Near the final moments in Wakanda Forever, the hero holds the villain down on the beach at spear-point, ready to kill. Her mind flashes visions between these two distinct societies, one living in scientific advancement and luxury, the other an underwater paradise. In the imagery, the two civilizations appear identical, cut together to show the same smiles, the same cultures, and the same type of people.
For Wakanda Forever, that’s an enlightening moment as the two worlds clash over a shared conflict against colonization, exploitation, and stolen wealth. Slavery inflicts both of their cultural backstories, as does the western world’s continued efforts to extract Wakanda’s potentially weaponized assets.
The villain, Namor (Tenoch Huerta), pleads his case with Wakanda, that by joining forces, their war cries will finally crush any outside involvement in their isolated lands. For a Marvel villain, Namor is given depth, standing for independence and a vocal, violent ideology that believes the only defense involves killing any opposition, even if that threat is an innocent college student.
In establishing a new hero for this series, following the death of star Chadwick Boseman, Wakanda Forever finds answers in other ways aside from violence (although this becomes a necessity when attacked). Doing so, there’s an honor given to Boseman, his character influencing a generation after him to act only on what’s right, not raw feelings. Also, through both the in-movie storyline and real world tributes, Disney/Marvel pay appropriate respect to the late actor, pushing this story forward, without feeling as if rushed.
Although thematically potent, at well past the two-hour mark, Wakanda Forever’s pacing peters out, stiffened and dull between action so inorganically familiar as to never differentiate itself from other Marvel films. There’s also a subplot belonging to Martin Freeman and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss without any genuine purpose other than to snapshot the militaristic western ideals seeking to steal the material vibranium. While possibly building a future storyline, their inclusion here seems fabricated entirely to draw additional anger and spite, sans any character development worth mentioning.
It’s spectacle, certainly. Flooded cities, underwater explosions, fireballs, and hand-to-hand brawls all work in the moment. By the end though, Wakanda Forever runs on fumes, gasping for air like Namor when brought on dry land, and down Wakanda Forever falls into that Marvel purgatory where it’s neither a memorable classic or resounding dud. It just is, which sums up this entire phase from this comic universe.
Strikingly clear digital cinematography dazzles in 4K. This is one of Disney’s better disc-based HDR passes, bringing heavy light to life. Metal reflects intense sunlight, glittering and sparkling. Actual sparks show great peak brightness. Underwater, beams slice through the ocean’s deep surface level blacks, and the latter look consistently spectacular too.
Likewise brilliant, Wakanda’s lands sport spectacular saturation. Warm sun drenches the screen, primaries splendid, bold, and varied. Even at its darkest, where the blues drift into prominence, color remains at an attractive peak.
While not the sharpest, cinematography still finds detail galore in armor, the likely 2K-rendered wide shots of Wakanda, or facial definition in close. In this regard, Wakanda Forever doesn’t trounce the Blu-ray, but with the deeper color and striking dynamic range, this is an obvious boost.
Disney’s Atmos output improves over the studio’s low standards from just a few years ago. While still not playing among the format’s best, Wakanda Forever produces thick, hearty bass during the action scenes. Engine sounds activate the LFE through a notable shake. The soundtrack does some additional work.
Better is the surround and Atmos mixing, creating a wide, pleasing soundstage even during the quieter moments in the Wakandan plains. Insects and birds chirp in each speaker. Moments built on sound like the hypnotizing siren’s song sweeps through each speaker. Clashing swords, knives, and bullets pick up in every speaker, traced flawlessly to simulate motion. Under the ocean, water displaces into each channel flawlessly.
Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole, and Autumn Durald Arkapaw provide a commentary. Two featurettes, a gag reel, and short deleted scenes reel make up the rest.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Wakanda Forever goes on too long, but has interesting character dynamics.
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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 45 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: