The reception to Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been peculiar how much less. After many years warning of fatigue in this class of films, this may have settled in regards to the conversation about them (financially they continue as always). Something that can be attributed more to the irruption of the series (very improvable in general and with an unjustified length of footage in most cases) than to the fact that the movies are being noticeably worse.
Many of those problems that are now being pointed out were already present in previous phases, from the constant reminder of the interconnectivity between films towards a great event that will arrive in a few years to a uniform and at times rushed visual aspect. But, occasionally, Marvel has surprised by giving some of its authors a certain leeway, such as Chloé Zhao or Sam Raimi, to try to give your films a distinctive touch. Something that ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ has benefited a lot from.
The film of the phase closure and sequel to the overwhelming success of 2018 is now available to watch through Disney +, with the expected commercial performance of it but with less acclaim than its predecessor. Ryan Coogler, yes, has managed to develop a more interesting movie, from the exploration of racial conflicts on a global level to the accentuation of the science fiction and war action components of the saga. And, of course, the due elegy to his lost icon.
Because he never dodges the elephant in the room. Chadwick Boseman, the original star of the mini-franchise and someone who became an African-American icon very quickly (and based on playing other icons), passed away before shooting began, forcing a major change in plans. Coogler and his team try address that loss by including it within the storywhile trying to maintain the original ambitions.
That gives a different dramatic weight to ‘Wakanda Forever’ with respect to its predecessor, and also with respect to the entire Marvel universe. Although Phase 4 has attempted to address mourning for the tragedy (in his case, the sudden wipeout of half the universe’s population and the loss of several heroes), Coogler is the only one who gets a genuine exploration of the process. The guilt, the denial attempts, the flight forward are shown with care within a trademark adventure of the house.
‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’: finding the way forward
Coogler also finds space to interrogate the history of colonialism and how it sets fires that lead to confrontation between minorities from which it later takes advantage. International political conflicts also mark the events of the plot and give the necessary grounds to make Namor’s story flourish, which is once again another example of superbly introduced and exploited antagonist by Coogler. To the imposing physical presence of Tenoch Huerta is added an interesting approach to its context and the marine town that governs.
It is fascinating that Coogler can explore these thorny issues with some freedom within an ecosystem so controlled like Marvel’s. The director also takes advantage of the purest science fiction elements of the saga, he does not leave them aside in order to give it a more realistic feel that legitimizes it artistically. With the first ‘Black Panther’ and this one he gets the moments in which Marvel Studios has been closest to adult cinema.
‘Wakanda Forever’ manages to be an overwhelming spectacle, with fascinating war film details serving as the framework of the conflict. It manages to be a free verse with a visual aspect differentiated from the rest of the films, something that not even with the first film (which already had its liberties) was achieved. And it manages to be a respectful elegy to a lost icon. Coogler complies in all possible facets to give a different blockbusteras dazzling as it is suggestive, which is placed without too much effort among the best of the entire Marvel franchise.
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