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It was inevitable that, after the death of Chadwick Boseman, the protagonist of Black Panther (2018), director Ryan Coogler planned a new project to justify his absence. Ryan Coogler is one of those directors who masters the three rules of the trade: he knows how to tell a story, what to say to the actors, and where to place the camera. He demonstrated it in Black Panther and in that wonderful film that updated the saga of the boxer Rocky Balboa: Creed: The Legend of Rocky (2015).
Like its predecessor, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a dynamic and sumptuous spectacle, but with a comic book soul. Once again, Coogler places us in an African kingdom that benefits from incredible technological advances. The disappearance of Black Panther is palpable in the environment and darkens the mood of the protagonists: Princess Shuri (Letitia Wright), whose role becomes quite relevant, the spy Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) and Okoye (Danai Gurira), leader of the Dora Milaje warriors.
We also meet here with old acquaintances from the previous film, such as M'Baku (Winston Duke), head of the Jabari, or Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett).
To a large extent, the film gains interest thanks to a geostrategic conflict around vibranium, the metal on which Wakandan technology is based. This conflict is unintentionally triggered by Riri Williams / Ironheart (Dominique Thorne), a young woman who builds armor similar to Iron Man's and becomes a secondary but recurring figure in the film.
Letitia Wright's energy and sensitivity give a new impetus to this saga, both in the action scenes and in those that express pain and uncertainty. With the latter, however, something counterproductive happens: they are not badly written, but sometimes they fall into solemnity and take up too much footage as if the director was making his way towards melodrama. Density, at certain times, becomes fatiguing.
The antagonist chosen to generate conflict is Namor. This villain is a true Marvel classic since Bill Everett created him in 1939. In the cartoons, we know him as a mutant, the son of a princess from Atlantis, but Coogler transforms him into a Mayan demigod, lord of the underwater kingdom of Talokan. As Marvel does not stitch without a thread, Namor (Tenoch Huerta) transmits a not-very-subtle indigenous message, predictable as soon as we know the origin of the character.
In addition to playing the trick of Afrofuturism, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever idealizes pre-colonial Africa and has no qualms when it comes to showing a colorful and overwhelming scenery, tailored to an audience loyal to this subgenre. But beyond the show that it offers us, it also connects with a wide legacy of fiction in which the heroes were African-Americans.
The film ventures back to the kingdom of Wakanda, where a new threat arises from a hidden underwater nation called the Talokan.
In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), Shuri (Letitia Wright), M'Baku (Winston Duke), Okoye (Danai Gurira), and the Dora Milaje (including Florence Kasumba) fight to protect their nation from the world powers that intervene after the death of King T'Challa. As the Wakandans grapple with their next chapter, the heroes must unite with the help of War Dog Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) and Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) and forge a new path for the kingdom of Wakanda. Featuring Tenoch Huerta as Namor, King of Talokan, the film also stars Dominique Thorne, Michaela Coel, Mabel Cadena, and Alex Livinalli.
According to director Ryan Coogler, Shuri is having a hard time accepting the next chapter of Wakanda. “Ramonda realizes that a year has passed since T'Challa's death and that Shuri still isn't over it; it's not taking steps to move forward in a healthier way,” says Coogler. “They go on a retreat and get away from the city, away from technology, to avoid distractions and perform what is essentially a mourning ritual. That's when Namor shows up."
Namor first appeared as a Sub-Mariner in 1939 Marvel Comics #1. He is one of Marvel's oldest characters who in subsequent years is both a hero and a villain. Says Coogler, “In our story, he represents the Talokan, a hidden underwater civilization that is our reimagined version of the comic book realm of Atlantis. His appearance proves that Wakanda is not as safe a country as they thought, and he comes to make a proposal to Ramonda and Shuri.”
Despite cutting-edge technology and hyper-vigilance, the Wakandans were completely unaware of the existence of Namor and his kingdom. “The idea of a society that was forced into hiding due to events in the outside world is very much related to the world of Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” says producer Nate Moore. “Ryan [Coogler] is a very smart filmmaker when it comes to putting these things together. Ramonda and Shuri are familiar with Namor's restlessness. It is clear that their nations have some things in common. But they may not agree with the solution you propose.”
