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‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ Is More Proof Sequels Are Rarely As Good As Their Predecessors

The sequel is rarely, if ever, as good as or even better than the original.  This adage has proven true more often than not throughout the modern history of movies.  As eras have passed, it has become increasingly true, too, as more and more sequels have been churned out by Hollywood’s major studios (along with just as many prequels, reboots, and stories based on books and actual events).  One of the most recent examples of a sequel being less than its predecessor is Marvel’s Black PantherWakanda Forever.  The movie made its widespread domestic theatrical debut Nov. 11, 2022, and less than three months later, made its way to 4K UHD/BD combo pack and DVD.  The movie takes a step back from its predecessor, but is not a complete failure.  Its primary saving grace is its story.  While the story is actually believable at least to a point, it is not without some plot holes that will be addressed as part of the examination of the story overall shortly.  The plot holes are not the only problem with the story.  Its pacing is its most notable concern and will be discussed a little later.  Knowing the pacing is not enough to completely doom the movie there is at least one more positive to note, and it comes in the form of the bonus content that accompanies the movie in its home release.  It will be addressed a little later, too.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation.  All things considered they make Black PantherWakanda Forever an interesting but sadly disappointing addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Black PantherWakanda Forever, the sequel to Marvel studios’ hit 2018 movie Black Panther, made its domestic theatrical debut nearly five years after its predecessor hit theaters. Early this past February, the movie made its way home on various physical platforms.  The latest entry in the Black Panther realm (and apparently not the last, according to a statement made in the movie’s finale – not to give away too much), it falls short of Black Panther’s success but is not a total failure.  The movie does have going for it, at least a somewhat believable story.  The story is believable in that the overall conflict essentially happened because as Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett – Black PantherContactStrange Days) points out to a meeting of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, the world’s powers are greedy and just want to get their hands on Wakanda’s vibranium resources for themselves, and for military purposes, not for good. This is proven after her guards bring in a group of captured French mercenaries who tried to steal the nation’s vibranium from one of its outposts, much to the chagrin of the French official at the meeting.  From there, an American military force is presented digging for vibranium in the Atlantic Ocean, leading to an attack by a group of undersea beings known as Talokans.  On a side note, one can’t help but laugh in noticing how much the Talokans look like the natives in the Avatar franchise.  Of course, Disney owns the studio responsible for that franchise as well as Marvel Studios, so there is that.  Getting back on topic, the Talokans only attack because they do not want their world to be discovered and potentially destroyed by the greed of the surface dwellers, setting up the rest of the story.  Their leader, Namor (Tenoch Huerta – The Forever PurgeSin NombreDias de gracia), explains this to Shuri (Letitia Wright – Black MirrorSmall AxeThe Silent Twins) later in the movie.  This leads to one of the noted plot holes in the story and will be addressed shortly.

As it turns out, the device that the military force is using (a vibranium detector) was built by an American college student, Riri (Dominique Thorn – AvengersSecret WarIf Beale Street Could TalkJudas and the Black Messiah).  Riri reveals early on that she built the device after T’Challa introduced vibranium to the world in the first Black Panther movie.  According to Riri, she did not build it for the government, but as will be noted later, the story never explains how the government got its hands on the device or even its plans.

Sadly, from here, things start to go even farther south with the story.  After the overall setup — which is believable and deep what with its discussion on politics and military buildup — is complete, director/writer Ryan Coogler and co-writer Joe Robert Cole spend the next two hours setting up the final conflict between the forces of Wakanda and Talokan.  The amount of exposition that is used really draws down the story’s pacing, which becomes problematic in its own right and will be discussed later.  It is not even until about the last 30-45 minutes of the story that things finally pick up thanks to the big, climactic battle sequence.

The plot holes that rise along the way are problematic in their way and detract notably from the story’s believability.  The most notable of the plot holes is, simply, that of Namor’s motivation for wanting to attack the surface world.  The people of the surface world never did anything to him directly, as he points out to Shuri.  According to Namor, his hatred of the surface world ultimately stemmed from the role that Europeans played in the history of Central Americans.  As he points out, the Talokan people moved from the surface world to the seas as a means to escape the smallpox brought over by Europeans.  When his mother died, he wanted to bury his mother on land.  When her body was brought to the surface, he saw even more mistreatment of the indigenous people by Europeans, deepening his hatred even more for the surface world.  Having surface dwellers searching for vibranium so close to Talokan only deepened his hatred.  Even with all of this in mind, he, like DC’s Aquaman, is able to live on land and sea, so really he has no business being so angry.  No one did anything directly to him, so he really has no real motivation for wanting to destroy the surface world.  To that end, it is just difficult to believe his character and motivation for wanting to go to war with the surface world.  He is more or less just a Captain Nemo type figure in this case.  He just doesn’t like the surface world.

Another major plot hole in this story comes as Riri meets Shuri.  Riri reveals that she did not make the vibranium detector for the military.  From there, there is no more discussion on how the government even got its hands on the device.  All that audiences get is that Riri made the detector because one of her college professors said she would not be able to do it; that she did not have the capability and was not smart enough.  From there, there is no more discussion on how the government (and military) got its hands on the device.  There is no attempt to explain this one away.  All that audiences know is that she built it and the government got it. This even as the government has no clue she is building an Iron Man suit in a nondescript garage.  Yeah….more problems.

