The tragic death of Chadwick Boseman in 2020 left many mourning the loss of a man who had entertained and inspired millions. However, it also raised an uncomfortable question for the Black Panther follow up. Traditionally, it would be unthinkable to continue a franchise where the star had died, but the nature of the Marvel Cinematic Universe means the show must go on.
Director Ryan Coogler has chosen to mirror real life and base the second Black Panther film around the sudden passing of Boseman’s character, King T’Challa. His sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), mother Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), and other Wakandan leaders struggle to fill the void, but a new threat coming from beneath sea level looks to push the fractured nation to its limit.
Given the almost impossible creative challenge ahead of him, Coogler should be applauded for putting together a film that can be both poignant and entertaining. A sombre beginning addresses the loss, acting as both an official Marvel tribute and an in-universe explainer. It’s hard not to be affected by the emotion of it all, and the performance of Wright as she and other embark on their own journeys of grief and identity.
Looking upon the film as a whole, it is a step down from its illustrious predecessor. The central conflict between Wakanda and underwater ruler Namor (Tenoch Huerta) touches upon issues of colonisation and government control, but never enough to divide a blockbuster audience. It’s a Marvel film, and even in these exceptional circumstances the MCU’s recent issues with overplotting are present. Newcomers such as Michaela Coel as Wakandan warrior Aneka don’t get as much time as they should, as the near-three hour running time heaves with the weight of the narrative pivots.
Nonetheless, they give it their all to make a sequel worthy of the spotlight. From veteran Angela Bassett’s emotional speeches to the introduction of young genius Riri Williams (Dominique Heart), there’s plenty to be optimistic about in this crowded but emotionally satisfying Black Panther return.