The encounter with Namor sets off Wakandan efforts to defuse the situation in their own way, though Ramonda can't help but worry for her daughter's safety. “Ramonda is a very important character,” says Moore. “She is a mother who has lost her husband and now her son. He has been ruling Wakanda in the king's absence. It's an interesting dichotomy to see these two women as leaders, as queen and princess, and as mother and daughter."
Says Coogler, “We really liked the idea of exploring the relationship between Ramonda and Shuri. In the first film, there is a great father-son dynamic: both the protagonist and the antagonist had to move on after the death of their father. This movie became very much a story with motherhood as its motif. On many occasions, mothers have to continue being mothers in difficult situations”.
When Chadwick Boseman passed away in 2020, the filmmakers had to take a big step back and consider what the next story might look like. As the filmmakers pondered the story, a new theme emerged: How do you grieve and overcome a loss? This theme, and how it affects each character, ended up being the engine of the narrative. "For the story of Wakanda to move forward in a world where T'Challa is no longer with us, it only made sense to investigate what that loss had meant to everyone who knew him," says Moore. "And there is no one who feels that loss more than Shuri, her little sister."
Shuri, a genius and a first-rate scientist, tries to immerse herself in her work until Namor's arrival forces her out of her comfort zone. Of course, she is not alone in her grief or in her desire to maintain Wakanda's position in the world. The Princess and Queen Ramonda have a support system that includes Nakia, the greatest spy Wakanda has ever known; Okoye, the passionate and powerful leader of the Dora Milaje; M'Baku, the ruler of Jabariland; Ayo, an elite enforcer for the Dora Milaje; Aneka, a high-ranking leader of the Dora Milaje; and Everett K. Ross, an American CIA agent.
Production designer Hannah Beachler and costume designer Ruth E. Carter return to Wakanda and create a stunning new underwater kingdom.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever takes up the rich and extraordinary world of Wakanda, where the community mourns the death of their king. The film also ventures into an intriguing new location, the Talokan, an impressive underwater civilization descended from an ancient Mayan community. According to director Ryan Coogler, the two kingdoms have a lot in common: both were hidden from the world, and both have a powerful resource that the rest of the world wants to seize.
“That's the interesting part,” says the production designer. “We will see more of our capital, our golden city. You can think of it as Manhattan where all the different districts of the country culminate in one place.
As Talokan began to take shape, Coogler and the filmmaking team wanted to ensure that the reinvention of the comic book kingdom of Atlantis was well documented. “It grew out of the first movie: we wanted Wakanda to feel like a real place, a place you could go and visit,” says Coogler. “We realized pretty quickly that we needed to craft a story for Talokan so that he would give the same impression as Wakanda in Black Panther.”
In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Namor is the ruler of the Talokan, a splinter underwater civilization descended from an ancient Mayan community and hidden in the depths of the ocean. The fictional world reflects how a real community might have changed and evolved over time, submerged in water and cut off from the rest of its people and culture. Drawing inspiration from the rich histories and cultures of ancient Mesoamerican civilizations, the filmmakers worked closely with consultants to ensure truth and respect in creative decisions made on everything from production design to costumes and production. storytelling. The character and city designs speak to us not only of their roots but also of how the marine environment has become the center of their culture and way of life. Talokanils are fictional and exclusive to Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
According to Beachler, it took almost two years to develop the world of Talokan. “We started from scratch,” says the production designer. "'What is your location? How did they get there? How did they survive?’ We wanted the underwater city to be modern but with the architecture that they would have taken with them. It is mysterious, provocative, and splendid”.
The Black Panther Wakanda forever soundtrack features Rihanna's "Lift me up" as the lead single. The orchestral score is composed and produced by Ludwig Göransson.
Rest in peace Chadwick Boseman, our forever Black Panther.
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