Ryan Coogler

REVIEW: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)

In the wake of King T’Challa’s (Chadwick Boseman) death, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) must lead the people of Wakanda as they fight to protect their home from outside forces – whether that’s member states of the UN, or the nation of Talokan in the deep depths of the ocean led by Namor (Tenoch Huerta).

It’s pretty much impossible to talk about Wakanda Forever without talking about the passing of Chadwick Boseman and the affect this had on the film. Director and co-writer Ryan Coogler incorporated Boseman’s passing into the film and needless to say in the first five minutes I was already getting emotional. This makes Wakanda Forever an almost unique grieving experience. All the characters who knew T’Challa are mourning his passing, and so are the actors playing them, and so are you as you watch this film. It’s easy to imagine that in some of the big emotional scenes, the actors used their grief for their friend and co-worker to fuel their characters grief.

There’s a lot going on in Wakanda Forever with new characters and a new civilisation with a lot of backstory introduced and some aspects were more interesting than others. Martin Freeman’s CIA agent Everett Ross is back and while his character is somewhat integral to moving the plot forward to begin with, it does kind of feel like the film grinds to a halt every time it leaves Wakanda to see what he’s up to in America. Wakanda Forever is close to three hours long and it’s moments like this that makes you feel the runtime.

The whole cast is incredible but Bassett, Huerta and Letitia Wright are truly standouts. Angela Bassett gives a couple of powerful and emotional monologues and the fact that one is almost soft with her contained rage while the other has her pain over flowing just shows how talented she always has been. Plus, the first happens in the UN in front of a majority white audience while the latter happens in the throne room in Wakanda, infront of the other tribal leaders and her people – once again showing how these characters have to be uniquely aware of their race and power even when they’re from one of the most technologically advanced countries in thise universe.

Namor is such an interesting villain – though really he is more of an antihero – and Huerta is just so compelling that your eyes never leave him whenever he’s on screen. His Namor is principled and loyal but on the flipside, he can be very intimidating and, like the first sequence where the people of Talokan attack, almost frightening. Letitia Wright’s Shuri goes through a lot in this film but she’s truly the emotional centre of Wakanda Forever. She’s trying to combine her love and knowledge of science with the realisation that it wasn’t enough to save her brother and if that’s the case how can she protect her people? Her inner turmoil is fascinating and Wright is phenomenal – pretty much every time I felt myself get teary eyed, it was due to her performance.

One of the many things I really appreciated in Wakanda Forever was that it let emotion and drama sit with you. There are jokes or humorous moments in the film – mostly from Winston Duke’s M’Baku who is still an excellent scene-stealer – but they’re used in a way to ease some tension rather than becoming an almost parody of the MCU joke machine as seen in some other MCU movies recently aka Thor: Love and Thunder.

Black Panther won Oscars for Music, Costume, and Production Design and those same Oscar winners are back for Wakanda Forever and I wouldn’t be surprised if they got awards consideration again. Ludwig Göransson’s score has echoes of familiar themes but also plays on the unknown with Talokan, and both Ruth E. Carter and Hannah Beachler make both Wakanda and Talokan feel so alive with their costumes and set design and when it comes to Wakanda, adds to the history and culture we already know. Both Wakanda and Talokan feel so vast and real because of the costumes, sets and props especially as they’ve incorporated African and Indigenous cultures into it all.

Overall Wakanda Forever is a story about grief. How grief is hard and messy and people deal with it in different ways and some ignore grief until it almost consumes them. It still has its action and the Dora Milaje led by Okoye (Danai Gurira) is still awesome and it’s a thrill seeing so many complex and powerful women on screen, working together. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is definitely my favourite MCU film released this year. 4/5.

REVIEW: Creed (2015)

creedpostersmallFormer Champion Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) returns to the world of boxing as a trainer and mentor when Adonis “Donny” Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), the son of his late friend and former rival Apollo Creed, seeks him out to help him become a boxer like his father.

Creed is written and directed by Ryan Coogler and sees him reunited with his Fruitvale Station star. Coogler manages to rejuvenate a franchise that’s decades old but is still respectful to the character of Rocky and its legacy while setting up a new hero of the story with Donny.

Michael B. Jordan is great as Donny. Fighting is all he knows how to do and is one of the things he’s good at and actually enjoys but then there’s this legacy of his father’s name, a father he doesn’t know but there’s so much respect for that it’s intimidating. Donny wants to be his own man but at the same time he keeps being around Rocky, a man that knew his father, until Rocky gives in and trains him. Rocky is an interesting character in Creed. He’s older and maybe a little sadder, and he’s not interested in the life of boxing anymore. Donny helps make Rocky embrace life again and they help each other be better people.

Stallone really is brilliant in Creed, it’s been a while since he’s done something that wasn’t Expendables-esque and this time he really brings it. His performance will have you reaching for the tissues because it really is heart-breaking sometimes.

The fights in the film are exciting and gripping. One fight in particular is memorable due to the fact it looks like it’s all in one take. As Adonis fights in the ring, the camera pans around him and his opponent and after a punch there’s a cut on the guys face and you just can’t tell when there could have been a cut for the makeup person to run into the ring to do that. Also a few of the boxers Donny goes up against are professional, real-life boxers. This adds another layer of danger and anticipation whenever Donny steps into the ring.

While Creed is a boxing film and a part of the Rocky universe, at its heart is the relationships between the characters. Donny calls Rocky his Uncle and they are like family, fighting and caring about each other, and then there’s his relationship with Bianca (Tessa Thompson). It feels like such a natural romance and Bianca is not just a love interest. She has her own dreams and aspirations and isn’t afraid to tell Donny when he’s mucked up. Their romance didn’t feel shoe-horned in at all and it complimented the narrative as a whole.

Creed is a brilliant movie full of heart and excitement and has done a great job at rejuvenating an old franchise. 5/5.