Made in the aftermath of tragedy, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” resonates with the agony of loss, piercing the usually less consequential realm of superheroes. Like someone going through the stages of grief, Ryan Coogler’s film is by turns mournful and rootless, full of rage and blessed with clarity. In the fantastical Marvel Cinematic Universe where mortality is almost always a toy, the struggle with the genuine article, in the death of T’Challa star Chadwick Boseman, is an unusually uncertain and intriguing type of large-scale entertainment.
It’s a fine line, of course, between paying homage and trading on it. I cringed a bit when the Marvel logo rolled out with images of Boseman in the letters: Eulogy as branding. Whether cultural phenomenon and box office hit “Black Panther” would get a sequel was momentarily in doubt after Boseman’s unexpected death from colon cancer in 2020. Radically reworked by Coogler and co- author Joe Robert Cole, “Wakanda Forever” moved forward in hopes of honoring both Boseman and the rich Afrocentric world of the historic original. In his admirably messy way, he does both.