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Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) Review

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Black Panther Wakanda Forever

Time: 161 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Letitia Wright as Shuri
Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia
Danai Gurira as Okoye
Winston Duke as M’Baku
Florence Kasumba as Ayo
Dominique Thorne as Riri Williams
Michaela Coel as Aneka
Tenoch Huerta Mejía as Namor
Martin Freeman as Everett K. Ross
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Valentina Allegra de Fontaine
Angela Bassett as Ramonda
Director: Ryan Coogler

Queen Ramonda, Shuri, M’Baku, Okoye and the Dora Milaje fight to protect their nation from intervening world powers in the wake of King T’Challa’s death. As the Wakandans strive to embrace their next chapter, the heroes must band together with Nakia and Everett Ross to forge a new path for their beloved kingdom.

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I was losing interest in the MCU since Phase 4’s start, there was only a few movies that I was curious about: one of those movies was Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.  The biggest challenge it had was that it was dealing with the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman (who played Black Panther/T’Challa). It had a lot to handle, but I think they pulled it off.

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Wakanda Forever aims to be a sequel to Black Panther and a tribute to Chadwick Boseman, and I think it succeeded at both. In fact, there’s a good amount of stuff that surpasses the first movie for me. Like with the first Black Panther, while it is definitely in the MCU, it distances itself from the rest of those worlds and outside characters, it is more focussed on being its own story. There is some MCU worldbuilding for future projects and that can be a little annoying, but it was mostly just distracting at worst. There is some complexity to the story and perhaps it’s a little messy with the amount of stuff it puts in, but I liked what we got. The worldbuilding was solid, I was particularly interested in learning about this new nation of Talokan that was introduced, but I wish there was more of it, we didn’t get to spend that much time there. Although we can predict how it’ll play out, the movie felt like it had actual stakes to it, and has a heartfelt and emotionally charged story. This isn’t a spoiler but the way that they handle T’Challa’s death was well handled. He is established as dead from the beginning, but his presence is felt throughout. Wakanda Forever is just as thematically strong as its predecessor. Fittingly, much of the movie deals with grief, morality and the impact of loss. Much of the MCU’s Phase 4 can be chalked up as to ‘dealing with grief’, but the difference is that Wakanda Forever actually feels genuine. It is also heavily character focused; despite the scale it does feel personal and even allows for some great introspective moments. There is a sombre and mature tone throughout, that said there are also some moments of humour and most of it fits well. Even in the times where the jokes don’t work, they don’t drag the movie down too much or become too distracting like in the other MCU films. There is a mid credits scene and I think it is worth sticking around for. Its more like an extension on the ending and it is fitting for the movie. Something notable is the long runtime which is 2 hours and 40 minutes long, it is slower paced too. Overall I think that it mostly works, but perhaps I might take more issue upon a rewatch. It did feel jam packed with stuff and some parts work better than others. However, I can say for certain that a subplot involving Martin Freeman’s Everett Ross and another side character easily could’ve been cut down. While I saw the point of that storyline, it felt like a detour and out of place from the rest of the movie.

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The absence of Chadwick Boseman is certainly felt. Nonetheless, the cast here do a tremendous job and deliver some great performances. Letitia Wright as Shuri is the closest thing to a lead character in this movie, and gets so much more to do here than her prior appearances. She brought a lot of emotion to her part, especially in the second half. Angela Bassett also delivers a powerful performance as Queen Ramonda. There are some other returning actors including Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke who are also good in their parts, I just wish they had more involvement and scenes. One of the new additions to the cast was Dominique Thorne as Riri Williams/Ironheart. I was admittedly unsure how she would fit into the movie, not to mention there is an upcoming show focussed on her character. It did feel like she was only here to set up that show, but she does actually fit into the plot better than expected despite feeling like a plot device. Thorne is good in her part and delivers on the comedic elements. The villain of the movie is Namora, played by Tenoch Huerta, and he was one of the highlights of the film. Like Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger from the first Black Panther movie, Namor is a powerful, ruthless, yet interesting and understandable villain who steals all the scenes he was in. Definitely one of the best MCU villains yet.

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Ryan Coogler returns to direct the Black Panther sequel and his work is amazing once again. It is beautifully shot, even if its not as visually interesting compared to the first movie. The action is pretty good and an improvement over the first movie’s, even if some are clearly better than others. There is particularly one fight scene that doesn’t have any music playing and its probably the best action scene in the movie, it had genuine tension. The costume, production design and score from Ludwig Göransson is as incredible as the previous movie. As for the CGI, considering much of the recent MCU projects like Thor: Love and Thunder, its pretty good. Of course it had moments of bad looking effects and green screen, particularly in the third act, but at that point I was invested enough in the movie that it didn’t matter too much.

