The “Black Panther” sequel has a heavier burden than most films. As we see in the prologue, before the title card, “Wakanda Forever” is functioning partly as a tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman. Director Ryan Coogler returns to the franchise with even more responsibility than the original. It’s a juggling act of delivering a sequel to one of the most successful comic book adaptations of all time, honoring the T’challa legacy, and setting up the future of the “Black Panther” world. The female power displayed in “Wakanda Forever” is a sight. Letitia Wright takes the narrative forward, but Bassett grounds the sequel and gives a stirring performance. This film’s many rituals, legends, spiritual elements, and mutants make it feel like it has bitten more than it can chew.
Restrengthening after the loss of their king, Wakanda demonstrates to the UN and the world that just because Black Panther is gone does not mean they are weak. As first-world countries seek the Wakanda power source vibranium for their destructive purposes, an underwater empire, hundreds of years old, makes its presence known. They, too, have vibranium resources, diluting Wakandan’s ideology that they were the only kingdom in control of that power. Queen Ramonda (Bassett) flexes her strength as the new leader, while princess Shuri (Wright) continues to create artificial intelligence to bolster Wakanda’s strength. Namor (Gurira), the king and god-like figure of Talokan, the kingdom under the sea, threatens that Wakanda either join in destroying “surface” powers or become their enemy.