Black Panther: Wakanda Forever could be two films, especially since it's over 160 minutes long.
The former could be a tribute to the late T'Challa and how Wakanda came together; The second probably talks about the war against the underwater kingdom, which has vivananium veins.
Instead, director Ryan Coogler condensed everything into one package, avoiding the need for a moment with the other Avengers.
His respect for T'Challa (and therefore Chadwick Boseman) was extraordinary. The torch is given to her mother Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and sister Shu (Letitia Wright), who, despite their grief, must keep the house alight.
Bassett is skilled at voicing concerns about the United Nations and dealing with outsiders who wish to threaten Wakanda. If Academy voters want to celebrate men with superhero movies, now is the time. This is unusual.
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Wright is trying to devise a medical theory that explains what happened to his brother and how Namor (Tenoch Huerta), the underwater humans and their leader managed to survive.
Namor wants Wakanda to make a deal with Talokan, an undersea empire that seems to have piqued the interest of the United States and its vivananium search engine. There's a lot to learn from Shuri's undersea tour, but it raises a big question: Could it be too close to "Avatar" for Disney's comfort? People under water are celestials, able to make objects glow and endowed with knowledge that even mere mortals cannot fathom.
To overcome his worries, Romonda tries to find Queen Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o), who has been missing since flashbacks. He lived in Haiti and did not want to get involved in the chaos that would follow Tichala's death. However, he is still able and comes to Shuri's aid when the underwater world turns to hostility.
Coogler performs the ceremony and in many cases gives us the impression that we understand what Wakandans are like. Better yet, if not more, it gives us a glimpse into the Tolocan people that make this connection so interesting.
Finally, Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) and Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) try to make the CIA an important part of Wakanda's decisions.
Ruth Carter's stunning costumes score again (in Namor's case, flying legs create a menace among the underwater crowd), and Ludwig Göransson's music is respectful and hopeful. When Rihanna sings "Lift Me Up," you know it's not just a superhero movie.
Black Panther is on a higher level than most. He created the world, lives in it and justifies human actions. It's a daring role that Culler owes a lot to. 160 minutes is not wasted even if the important stuff is missing.