Critics’ reviews are in for Marvel’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”
While some say the film’s length and slow start affected their reviews, others are pleased that the sequel was able to continue the legacy of the first film without its key player.
The film is the first of the franchise without its main character T’Challa played by the late-actor Chadwick Boseman, who died in 2020 following a private battle with colon cancer.
Following Boseman’s death, Coogler had reportedly contemplated stepping away from the franchise. Many wondered if he’d replace the actor. Variety’s Owen Gleiberman, like many fans, is glad Coogler didn’t do that.
“His decision not to replace Boseman with a different actor was wise. You don’t try to replace someone who’s irreplaceable,” Gleiberman explained.
He credits Coogler for weaving “the demise of his leading man into the very firmament of his story. As the characters, led by Letitia Wright’s Shuri, the princess of Wakanda who is T’Challa’s younger sister, proceed to mourn T’Challa’s death, they tap deeply into our collective feelings about Boseman.”
His review goes on to say “that sounds like a standard thing for a movie in this predicament to do, except that where Coogler goes further is in building his entire drama — the drive, power, and passion of it — around the wounding hole in Wakanda left by T’Challa’s death.”
However, for Time magazine’s Stephanie Zacharek, the film wasn’t the same without Boseman.
“Ticking boxes isn’t the same as pulling magic — or even just insight — from thin air,” she wrote. “The sad reality is that the show must go on, and without (Boseman), it’s just more of the same. Our job is to pretend it’s enough.”
The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney said the movie’s “length feels overextended,” but felt director and co-writer Ryan Coogler and his editors “deserve credit for allowing breathing space between the action scenes for character and relationship development, with Ludwig Göransson’s African-inflected score enhancing both those quieter moments and the big smackdowns.”
In all, he felt the film is pivoting in the right direction.
“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,” he continued to write.
Los Angeles Times film critic Justin Chang didn’t seem too impressed. His critique explained, “it’s telling that both the first ‘Black Panther’ and this messier, if seldom less engrossing follow-up, are at their strongest when they resist or even flat-out ignore their franchise obligations.”
K. Austin Collins with Rolling Stone felt the same when it came to “mess.”
“The movie isn’t always on such sure footing,” he wrote. “But that’s almost appropriate: a messier movie trying to reckon with a messier range of feelings.”
While the audience and the film’s characters mourn the loss of Wakanda’s king, Entertainment Weekly’s Leah Greenblatt saw the film as “elegant, affecting new ways to expand the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).”
“The most striking thing about the movie, though, maybe what a matriarchy it is, both by nature and nurture: Without their king, Wakanda has become a queendom from the top down, overseen by (Angela) Bassett’s regal, ageless Ramonda, the gorgeously daunting (Danai) Gurira, and (Letitia) Wright, who rises to fill her dramatically expanded role with feline grace and vulnerability,” Greenblatt explained.
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” hits theaters Friday.