Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – REVIEW & COCKTAIL

Director Ryan Coogler was presented with a daunting task, one that I’m sure no one anticipated or ever hoped would come to fruition. Somehow, Coogler had to continue the story of Wakanda and the Black Panther…without his Black Panther. The passing of Chadwick Boseman in 2020 shocked everyone, ripping away a genuine talent all too soon. His contributions to film are undeniable, evident by the outpouring of love he received for his role as King T’Challa in Black Panther. With him gone, Coogler found himself in the awkward position of having to rewrite the entire sequel in order to accommodate this tragedy. Not only that, but he had to find a way to make it respectful to his star’s legacy while also being watched over by a billion dollar money machine itching to grow its eternally expanding franchise. 

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever somehow manages this despite the growingly sickening sheen that’s glazed over every Marvel film at this point. There’s an obvious parallel drawn between the real-life and storyline tragedy that doesn’t feel as manipulative or exploitative as you may expect. It helps that the actors have lived through the pain, and thus bring that relatable emotion to their performances. It still suffers from the usual Marvel trappings, but it just goes to show how much heart can bring to an oversaturated and transparent genre.

Wakanda is stricken with tragedy when their protector, T’Challa, dies from a mysterious illness. This leaves his grieving mother, Ramona in charge, while his genius sister, Shuri, becomes entangled in the grief of being unable to save him. As the world’s governments begin to turn their sights on Wakanda and their supply of vibranium, a new, underwater threat begins to emerge. Namor, the ruler of the undersea kingdom of Talokan, finds his home threatened as underwater drilling for vibranium increases, blaming Wakanda for bringing the powerful alloy to public attention. This ignites a war between the two civilizations, as the need for a new Black Panther continues to grow.

Angela Bassett as Queen Ramona (left) and Latitia Wright as Shuri (right)

The film is very emotionally driven, which actually works thanks to solid performances from the lead cast, most obviously Letitia Wright as Shuri and Angela Bassett as Ramona. They both cover the different lasting impacts of loss, with Shuri feeling guilt over her brother’s death, and Romana feeling almost inclined to move forward fast now that her country has a target on its back. This gives the characters opportunity to grow and heal in a believable way over the course of the story, something that usually comes off as manufactured in these films. A few of the returning characters lend themselves to both emotional and fun moments, including Winston Duke’s M’Baku and Danai Gurira’s Okoye, although I would definitely have liked to see their roles make more of a fundamental impact. And then you have Everett Ross who, honestly, you could have just cut out of the film entirely and nothing would have really changed. 

The new characters are fairly mixed in their importance. Namor, portrayed by Tenoch Huerta, is certainly the standout, delivering a great anti-hero performance that gives the character believable layers that mirror our heroes. He also somehow manages to make a character in green underwear and wings on his ankle badass, so props for that. Riri Williams as the Iron Man of the new generation adds a fun foil to challenge Shuri, yet she does feel a bit tacked on because she’s got a miniseries coming out in a while. A new member of the Dora Milaje is introduced, Aneka, but she doesn’t really do a whole lot and practically disappears in between the beginning and climax of the film. Like Everett Ross, they aren’t that integral to the story and certainly could have been cut, because this film is long.

Tenoch Huerta as Namor

At two and a half hours long, the film constantly struggles to keep the pacing engaging and consistent. There’s a good amount of bloat that just weighs the central narrative down. That brings me to the script, which isn’t terrible from a story point of view, but I did find it to be overwritten at times. Marvel movies started doing this thing where they think they have to tell the audience exactly what’s happening rather than letting them infer from the visuals and performances. We aren’t stupid Marvel. Well, most of us. Along the way, the core of the film’s themes and direction seem to shift. The movie opens with the interesting topic of countries overstepping their jurisdiction to affect smaller civilizations, something that I think could have really bonded Wakanda and Talokan. But this idea kind of falls to the wayside and is never really relevant again. The themes of grief and remembrance also seem to fall to the wayside around the middle of the film, and I do wish there was a way they could have been tied into the story more consistently.

The film’s emotional moments do tend to land at least, and the action, in my opinion, is a big improvement from the original. There’s a lot of impressively shot and choreographed fight scenes here that actually allow you to see the characters’ movements without the hindrance of excessive cuts and shaky cam. What a concept! These scenes also make use of some great practical effects, especially when it comes to using water. There’s a few poorly lit green screen shots here and there, but for the most part, the visuals tend to be pretty stellar, definitely making this one of the better looking MCU films of Phase 4.

Winston Duke as M’Baku

It may have been impossible to do Boseman complete justice with a sequel, but Coogler manages to come pretty damn close. It improves on some of the weaknesses of the previous film while managing to give satisfying continuations to its characters. It can’t shake off the chains of the Marvel formula, but they’re at least not as egregious as some of their other films. It’s certainly one of the best MCU films of Phase 4, and definitely the best MCU film of the year, which isn’t a hard bar to pass. It’s just a shame it took a real life tragedy to steer this film towards a more genuine, human direction. Maybe we can find some more emotionally deep cinema in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.


(out of a possible 5 Wakanda beads)

Heart of the Panther

The inspiration for this cocktail is the heart-shaped herb, a mystical plant grown in vibranium enriched soil that, when consumed, gives a person the powers of the Black Panther. Superhuman strength, speed, stamina, afterlife hallucinations, the works. I wanted this drink to be obviously botanical but also unique in its flavor pairings, so I’ve opted to use mezcal infused with hibiscus leaves as the base to bring a bit of sweetness and earthiness to the mezcal smokiness. Additionally we’ll be using fresh blackberries and vanilla to add some additional sweetness and a bit of green chartreuse to add some oh so subtle peppercorn notes. Take a sip, close your eyes, and get ready to see some trippy stuff.


  • 2oz Hibiscus-infused mezcal
  • 5 Blackberries
  • 3/4oz Green chartreuse
  • 1/2oz Vanilla syrup
  • Optional: Splash of blue curacao


  1. Add all ingredients to a shaker and shake with ice.
  2. Double strain into a chilled coup glass.

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