force to be reckoned with in her show-stopping performance as Shuri. From the opening seconds of the film, it is apparent that a different side of her character will be revealed. The way Wright puts Shuri through hell and back as she deals with the complexity of her grief is nuanced and seamless. Wright undeniably put her own grief over Boseman’s passing into her performance, making Shuri’s character development raw and heartbreaking.    

While Wright gave a masterly performance, Angela Bassett, who played Queen Ramonda, was hands down the standout of the film. Bassett effortlessly balanced Ramonda’s role as a mother and a leader. She was intense and fierce at times, but not afraid to show Ramonda’s anguish over losing her son. Bassett had no trouble commanding the screen whenever she had the chance.   

The film’s villain – or maybe more appropriately labeled anti-hero – managed to set himself apart from other villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Namor, played by Tenoch Huerta, easily won sympathy from the audience for his cause but was still able to hold onto his role as the antagonist. Huerta repeatedly accomplished an astonishing switch from a man the audience could connect with to a vengeful ruler with no heart.  

Also introduced in this movie was the character Riri Williams, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology student with a penchant for machines, played by Dominique Thorne. Taking on Shuri’s old role of providing comedic relief, Thorne had no problem easing the tension throughout the film while also providing a relatability that certain other characters lacked. Thorne’s introduction here greatly sets her up for her solo show, “Ironheart,” coming sometime in 2023.  

Apart from the outstanding plot and performances in the film, “Wakanda Forever” isn’t afraid to take risks. Many choices and plot points throughout the film were completely unexpected, and there are definitely a handful of cameos in this film that caught me off guard. Unlike other Marvel entries, this film only has one post-credits scene, but it unquestionably provides a big reveal.   

Overall, Coogler’s sequel was incredibly riveting, unexpected and moving. The cast and crew have a lot to be proud of with this film, as it beautifully honors Boseman’s legacy. Whether you’re a massive Marvel junkie or just a casual fan, this movie is definitely worth the watch. 

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is available on Disney+ today. The film marks the end of Marvel’s fourth phase of content that kicked off with “WandaVision.”