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Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has its issues, it is a bit overstuffed and not all of it works. On the whole though, it is really good. Considering all the things Coogler and co. had to do following challenging circumstances, they pulled it off. I was invested in the story, the action is decent, and the performances are great, not to mention it is a heartfelt tribute to Chadwick Boseman. It is one of the better MCU films and is by far the best Phase 4 movie.

Us (2019) Review

Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language & content that may disturb
Cast:
Lupita Nyong’o as Adelaide Wilson/Red
Winston Duke as Gabriel “Gabe” Wilson/Abraham
Shahadi Wright Joseph as Zora Wilson/Umbrae
Evan Alex as Jason Wilson/Pluto
Elisabeth Moss as Kitty Tyler/Dahlia
Tim Heidecker as Josh Tyler/Tex
Director: Jordan Peele

Accompanied by her husband (Winston Duke), son (Evan Alex) and daughter (Shahadi Wright Joseph), Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) returns to the beachfront home where she grew up as a child. Haunted by a traumatic experience from the past, Adelaide grows increasingly concerned that something bad is going to happen. Her worst fears soon become a reality when four masked strangers descend upon the house, forcing the Wilsons into a fight for survival. When the masks come off, the family is horrified to learn that each attacker takes the appearance of one of them.

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Jordan Peele’s Us was one of the most anticipated films of the year. Peele made an impact with his directorial debut Get Out, a horror film that was such a hit, with it even earning an Academy Award. His writing and direction over the whole film was truly stellar for a first timer. His next film Us was kept in secrecy, especially with regards to what the movie was really about. However, the involvement of Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke and of course Jordan Peele was enough to get my 100% on board with the whole movie before the trailers, images and even the plot descriptions were released. Us didn’t disappoint, and everything from the writing, acting and direction delivered on their potential, and have currently made this my favourite film of the year thus far.

I should probably note that it’s best knowing as little as possible before watching Us, in fact if you haven’t seen the trailer yet and only heard of the movie, I recommend not watching it. While the trailer doesn’t necessarily spoil anything, it really is best going into the movie not knowing much. Even having seen the trailer however, there are still plenty of surprises in store for sure that you won’t be expecting. Get Out can be firmly classed a horror and thriller film despite some comedic moments throughout, however there’s quite a bit to the movie that’s satirical. While Us also has some things to say, this time it really feels like a horror movie first and foremost, really leaning into the genre. Us is much more than just a generic home invasion movie mixed with a creepy doppelganger story. Once the doppelgangers show up, it has you absolutely gripped all the way through to the end. Peele also once again shows how good of a storyteller he is, at under 2 hours long, it has you completely immersed in the story and every scene feels necessary, and he also conveyed certain reveals very well. I guess there was an exposition dump in one point in the third act, but honestly, I’m not sure how else he could’ve conveyed all of that information otherwise. Like in Get Out, there is some comedy infused in the movie in a way that feels balanced and doesn’t take away too much from the tension of the movie. While Get Out definitely gets better upon repeat viewings, you can get most of the themes and understand the plot from one viewing. Us on the other hand seems to require more than one viewing to get the full experience, especially with some of the twists and the symbolism (still don’t understand the significance of the bunnies for instance), but it just adds much more to the movie, making you notice things on a second viewing that you didn’t notice the last time you watched it. It’s also a movie that’s going to have you theorising days after watching.

The main family consisting of Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Evan Alex and Shahadi Wright Joseph, who also play their doppelgangers, are all really great in the movie. People who know Winston Duke as M’Baku from Black Panther will see a very different character here as the dad character. Much of the film’s funniest moments involve Duke, he was really good here. Child actors (especially in horror movies) can be very hit or miss, however both Evan Alex and Shahadi Wright Joseph play their parts well. Something I like about what Peele did with his characters (as well as Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out) is make them smart, they don’t make convenient mistakes or bad decisions, even the kids here are smart. However, it’s Lupita Nyong’o in the lead role who’s just outstanding. Despite being an Oscar winning actress, post 12 Years a Slave, Nyong’o hasn’t exactly been utilised the best in the films she was in (even a Star Wars movie couldn’t give her much to work with). That changes however with her performance in Us, she’s absolutely fantastic in her dual roles and really is something to watch. I won’t be surprised if by the end of the year it’s still one of the best performances of 2019. Other supporting actors like Elizabeth Moss also play their parts well.

Jordan Peele already showed himself to be a good director with Get Out but he’s on another level here, his first film wasn’t a fluke at all. This film looks so great, much more than Get Out (which was already a really good looking movie). Some sequences are just directed and edited so incredibly well that it can be mesmerising. The biggest example of this is a particular scene in the third act, you’ll know which one I’m talking about when you watch it. With this film leaning much more into the horror genre, Peele also has some very great suspenseful scenes, many of them really succeeding in getting under your skin. Michael Abels returns to collaborate with Jordan Peele after Get Out and once again it’s very effective and added a lot to the movie, and this is only his second score.

