Misunderstood by the wider world, Wakanda is a nation set apart in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They hide their super-human technology from the rest of the world. In earlier films, they had offered to help the world. However, this offer that was scoffed at due to their feigned poverty and backwardness. Despite their monopoly on technology derived from the precious mineral, Vibranium, this film finds their technological supremacy threatened by a new power.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has a struggle between the Wakandan’s and the powerful new antagonist. The new power is willing and able to kill Wakandans and any other enemy while, simultaneously, demanding that their own existence be kept secret. The Wakandan royalty is torn as more of their people are killed. The conflict forces the Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and the technological genius Shuri (Letitia Wright) to choose either mercy and honor or vengeance and destruction. Riri (Dominique Thorne) adds fuel to the fire with her own technological genius.
In the earlier film, Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman was T’Challa, the Black Panther. Since Boseman died in real life while the film was in development, the producers decided to not recast him and instead honor his memory. The Black Panther’s legacy overshadows this film and his memory animates the Wakandan people.
Wakanda’s superiority has also evolved through the mystical influence of the ancestral rulers of Wakanda. They provide guidance to the succession of Black Panthers via visions at crucial moments. When T’Challa’s daughter, Shuri, is faced with the reality of his death, she reacts with anger and regret that she couldn’t save him. She is not willing to participate in the rituals surrounding his passing and her disbelief leads her to deny the ancestor’s influence.
The film has more explicit violence than many other MCU films. The number of people that died in the film set aside some of the conventions in earlier films that limited on-screen violence. Perhaps the violence seems justified because of the depth of conflict in the film. From the beginning where a military research vessel was attacked by an unknown force until the extended battle at sea, death runs through the whole film. Rather than eliding the actual deaths, more fatalities were depicted so that the Wakandan’s might signal virtue by saving some enemies.
I missed several opportunities to see the film in a theatre but finally watched it on Disney+. The story was tense with the civilizations wrangling with each other. It seemed that the antagonist Namor (Tenoch Huerta) had his powers evolve as the film needed additional tricks to keep the story moving forward. The Wakandans also exhibit new technologies as needed. The film posits a dichotomy between honor and vengeance. When given choices, the film offers the question as to whether the Wakandan people or their enemies are more powerful and which are more worthy.