Marvel movies follow a pattern. The hero is blessed with superpowers. The world he is living in or the world in general is under threat. There is an antagonist who too has superpowers. This all happens in the gravity-defying universe which is nothing short of a pleasure dome as depicted in Kubla Khan’s Xanadu.
‘Wakanda Forever’ is all of this. It is a worthy sequel to ‘Blank Panther’ without Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther. Replacing Black Panther in the multiple Oscar-nominated movie is Letitia Wright who plays his sister, Shuri. Circumstances force her mother and Queen Ramonda to take the helm. After she is killed by their more powerful antagonist, Namor, one of the few male characters in this movie dominated by women, Shuri becomes the Black Panther and wages a war to protect her kingdom Wakanda.
Marvel movies banking on special effects is commonplace but ‘Wakanda Forever’ takes it a notch higher. Cars flying is passé. The movie opens with King T’Challa’s death and a UFO-like spacecraft descends to collect his state-of-the-art coffin. The entire funeral scene, where everyone is clad in white stands out in this action saga. Wakanda is believed to be an imaginary African nation and hence has a bright kaleidoscopic sartorial taste. In stark contrast in the two funeral scenes, everyone sports white. And those large tusk earrings Shuri wears tell you why Ruth E. Carter has earned her second Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design. Justifying it further is the Black Panther suit created for Shuri and the Midnight Blue suit for Okoye. The costumes are accentuated by Camille Friend and Joel Harlow with their makeup and hairstyling leading us to a make-believe world and characters.
Another aspect on which the movie banks heavily is visual effects. Here, it’s not the portrayal of Wakanda but the underwater world of Namor that takes the cake. He is a mutant ruler of the underwater city of Talokan. When he kidnaps Shuri and takes her on a tour of his water kingdom what we see is simply breathtaking. Geoffrey Baumann, Craig Hammack, Christopher White, and Dan Sudick through their visual effects have treated the audience to Avatarsque CGI which will put ‘RRR’ and ilk to shame. Don’t miss the scenes when Shuri first meets Namor or when he and his army attack Wakanda with hydro bombs or the one in which they travel on whaleback.
At the heart of this sci-fi thriller is the mother-daughter story of Queen Ramonda and Shuri. Angela Bassett gets less screen time than Shuri but steals the scene every time she appears on the screen. The isicholo she wears compliments her regal gait well. She gets to portray a gamut of emotions from a grieving mother to a protective queen and mother to a firm and assertive ruler. The Oscar is her’s and deservedly so. Danai Gurira as Okoye too wins your heart.
Among the male cast, it is Spanish actor Tenoch Huerta Mejía who gets the meatiest part as Namor. This will prove to be a career-defining role for him who has the acting chops. If women are dressed to the T here, Manor mostly sports a short and a necklace with a two-headed serpent. He brings out the villainy with his subtle expressions enough to make him eligible to qualify for even being a Bond villain.
Director Ryan Coogler has worked with a predictable story and yet succeeded in convincingly painting a world run by women. ‘Wakanda Forever’ with its stunning Afrofuturistic costumes, powerhouse performances, jaw-dropping scenes, and pacy action sequences is all that one requires to give us an immersive experience. Only with a story as strong as the vibranium Wakanda has it would have been as eternal as Namor’s Talokan.
If all this is not enough for you, the icing on the cake is ‘Lift me Up’ by Rihana. It’s playing on Disney+Hotstar....