Us is among the best horror movies of recent memory. It was entertaining, scary, creepy, hilarious, Peele’s writing and direction were great as usual, and the performances (especially from Lupita Nyong’o) were fantastic. I feel like I really need to watch this movie again, it was just so overwhelming, and I just know that I’ll pick up on much more the next time I see. If you like horror movies, and if you particularly liked Get Out, definitely watch Us as soon as you can, and avoid spoilers as much as possible. You won’t regret it.

Black Panther (2018) Review

Time: 134 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther
Michael B. Jordan as Erik “Killmonger” Stevens
Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia
Danai Gurira as Okoye
Martin Freeman as Everett K. Ross
Daniel Kaluuya as W’Kabi
Letitia Wright as Shuri
Winston Duke as M’Baku
Angela Bassett as Ramonda
Forest Whitaker as Zuri
Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue
Director: Ryan Coogler

After the death of his father, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place as king. When a powerful enemy suddenly reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king — and as Black Panther — gets tested when he’s drawn into a conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people.

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Black Panther was one of my most anticipated films of 2018. Not only was it a Marvel movie and one focussing on Black Panther (who became one of my favourite MCU characters after Civil War) and not only does it have a fantastic cast, Ryan Coogler directed it. Coogler had already established himself as a director to pay attention to after Fruitvale Station and Creed, so naturally I was excited to see him work on a comic book movie. Black Panther definitely had the potential to be one of the best MCU films and having seen it, I can say that it didn’t disappoint.

Black Panther is yet another Marvel comic book movie and there are aspects of it that feel like a Marvel movie but yet it feels quite fresh and new. After the first few scenes, I was riveted with Black Panther through to the very end. The characters were really memorable and established very well. The themes explored in the movie was really effective and the social commentary was applied well and didn’t feel forced at all, they were very well integrated into the story. The MCU often had a problem with its humour, but Black Panther’s was effective for the most part and most importantly didn’t kill any dramatic or emotional moment just for a joke. Black Panther also doesn’t feel like it’s too connected to the rest of the MCU, there are character’s like Martin Freeman’s Ross and Andy Serkis’s Klaue who were in other Marvel movies and there may be a brief reference to the MCU but on the whole it’s standalone. On another note, there are a couple of post credit scenes, I liked them both but the first of them really should’ve been part of the actual movie itself. I’ve noticed that recent MCU movies such as Thor Ragnarok and Captain America Civil War have post credit scenes which don’t just tease the future movies but are also important to the actual movie itself, so when these scenes are placed after the credits it feels like they just didn’t know where to put the scene. I just wished that they would handle these scenes better.

The characters in Black Panther are great and Coogler has a fantastic cast playing them. Chadwick Boseman is once again great as T’Challa/Black Panther. T’Challa is quite a different character compared to the other MCU heroes, he is more serious and isn’t a constant humorous quipper like some of the more recent characters like Ant Man, but he does have moments of levity. More importantly though, he is a king and so it feels very fresh and new watching this type of character in the lead role. With his solo movie, T’Challa once again shows himself to be one of the best characters in the MCU and Boseman again killed it. The supporting cast with Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Martin Freeman, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett and others do quite well, Letitia Wright was particularly a stand out as T’Challa’s sister. It’s common for Marvel villains to not be that great, every so often you’ll have a Loki or a Vulture but on the whole, they just end up being passable. Thankfully, not only is Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger great, he is one of the best villains in this cinematic universe. He is very well established and written and you can really understand why he does the things he does and maybe even agree with his views, even if you don’t agree with his methods. Aside from an early scene though, he’s mostly just in the second half of the movie, however he absolutely steals every scene he’s in. The other villain is Andy Serkis as Klaue (who was established in Avengers Age of Ultron in a rare motion-capture-less role) and he is very entertaining when he’s on screen.

Ryan Coogler once again shows himself to be a really great director. The action scenes were great, very well shot and choregraphed. Coogler also portrayed the fictional country of Wakanda greatly, from the production design to the costume design, everything feels different from anything you’ve seen. There are some truly great cinematography at times. The music was also really good, one of the more memorable score of the MCU movies. There were some action sequences that took place at night that were difficult to see and the CG as times looked a little fake, especially with some of the big action sequences, however they aren’t close to being the worse CG ever. Despite these aspects, most of the direction was great.

Black Panther was really great and surpassed my expectations. Yes it’s entertaining and watching the action sequences are enjoyable but it’s really the story and characters that stood out the most to me. It separated itself from other Marvel and comic book movies and is really something special. I don’t know yet if I’d call it the best MCU movie but it’s at least in the top 2, and after many movies since Captain America The Winter Soldier, that’s saying a lot.