Review – Namor Rises (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”)

Steeped in controversy from the get-go, many fans felt, after the untimely passing of Chadwick Boseman, that no other Black Panther movie should be made. Yet, here we are. I guess the power of Marvel, Disney, and the almighty dollar says otherwise, huh?

*SPOILERS AHEAD”

The African nation of Wakanda is in turmoil after the untimely passing of its king, T’Challa (Boseman), even after a year has passed, and since the world knows about them, everyone wants that precious vibranium stuff. But Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) isn’t having any of it as she just doesn’t trust anyone, and for good reason. Meanwhile, some vibranium has been found in the ocean, thanks to a brilliant scientist, but this vibranium belongs to the hidden underwater kingdom of Talocan, filled with water-breathing descendants of ancient Aztecs whose king is called Ku’ku’lkan or Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejia). Namor, a super-mutant, can fly, is super-strong, can breathe air, and doesn’t like ‘surface dwellers’.

Namor is pissed that their vibranium was found and vows death to the scientist who invented the contraption that found it, while Princess Shuri (Letitia Wright) and her Queen mom, have other ideas. After getting info from CIA friend Everett Ross (Martin Freeman), they discover the scientist is just a kid from M.I.T.! 19-year-old Riri Williams (Dominque Throne). She is escorted by Shuri and Okoye (Danai Gurira), Captain of Wakanda’s guards, BUT! Shuri & Riri are kidnapped by Namor with an ultimatum to Queen Ramonda: leave us alone so we can destroy the world or else! Well, you know this ain’t gonna end well, right?

Shuri tries to reason with Namor, but even after learning his backstory, she remains as stubborn as ever. This sets up the epic battle in act three between the mighty nation of Wakanda and the equally strong water warriors of Talocan. Both director Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole are back as screenwriters from the first movie, a daunting task to say the least. At a lengthy 2hrs 41 mins, this movie packs in quite a lot of story, action, and emotion. One has to address the elephant in the room first: no Avengers ever show up to help, which is odd. Plus, you have Julia Louis-Dreyfus popping up as Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (from the Black Widow movie) who has access to some pretty unsavory superheroes. Oh, well. . .

Still, this sequel has so much heart to it, you can’t avoid it. Yes, it does drag in some places due to the pacing, but the action scenes more than make up for it. Letitia Wright steps up and becomes the main lead as the Princess, the brains of Wakanda, and the surrogate sister to Riri. She’s bright, charming, filled with passion and emotion, and carries this movie with ease. Nyong’o role is also improved as she shows more emotional range, but it’s Bassett that outshines everyone in a bravura performance as the Queen. Winston Duke as the blowhard M’Baku is always a favorite to watch and Thorne is delightful in her introduction as Ironheart.

Aside from the almost three-hour time length, my only beef was that of Mejia as Namor, the main antagonist. He just wasn’t menacing enough for me. Unlike villains like Thanos, Killmonger, Zemo, or Whiplash, you don’t really “get” Namor or what he’s about. Is he a sympathetic tyrant who wants peace through total annihilation like Thanos, or is he a megalomaniac that wants revenge like Whiplash? His character seems too vague and undefined to pin down. Is what Cooger was going for? In any case, this sequel was well worth the wait and pays a beautiful tribute to Boseman, the once-and-forever King.   

**Now showing in theaters

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