Women defending the home front : King T'Challa's mother contends with a slippery new villain in this sequel.

The first ''Black Panther'' movie opened in February 2018. A lot has changed since then, both in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and in the one that most of us The most non-superheroes are compelled to inhabit.

The most tragic and consequential change was surely the death, in 2020, of Chadwick Boseman, whose performance as King T'Challa had seemed to signal the arrival of a franchise-defining new star.

Even before that, the Marvel/Disney corporate strategy was shifting into a post ''Avengers'' phase, as the familiar heroes were dispersed into a multiplatform multiverse of stories, sometimes joined by alternative versions of themselves. And of course, here in the real world.......

Let's not even go there. The political situation in the fictional African nation Wakanda is complicated enough.In ''Black Panther : Wakanda Forever,'' the director Ryan Coogler feeds his own and the public's grief into the story, infusing the movie with somber notes of family loss and collective mourning. 

There is also a sense of the disorder in the wake of charismatic, unifying leader.

T'Challa's mother, Queen Ramonda [Angela Bassett] has assumed the throne, at least for the moment. His younger sister, the science prodigy Shuri [Letitia Wright], scrambles to honor her brother's memory and fill the shoes.

The center is holding, but the kingdom nonetheless seems vulnerable, as the outside world conspires to gain access to Wakanda's reserves of vibranium, a rare mineral with daunting military and industrial uses.

The benevolent global order that T'Challa led his nation into has given way to one based on deceit, subversion and exploitation.

Thanks to Ramonda's regal diplomatic skills and the fighting prowess of the Jabari, led by M'Baku [Winston Duke] and the Dora Milaje, led by the mighty Okoye [Daniai Gurira], Wakanda can hold its own against the United States and France.

The real threat comes from under the sea, where the long-isolated aquatic nation of Talokan controls the planet's only other source of vibranium.

The king of Talokan, who goes by Namor [Tenoch Huerta Mejia] is a demigod with pointy ears and wings on his ankles. Comic-book fans will recognize him as the Sub-Mariner, a complicated hero whose pedigree stretches all the way into the late-1930s Marvel Prehistory.

For the purposes of ''Wakanda Forever,'' he is a villain. albeit one with a legitimate grudge and a coherent political argument.

His subjects are descendants of a Meso-American tribe who took to the water to escape Spanish colonizers in the 16th century. His mistrust of ''the surface'' is based on a history of enslavement, infection and persecution, and he proposes a mutually protective anti-imperialist alliance with Wakanda.

Which sounds nice, except that the alternative that Namor offers is war, and also the murder of Riri Williams [Dominique Thorne], an M.I.T. student who has invented a vibranium-detecting machine.

If this sounds like too much plot summary, that's because ''Wakanada Forever,'' like many Marvel movies, has too much plot. There are a lot of characters to keeptrack of. Shuri has acquired a sidekick in the person of Riri, while Okoye has one in Aneka [Michela Coel].

The Wakanda-sympathizing man C.I.A. man Everett Ross [Martin Freeman] is back, and spends some time squabbling with his boss [Julia Louis-Dreyfus], who is also his ex-wife.

Since this is, above all, a special effects-heavy action movie, there are fistfights, vehicle chases, underwater and midair battles, high-tech suits and seat rattling explosions.

The World Students Society thanks review author A.O. Scott.


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