Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 2/7/23;
Disney/Marvel;
Action;
Box Office $453.47 million;
$29.99 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $41.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of strong violence, action and some language.
Stars Angela Bassett, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Danai Gurira, Florence Kasumba, Lupita Nyong’o, Martin Freeman, Tenoch Huerta, Michaela Coel, Mabel Cadena, Alex Livanalli, Dominique Thorne.

The death of Chadwick Boseman in 2020 left a huge vacuum in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Though his character of T’Challa had been positioned to have a significant role in the storylines to come, the studio choose to honor Boseman by not recasting the part. Thus, the sequel to 2018’s Black Panther and 30th film of the MCU would have to be rewritten to account for his absence.

Writer-director Ryan Coogler ably transitions the franchise in a new direction with Wakanda Forever, which also serves as a fitting tribute to Boseman and the impact of his loss.

The film turns its focus on T’Challa’s sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), and mother, Ramonda (Angela Bassett), in the aftermath of his sudden death from a mysterious illness. Without the herb to create a new Black Panther, Wakanda is left without a protector, so Shuri turns to strengthening the forces of the Dora Milaje with technology. Meanwhile, Ramonda as queen faces relentless pressure from the outside world for Wakanda to share its most valuable resource, vibranium.

As the nations of the world search the seas for alternative sources of vibranium, they inadvertently disturb another long-hidden nation: Talokan, led by Namor (Tenoch Huerta), who vows to wage war on Wakanda unless they prevent their surface allies from seeking vibranium and threatening his undersea kingdom.

To do this, he demands they turn over the scientist responsible for a vibranium detection machine, who turns out to be M.I.T. student Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne). Unwilling to sacrifice a young girl to Namor, Shuri must find a way to fulfill her brother’s legacy and protect her nation from the attack to come.

That’s a lot of plot to cover while setting up several characters for future films and TV shows, a prospect that constantly threatens to weigh down the film’s beefy running time of more than two-and-a-half hours. The film sports top-notch visual effects and production design like its predecessors, but with so many characters ending up in armor or mechanical suits, the final battle at times feels like a big toy commercial.

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The film continues to explore many of the same themes of the first Black Panther, particularly the cultural impact of colonialism. The society of Talokan is rooted in Mesoamerican history, a bit of a departure from Namor’s comic book origins, where he is the king of Atlantis. This change ultimately suits the film (and the MCU) well, as it both strengthens the thematic ties between Wakanda and Namor’s people, while avoiding messy comparisons to DC by ceding depictions of Atlantis to the “Aquaman” movies.

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The Blu-ray includes an informative audio commentary with Coogler, co-writer Joe Robert Cole and cinematographer Autumn Durald Arkapaw, who provide a lot of good insights into how the film was structured and shot.

Behind-the-scenes details are also provided in two featurettes: the 11-minute “Envisioning Two Worlds” takes a look at the overall production, while the six-minute “Passing the Mantle” focuses on how T’Challa’s death impacted individual characters.

The most interesting extra on the Blu-ray might be the four deleted scenes, which run a total of about 10 minutes. These play like mini-movies that expound on character motivations from the film, while also hinting that the political discord within Wakanda might be more severe than it appears.

There’s also an amusing two-and-a-half-minute gag reel.

In the 4K combo pack, the bonus materials are available only on the regular Blu-ray. The extras are also available with digital copies of the film.

 

The Forever Purge

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Universal;
Horror;
Box Office $44.54 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray, $44.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for strong/bloody violence, and language throughout.
Stars Ana de la Reguera, Tenoch Huerta, Cassidy Freeman, Leven Rambin, Josh Lucas, Will Patton.

The fifth entry in the “Purge” franchise, The Forever Purge is the kind of horror movie that results when filmmakers who don’t seem to understand economics want to shove in a message about economics.

But that’s pretty par for the course for this franchise, which depicts a dystopian future in which a fascist American government makes all crime legal for one night a year in order for the population to cleanse itself of aggression.

The Forever Purge picks up following the events of 2016’s The Purge: Election Year, a politically naïve film about a challenger to the system running for president. By the end of it, she wins and the Purge is ostensibly outlawed. So, as the beginning of this film explains, eight years later the country votes the fascists back into power and they reinstate the Purge, which off the bat is a pretty clunky way to continue the storyline of the franchise.

That’s because the plot of The Forever Purge doesn’t take place during Purge night as the other films do, but in the aftermath of a Purge, as an underground movement of disgruntled citizens decides the Purge should be permanent. So it could just as easily stemmed from the attempt to ban the Purge from the last film. But that’s not the approach employed by screenwriter (and series creator) James DeMonaco.

So the film begins with a pair of migrants fleeing the Mexican cartels and settling as laborers in Texas. One of them ends up working for a rancher (Josh Lucas) who is depicted as slightly racist. After Purge night comes and goes, the Purger movement rises up, killing anyone they perceive as un-American, or who they just don’t like. One of them is a white ranch-hand whose dissatisfaction with his lot in life leads him to equate being paid a salary and a bonus to slave labor for some reason, so he tries to take over the ranch, leading to a bloody confrontation that ends with the rancher family and the migrants heading south to seek refuge in Mexico, evading racist purge groups along the way.

The attempts at social commentary by trying to put a twist on current political issues seems clever on the surface, but the allegory doesn’t hold up to actual real-world scrutiny. It’s ultimately just an excuse for some relatively effective sequences of action violence anyway. But the premise is wearing real thin at this point.

The Blu-ray offers a few skimpy extras, with an eight-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, a two-minute featurette about the Purger costumes, the film’s trailer, a mundane minute-and-a-half deleted scene, and storyboards for an expanded opening sequence.

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