In this prologue, we bear witness to Wakanda’s royal family laying their King to rest in a traditional ceremony, with everyone adorned in bright whites. Wakandans come out in droves to pay their respects and an aerial shot of the funeral procession captures a mural of King T’Challa, once played by the late Chadwick Boseman. With his passing, Coogler and his team faced an insurmountable challenge going into this sequel, shouldering the sudden loss of a friend and an international icon. The Marvel logo itself becomes a dedication to Boseman, its usual comic book flick-through of Marvel characters a silent montage of some of the actor’s most notable scenes as the Black Panther. The audience at my London screening erupted in somber applause.
Unfortunately, this is where the highly anticipated sequel peaks.
We pick up in Wakanda one year on, where the absence of the Black Panther has made the fictional nation vulnerable to the West’s colonial inclination to plunder. The best directed action scene of the near 3-hour long feature happens here, when the Dora Milaje (Wakanda’s all-female special forces) scupper the plans of French infiltrators to rob a Wakandan lab for Vibranium, a supercharged mineral believed to be found only in the small nation. Angela Bassett reprises her role as Queen Ramonda, regal as ever as she commands the halls of a United Nations conference, condemning the attempted thievery and demonstrating the matriarchal strength now ruling Wakanda.