Whenever there's a sequel being made everyone is quick to compare. Is this addition going to live up to the original? Will the sequel be better? How can you possibly top the first film!?
It is certainly a tall order to separate a sequel from its predecessor in a comparative sense, but sometimes you can't help but to take them in as completely different entities. Much of this is the case, in my humble opinion, for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and its precursor, Black Panther.
One of the biggest differentiators of the two films is the chasm left behind by the late great Chadwick Boseman, who is sorely missed. However Ryan Coogler was able to take his time, kudos to Disney and Marvel for not completely screwing this up with recasts or CGI, and make a fantastic film!
I'll go in depth plot-wise a bit here so of course, spoilers aplenty.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever takes place sometime after the events of Avengers: Endgame with T'Challa (Boseman off screen) suffering from an unnamed illness and Shuri (Letitia Wright) scrambling to find a way to recreate the heart shaped herb that Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) burned in the first film. Unfortunately the King is unable to be saved and while abrupt, the film finds a heartfelt way to pay tribute to Chadwick and his role as the Black Panther. There really isn't a better way for Coogler and company to have introduced the film and the emotional weight hits hard, sticking with you for the entire 2 hour and 41 minute runtime.
Without T'Challa the nation of Wakanda faces some external threats primarily from, checks notes, literally every place not named Wakanda. France tries to break into a Wakandan facility and steal vibranium and other weapons and its clear that the United States, and other countries, are in on the jealous and dangerous actions. This sets the stage for the creation of a machine that detects vibranium, made by Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne). Resulting in the precious metal being discovered in the ocean which is within the territory of the hidden nation of Talokan. The leader of Talokan, a mutant named Namor (Tenoch Huerta), reaches out to Wakandan leaders Shuri and Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) to have an alliance to destroy the outside world before they destroy their respective nations.
All of the conflict in the film orbits the relationship of Wakanda and Talokan, and especially the differing viewpoints of their leaders. One of the most powerful aspects of this story, and the character of Namor, is the picture it paints on the horrific consequences of colonization both long-term and short-term. Namor's character arc, his motivations, spawns from the conquistadors arrival and decimation of his ancestors home and way of life. Ryan Coogler along with Joe Robert Cole have put together one of the strongest scripts in Marvel, and have created another socially poignant film that has mature topics and engages them impeccably.
On top of phenomenal characters and writing the true heros of the film are the cadre of lead/supporting actors Angela Bassett, Letitia Wright, Tenoch Huerta, Lupita Nyong'o and Danai Gurira. Gurira's scene stealing moment for me was when Queen Ramonda removes her from the Dora Milaje after Shuri is "captured" by the Talokan. Her expressions and emotional range are some of the best I've seen this year and it leaves you shattered for Okoye.
Now what more can I possibly say about Angela Bassett that hasn't been said before!? She has a powerhouse performance, delivering some of the strongest moments of the film. Her death is a heart wrenching scene, adding to the emotional gut punch of the film.
But really this is Letitia's film. This is by far the best she's been in her career and she commands the screen whenever she has the opportunity. She has grown exceptionally since the first film and I'm excited to see where she goes in her career!
There's no replacing Boseman and it was in the best interest of the film and Black Panther's future to not even attempt a recast or CGI replacement. Overall the film is a tearjerking, heartfelt and touching tribute to the character that Boseman played so incredibly.
Lastly, the whole "comparison thing." There's no comparison to me for this film and its predecessor. They're two completely different films, with the former transcending its medium to become a social movement. A soundtrack produced by Kendrick Lamar, a Best Picture nomination and unlimited inspiration for young people of color have the first film being much more than a movie. So when I think of comparing the two I just can't even wrap my mind around it. That being said, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was the perfect sequel and again can almost be consumed entirely on its own! Making individually consumable films is something that Marvel is especially terrible at, given the fact that there's like a bajillion of their films out there.
I've been trying to up my beer pairing game as of late. No more of this "oh I've got a random beer in my fridge that happens to work." No sir, I'm going big and bold for finding the perfect pairing because I care about you and you're film experience!!
We have a beautiful relationship don't we.
Anywho, the beer I went with for this film was the Black Cat Porter by Mac and Jack's Brewing! First and foremost the packaging of the can was apropos for the film with a prominent panther staring at you. Beckoning for you to drink the sweet nectar it provides. Right out of the gate the beer pours well and doesn't have a great head but the aroma is pleasant. Primary flavors for the Black Cat Porter are combinations of roasted malt, a hint of chocolate, and a pinch of nutty flavors that are more prominent than other porters of recent memory. It is a smooth drink and actually has a lighter feel than anticipated with a very small amount of bitterness at the end. Overall its a fairly average porter that doesn't necessarily stand out in a positive or negative way, but I would definitely try it again!
Black Cat Porter Porter - American | 4.8% ABV Mac and Jack's Brewing Co. @macandjacksbrewingco