Yet another plot hole that rises in the very fact that Namor and his forces just happen to know the exact location of Wakanda.  The understanding is supposed to be that Wakanda’s exact location and even the power of its military is unknown, according to CIA agent Everett Ross (Martin Freeman – Black PantherThe World’s EndThe HobbitAn Unexpected JourneyThe HobbitThe Desolation  of Smaug).  So if that is the case then how in the world did Namor and company manage to locate Wakanda so easily?  This is also never explained.

As if all of this is not enough, the seeming case is that the American military had the technology and directions to build a vibranium detector.  So even with the first one having been captured by Namor early on in the story, couldn’t the military have built another one?  It seems like this whole matter is ignored throughout the movie in favor of the conflict that arises between the people of Wakanda and Talokan.  This is important to note because according to reports about the Secret Wars series coming to Disney+, CIA director de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus – SeinfeldVEEPThe New Adventures of Old Christine) just randomly turns her attention from vibranium to adamantium after the events of this movie, even after the Queen chides the world’s leaders for their greed for vibranium.  It is all just too convenient and random.

For those who might be less familiar with the Marvel universe, Adamantium is the stuff in Wolverine’s skeleton and his claws.  So again, even after this story ends, that seems to be the apparent end of the whole thing about vibranium and the world’s greed for the element.  It all just seems so random, making it another plot hole that really has no resolution.  Between this matter, the other plot holes noted here and plenty of others throughout the movie (including Ross’ fate after he is rescued in the movie’s finale), the plot holes that open up throughout the story detract from its enjoyment quite notably.

The plot holes that are noted throughout the new Black Panther movie’s story are just part of its problem.  The story’s pacing also plays into its shortfall.  The pacing is such an issue considering that the movie runs roughly two and a half hours.  As noted earlier, Coogler and Cole spend the majority of the movie filling it with exposition, following Shuri as she figures out her place in Wakanda and the world following her brother’s death.  That includes her existential ruminations that run throughout the story.  Between her own constant drama and that from Namor, the story largely moves at such a pace that it makes it easy for viewers to want to just fast forward through the movie to get to its final battle.  Keeping that in mind, most of the deleted scenes that are included as bonus features in the movie’s home release make sense in having been deleted.  They really play no consequential role in the movie, so it is good that they were removed from the story.  The only exception to that rule is “The Upstairs Bathroom” in which agent Ross is in an off-limits area, gathering information from a computer.

Ross is in communication with what sounds like someone from Wakanda.  Being a random scene, one cannot help but wonder if this was meant to take place after he was rescued in the movie’s finale or if this was meant to go somewhere else.  If in fact it was meant for that finale then it definitely would have worked.  Otherwise, it was a good removal.  Sadly, the deleted scenes come without any explanation, so audiences will likely never know the truth.

Getting back on the topic at hand, the rest of the content featured in the main story works well together.  It is just that so much of it is existential rumination and overall exposition.  Because of this it all makes the story drag so much, and in turn hurts the story so badly.  Thankfully, there is that noted bonus content to help offset the issue of the pacing.

As noted the bonus deleted scenes are the most important of the bonuses included in the movie’s home physical release.  They largely are material that clearly had no place in the bigger story and would have only dragged out the story’s run time unnecessarily even more.  That is because for the most part they are more of that exposition.  That exposition continues even more in the bonus feature, “Passing The Mantle.”  Bassett and Wright talk about moving on after the death of Bozeman in this featurette and how his death played into the bigger story of Wakanda Forever.  It is an insightful feature even if it does not add but so much to the overall engagement and entertainment.  The standard “Making Of’ bonus, titled here, “Envisioning The Worlds” will largely appeal to those with any interest in set design, so it only adds but so much to the presentation.  Though, audiences will appreciate the discussion on how certain aspects of the set design was influenced by the look of certain parts of Zimbabwe.  This discussion will be left for audiences to discover for themselves.

All three bonus features – and the feature-length audio commentary – are all featured on the Blu-ray disc of the 4K UHD Blu-ray combo pack.  This is an aesthetic element, but still important in its own right.  That is because it allows a much wider range of viewers to take in the content than otherwise might have, considering the limited number of people who have 4K UHD TVs and/or players.  That tech is extremely cost prohibitive even today, so in placing the bonus content on the more widely accessible technology means more viewers will get to take it in.  Disney and those with Marvel Studios are to be commended for going this route.  Keeping this in mind along with the one believable aspect of the movie’s story (and the special effects) it is one more aspect that makes watching Black PantherWakanda Forever worth watching at least once.

Black PantherWakanda Forever, the sequel to Marvel Studios’ 2018 hit movie Black Panther, is an intriguing offering from the Disney-owned studio.  It is a presentation that is worth watching at least once even despite the prominent concerns with its pacing.  The story’s early setup, which focuses on global politics and military buildup, is fully believable, making for at least some reason for watching.  The plot holes within the story though, detract considerably from the story’s engagement and entertainment.  That is because there are so many plot holes and they are so big.  The bonus content – specifically the deleted scenes – help make up for the concerns raised by the pacing and plot holes.  That is because of the background offered by that content and that some scenes really were not needed.  Having the bonus content featured in Blu-ray instead of 4K helps somewhat, too since Blu-ray is less cost prohibitive to own than 4K UHD technology.  Each item examined here is important to the overall presentation that is Black PantherWakanda Forever.  All things considered, the movie is worth watching at least once but sadly leaves one wanting for so much more.

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