I recently had a conversation with a co-worker about the word “fine”. She hates it. She thinks it connotes mediocrity and is an easy way out for the person delivering the opinion. She asks, “does my story look good?”, and I respond, “it’s fine”. It was better than fine, and I should have been more accurate in my critique.
So, if someone asks me what I think of the new movie, “BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER”, and I reply, “it’s fine”, know that is intentional. It is fine. Not in a bad way, not in a good way. It’s simply fine. Ryan Coogler and company had a nearly impossible task. How to move the story forward after the death of Chadwick Boseman. That part of the film is handled with sensitivity and care. You can tell that the scenes of mourning are deeply felt by the entire cast. It is a loving and accurate portrayal of grief. I applaud not just the effort, but the execution. But everything else is decent but has no “zazz”. It is a rote version of a movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
There’s a big bad expertly played by Tenoch Huerta Mejia. You immediately get why he was cast as Namor the Submariner and leader of the underwater nation of Talokan. I like that Coogler gave them a Mayan ethnicity and backstory. It continues the MCU’s efforts toward presenting stories and characters that look like its audience.
But again, in execution it’s just meh. The visual depiction of Talokan is pretty good. I get it’s underwater and there is little natural light, but creators’ recent obsession with making thing actually dark and therefore hard to see is kind of baffling. Are they hiding middling effects in the dark? Who knows. What you can see is pretty good. The MCU throws the Iron Heart character Riri Williams (Dominque Thorne) in here as kind of a plot driver, but if feels wedged in without a great reason. The movie could have existed without her entire thread. Is this Kevin Feige forcing it in to set up the Disney+ “IRON HEART” series? Maybe. But it just adds to the feeling of bloat. Speaking of bloat. I love Julie Louis-Dreyfuss (Val de Fontaine) and Martin Freeman (Everett Ross). Both are welcome additions to the MCU, but someone needs to explain why they are in this movie. Another subplot that could be cut out and not significanly change the film.
Just about everyone but Boseman is back. Angela Bassett Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke and Lupita Nyong’o return. Michaela Cole is a nice addition to the cast. That’s a lot of people. They all have moments, especially Duke and Gurira. More of Okoye and M’baku please? And early Oscar prediction, Bassett will be the first actor in an MCU movie to win an Academy Award. She’s amazing.
That doesn’t mean this is bad. It’s just feels long, and at 2 hours and 40 minutes it kind of is long. There are really inspiring and wow moments. The reveal of the new Panther. Several set pieces. The introduction of a great character like Namor. All that worked for me.
But not a very rewatchable movie. It is heavy. It deals with heavy themes, and I admit to moments of real emotion, but those are tied to grieving the loss of T’Challa. Do you really want to relive something so tragic? I don’t (and yet I did when the movie dropped on Disney+. I may have liked it even less on second viewing).
I usually leave an MCU movie feeling like, “wow, I cannot wait to see that again”. I didn’t have that feeling here. And that’s fine.