THE FOLLOWING BLOG CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever"
"O my god, Chris didn't like something; I'm shocked."
Yeah, yeah, get your jokes out of the way. I know how this works. But in truth, I was remarkably let down by "Wakanda Forever." Ryan Coogler was faced with the nearly impossible task of having to make a sequel to one of the biggest films of all-time while, at the same time, paying tribute to the great Chadwick Boseman. It was a tall order, but this was the one MCU movie I was most looking forward to this year, and sadly, it became the one I was most disappointed by.
This film is not without its merits. The acting across the board is excellent. Much attention has been paid to Angela Bassett, and while she is amazing, Letitia Wright was fantastic in this. It's her film, and I think she did a wonderful job. I appreciate that, unlike other recent MCU films, "Wakanda Forever" at least attempted to have themes. Ryan Coogler wanted to make a movie about grief, loss, and coming to terms with losing a loved one. I appreciate that. While I think this movie is mind-numbingly bloated, I thought the film's final scene was highly impactful and more in line with what I wanted to see from this.￼When the film allowed itself to be quiet, I enjoyed it. But it's rarely ever quiet.
The script for this movie is a complete mess. I was totally on board with seeing an MCU movie dealing with grief. And when that was front and center, the movie was pretty good. But much like many recent MCU projects, it meanders. It starts as a movie about grief, but then it's about a magic fish man, then it's about Iron Heart, then it's about Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Martin Freeman's characters who are part of a subplot that should've been cut from the film. I often complain about how long movies are, but there are plenty of long films that I love. At the same time, the pacing of these MCU movies has been annoying. There's so much fat that could've easily been trimmed, and by the time the third act rolled around, I was ready for the movie to be over, not realizing there were another 45 minutes of CG characters punching each other.
I understand that all film is subjective, but I am blown away that some people find these finales to be anything other than painful. This is a real issue I have with the MCU. I'm going to refer to it as "The Endgame Problem" because whether you like "Avengers: Endgame" or not, it is undeniable that the final sequence in that movie is the biggest moment in film history. It's not the best moment; I am saying that in terms of scope, scale, and cost, it was the most significant moment in film history. It's impossible to go bigger than that, yet Marvel keeps trying to do so with 30 minute fight sequences that refuse to end. I'm not naive enough to think that these films won't end with some fight scenes, but these final sequences are a chore to sit through, especially when the film you're watching is already way too bloated.
This will probably be the part of this blog that stirs up the most controversy, but I found Namor to be a laughable villain, which was so disappointing because perhaps my favorite thing about the original "Black Panther" was Michael B. Jordan's performance as Killmonger. He was a tremendous villain in the MCU, and like many great movie villains, you understood his motivation. The same can't be said for Namor. A villain who spends the whole movie in his underpants throwing spears at people had a motivation that I thought was flimsy at best. I was unimpressed by the actor who played him as well. I know I will get a lot of pushback for that and that's fine.
This movie broke my heart, and not in the way it was supposed to. I have given the MCU a very long leash. "Endgame" was such a remarkable conclusion to the Infinity Saga. I was willing to give them time to get their ducks back in a row following eleven years of unique storytelling. Still, sadly I have to face the facts. I no longer believe that Marvel makes good movies, and I have little faith that I'll enjoy whatever will come next. "Spider-Man: No Way Home" was the only film in Phase 4 that I enjoyed, and even that only worked because it was an adrenaline shot of nostalgia. It's not that great of a movie, but it's an ideally used gimmick that I look forward to revisiting soon.
There are still Marvel movies I'm looking forward to. I'm excited to see what James Gunn will do with the next, and presumably last, "Guardians Of The Galaxy". But as a whole, I no longer connect with this world. I was twelve years old when the first "Iron Man" came out, and it kicked off a cinematic universe that defined so much of my adolescence and even part of my adulthood. A whole generation of kids will grow up in a post "Endgame" world and fall in love with a movie like "Wakanda Forever." There's nothing wrong with that.
At the same time, the last thing I want is for the MCU to become the new "Star Wars," where it's something that die-hard fans fall in love with but casual fans are consistently split on. It's very frustrating because comic book films can have such a remarkable influence on popular culture. Some of my favorite movies are comic book movies.
Earlier this year, Matt Reeves released "The Batman," which is one of the best comic book movies of the last decade and should garner serious awards consideration. That movie looks like a real movie, largely due to Greg Frazier's remarkable cinematography.
When I watch something like "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," I sadly think that Martin Scorsese was correct when he said that Marvel movies aren't cinema. Despite its attempt to have themes, the movie feels remarkably processed. The first film felt more sincere than this did. If you enjoyed it, good on you. I didn't. So what? My opinion doesn't matter. But sadly, "Wakanda Forever" represents a moment in which I realized that the universe I grew up with is no longer one to that I feel any connection to.