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Review: ‘Black Panther’ sequel honors late star in action-packed film

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is the sequel to the popular and critically acclaimed “Black Panther” but without the titular star Chadwick Boseman, who died of colon cancer in 2020, in the role of the superhero Black Panther, who protects his fictional African country of Wakanda.

"Black Panther: Wakanda Forever." movie posters
"Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" is the sequel to the superhero movie that starred Chadwick Boseman in the titular role as protector of the fictional African country of Wakanda. The new release is playing at Lakes 12 Theatre in Baxter and Sunset Cinema in Jenkins.
Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch
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BAXTER — Superheroes, it seems, are only human, too.

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” opens with a heart-wrenching scene of Princess Shuri frantically attempting to save the life of her brother King T'Challa, aka the Black Panther.

Chadwick Boseman breathed life into the role of the Marvel superhero in the 2018 motion picture adaptation of the comic book character but he died in 2020 from colon cancer.

The opening operating room scene in the sequel mimics the tragic death of a life cut short and even though Boseman is not shown, the grief of his loss is palpable and runs through the film.

The new release’s moving tribute to the character Boseman indelibly played gives the 30th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe its real power, with a gravitas that rests on the capable shoulders of Letitia Wright, who plays Shuri, and with Angela Bassett as her mother and queen.

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The new release is one of the lengthier entries in the MCU with a runtime of almost three hours. But the compelling and complex nature of loss, grief and life depicted on the big screen through the lens of the unexplained death of the Wakanda superhero earns the movie its PG-13 rating.

In addition to the thorny issue of a successor to the African nation’s throne and the mantle of Black Panther, a new threat looms on the horizon in the form of Namor, the king of Talokan, an ancient civilization of underwater dwelling people surfacing to wreak havoc on the world.

Referred to as the feathered serpent god K'uk'ulkan, Namor is played with complexity and nuance by Tenoch Huerta, who seeks to protect his people’s natural resources from exploitation.

Namor attempts to befriend Princess Shuri and Queen Ramonda and seeks to ally himself with Wakanda, a nation that formerly isolated itself from the outside world. Namor warns them, however, if they do not join him he will fight Wakanda, too, to protect his civilization.

The superhuman who can breathe underwater and fly above the ground with wings on his feet is based on the Marvel comic book character of the same name. The anti-hero is also known as the Sub-Mariner and made its debut in the comics in 1939.

MORE MOVIE COLUMNS BY FRANK LEE:
“Bones and All” is the feature film adaptation of the 2015 novel of the same name by Camille DeAngelis. The road film is about the romance between two young cannibals who are searching to find their place in the world while dealing with the emotions of all-consuming first love.

The long-living Namor describes himself as a mutant in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and reveals the wonders of his ancient civilization to Shuri in his attempt to win her over.

Directed by Ryan Coogler, who co-wrote the screenplay with Joe Robert Cole, the sequel rivals the world-building of James Cameron’s 2009 blockbuster “Avatar” with its realistic underwater special effects and themes of colonization, exploitation, conservation and more.

But moviegoers can rest assured that there is still plenty of action taking place between the more heady and somber scenes featuring spectacular one-on-one fights and epic battles in the new movie playing at Lakes 12 Theatre in Baxter and Sunset Cinema in Jenkins.

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Frank Lee
Frank Lee

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” currently has an 84% approval rating among critics and a 95% approval rating among audiences at Rotten Tomatoes, a review-aggregation website for film and television.

The consensus from the critics at RottenTomatoes.com: "A poignant tribute that satisfyingly moves the franchise forward, 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever' marks an ambitious and emotionally rewarding triumph for the MCU."

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at frank.lee@brainerddispatch.com . Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bdfilmforum .

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I cover arts and entertainment, and write feature stories, for the Brainerd Dispatch newspaper. As a professional journalist with years of experience, I have won awards for my fact-based reporting. And my articles have also appeared in other publications, including USA Today. 📰
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