The state of “Wakanda Forever” was always going to be a precarious one for people to make up their minds about, especially after the shocking death of Chadwick Boseman. Me personally, it looked like one of the few movies from Phase 4 that actually had the potential to be, if not passable, then fun. Then again, I had long since given up hope for Phase 4 so you could say bio-fascination was the only thing that got me into seeing this.
As the final installment in Phase 4, this didn’t really conclude much of anything.
It feels rather redundant to go over the performances: Letitia Wright, Angela Basset, Lupita Nyoung’o, Winston Duke, Tenoch Huerta; they play their roles extremely well and the vulnerability on display is fierce as ever; the rest either have limited screentime or have to trudge through some murky dialogue.
I’ll get into it later but Coogler’s directing feels less natural than the first time around despite his best efforts; not to say his penchant for setting tones in motion isn’t exemplary because it is. Despite what I have to say later on, I didn’t find much to complain about the cinematography despite the drop in grandiose quality, I find Namor to be a decent antagonist and the attempt at worldbuilding is appreciated, all traces of the atmospheric music is heavenly to the ears, the CGI has some tweaked polish to it and between the sumptuous production design mixed with the elaborate, peacocking costumes (with one glaring exception), most of this film is gorgeous to look at, still.
So what is there for me to complain about? A lot unfortunately.
It’s already damaging enough that the lack of Chadwick Boseman leaves most of the film with a profound gaping emotional void that it can’t really replicate, but the film falters heavily in trying to make those raw, evident emotions come across as genuine. Ryan did make a smart play to have the characters go through the same emotions so it can attempt to make time for grief but then there’s having to set up new heroes and villains, exploring political conflicts, trying to branch out in the overarching world of the MCU, uncovering a new and mysterious civilization, reflecting on the phase’s themes of tragedy and loss, you see where I’m getting at?
It is simply way too much for the poor man to tackle and build a convincing narrative around in under three hours, especially when said narrative beats are more diffused, disjointed and scattered than its predecessor. I also found the main conflict difficult to get behind, head-scratching plotholes and inconsistencies notwithstanding. I don’t mind the film going into Wakanda’s self-adulation and smug sense of exceptionalism that drew the rival Talocans ire but this is mostly them telling us rather than showing us and even so, It’s never explained much further than just the basics.
Editing is lethargic at best and jumpy at worst, often working against what certain scenes try to accomplish and thus squandering the cinematography in the process. That overstuffed clustering leads to a loss of precision and focus in the fight scenes despite an increase of scope and the CGI still doesn’t look right with sub-par choreography and a lack of kineticism to everything going on. Dialogue overall is typical exposition, many of the emotional tones and character challenges, if steered in a different direction, would have given more weight to the plot, and my god, did the pacing really annoy me. Despite being overlong at almost 3 hours and dragging on at a snails pace, it still manages to feel rushed out the door with key plot points being brushed aside or not being addressed.
I honestly don’t know what’s more disappointing about this movie but it only further proves the sad state that made up most of Phase 4.
This one film alone carries a series of burdens that no one movie could ever or should ever have to bear. It makes time to provide a comforting eulogy for Chadwick but it falters literally everywhere else. I can applaud the film for trying to be emotionally rich but that’s the only thing that this film has some consistency with amongst the incohesive and plot-hole ridden story, subpar CGI, morally problematic character choices and emotional core that should work but just……doesn’t.