It was a dark and stormy night… well no, it was a pleasant and cool night but watching this movie, it was dark in the theatre and stormy in my mind because I have a very confused reaction to this movie as a whole.
Compared to all the phase 4 movies, it was 100% better, more fun, better written, more thoughtful and more entertaining for the most part. Still better than Black Widow, Eternals, No Way Home, Multiverse of Madness and Love and Thunder (Im not touching on the shows at all, not a fair comparison) but I was hoping it would be the best movie of the 4th phase so far but it to me was just about tied for best or a close second to Shang Chi for this phase so far – which is by the way far from a perfect movie but felt like a movie that had room to breathe and I enjoyed the overall experience from the start to the MCU-ised CGI heavy finale.
Wakanda Forever had all the feels and the lack of Chadwick was palpable. It’s like a charismatic vacuum at the heart of the movie – for which I can’t even blame anyone behind the movie, in fact I give them a lot of credit for keeping his memory as a core part of the narrative and the movie does its best to be a cathartic goodbye to him from both the characters and to the viewer I suppose. It starts with a memorial montage and keeps the feeling of grieving his loss in the movie and ends with a touching visual goodbye to him at the end.
It’s the in-between the start and the end that there is a struggle.
NOTE: Some spoilers ahead, be aware. Also, this is all just my opinion.
I don’t know what it was but it felt at times… perhaps a bit bloated, like there were bits and pieces where literally seconds could have been shaved away to keep the flow better; there were moments that got too much lingering time and others (like Shuri’s interactions with Namor) that deserved more time for the betterment of the movie as a whole.
There was a lot happening but it plodded a bit at times which was wierd and I can’t say why.
M’Baku, Okoye and Queen Ramonda were powerful and fun and except for the firing of Okoye (for which I got the logic, but it felt like we could have done without imho) they were all by far the most engaging of the main cast – in fact Angela Bassett was downright regal and powerful, especially when she cooly yet viciously slaps down at a U.N meeting which tries to target Wakanda – one of the best bits of the movie. For his part Winston Duke has grown shockingly well into the role of M’Baku who also seemed to have grown from the first movie, I genuinely wanted him to get more screen-time and it is him and Danai Gurira as Okoye who make me think that we might be better served with a Wakandan limited series that gave these characters room and let us enjoy the wonderful world that has been built in Wakanda.
The scenes with Ross (Martin Freemen) were all mostly solid.
Tenoch Huerta who played Namor too was a genuinely pleasant surprise and brought the right stuff to a role where with perhaps a little tweaking, he could be a very fascinating part of the MCU going forward – as could his people and their world. The detailed backstory and world-building of Taloka was for me far more interesting than the boring Atlantis backstory and not only differentiates it from the DC+Aquaman better, but it’s a fascinating concept that was handled very well here and made me wish there had been a whole Namor movie prior to this release to allow us a connect to that world. Kudos to the writers, designers and all who crafted this far more unique under-sea society we see. There will be whiners who will whinge and piss themselves about the change but I don’t care that it’s not Atlantis and even less that Namor is not white. This is a fascinating alternative origin that draws from a different culture than a Euro-centric one and does so with thought and feeling and it works in my view.
Even the bereavement journey of Shuri and Ramonda was crafted reasonably well and Wright did a good job in the role. She really seemed to be trying to bring the emotion – but I must admit, for all her effort, somehow it didn’t work that well… I can’t say that she didn’t act well but it somehow didn’t carry power behind it.
T’Challa in the first movie is finding his feet, he is bucking and caught between tradition and the future, he is dealing with death in the family and a nation under threat – all similar beats but somehow even with higher stakes this time around, it flowed better in the first movie I feel. Personally I would have preferred that when Shuri went into the spirit plane, they had shaved off other bits of the movie and had her have a bigger interaction with Killmonger, have her awakening to the fact that there is more than the science she knows and to find some small comfort and embrace her heritage more and start down the road to better mental health and not carry on being the rage monster, like she faced her worst fear of becoming Killmonger and moves past that “fire to burn the world” and find a balance between that part of her and the nobility of her brother. Might have lent itself to a less insane final battle plan that got a whole lot of her people slaughtered pretty much. I could tell the base intent of the journey she was on but it felt like they made some poor choices about how to navigate that which did not feel right with the character entirely and the other flaws in the movie only compounded this effect.
And that final battle… man that was so, so poorly thought out – while watching it I could think of at least three alternative scenarios to achieve a similar big action finale set-piece than the location and plan that was actually put into action – it reflected VERY poorly on Shuri’s and Wakanda’s ability to plan a battle. It was not unlike your stomach rumbling after a terrible meal and you run to the loo only to be rewarded with a loud, smelly reverberation and nothing more at the end of it all. The entire build-up fell kind of flat and it even undercut for me the emotion and impact they were going for to some extent, which was sad because the overall story deserved better.
Of course, I have to comment on that mid-credit scene… I honestly don’t know how to feel about that. Can’t say I was totally surprised, as a company and a franchise it was not entirely unexpected that they would make this choice – but I don’t know if I’m on board or a bit eye-roll-y about it. It almost felt like a painful attempt to hit viewers and fans in the feels, because it did not feel needed or really earned, the relationship with Nakia and T’Challa takes on a very different dimension through the lens of this movie and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this being shoe-horned into the proceedings. It may lead to better things but at this moment, it left a poor taste.
Bottom line: the visuals, the design, the action, the creativity and the overall plot and performances were all good and I can’t really complain – sadly there was something that overall (especially from about the mid-point roughly) it all became… underwhelming… I enjoyed the experience but as it went, it felt almost manufactured and with too many purposes that impeded a good story and felt far less rich and organic than the first movie despite a larger scale and scope – it was like we started trying to look at the woods and lost sight of what made the trees beautiful, if that makes any sense.
In the end, I consider this a movie with proud ambitions, great creativity and talent behind it and a heart in the right place that for reasons that can be atrributed both to the choices of the writers+director+editors and the mandates I’m sure the studio put into place (like RiRi & de Fontaine), fell short of the landmark it could have been.