- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 9, 2023

The tragic and unforeseen loss of actor Chadwick Boseman due to colon cancer could have sealed the fate of his popular Black Panther hero returning to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

However, director Ryan Coogler and writers continued on in his memory, offering a sequel that touched the hearts of fans and moved the narrative forward to bring the fabled land of Wakanda and its citizens back to the live-action format.

After a mega-successful run in theaters, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever: Cinematic Universe Edition (Walt Disney Pictures Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, 161 minutes, $39.99) arrives in the ultra-high definition disc format shy on extras but still loaded with blockbuster action.

The story first sets the stage by presenting world powers obsessed with obtaining from the African nation its most precious resource, the metal Vibranium, the strongest substance on the planet.

Viewers then quickly learn of the anguish of Princess Shuri (Letitia Wright). Unable to save her brother T’Challa (Black Panther) from his illness, this brilliant researcher of weapons technology goes on a coming-of-age journey to become a leader of the Wakanda people.

The plot not only focuses on mother, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and Shuri stabilizing Wakanda as well as who could possibly pick up the mantle as a new Black Panther but introduces another classic hero from the Marvel Comics’ universe that includes his origin.

Specifically, the debut of the hot-headed, unforgiving Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejía), the Sub-Mariner, a king of the sea and ruler of the underwater realm Talokan.

Furious that T’Challa has exposed the secrets of the precious metal to the world, he demands that Ramonda find and turn over the American scientist who created a Vibranium detecting machine (being used by military operatives as they invade and search his kingdom), or Namor will attack Wakanda.

Viewers get a very long and detailed film to appreciate with plenty of spectacular underwater scenes and an epic final battle pitting Namor against a ferocious Shuri.

Ultimately, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” can’t match the first film’s intensity and freshness but admirably keeps the franchise alive and very much worthy of Marvel Cinematic Universe fans’ investment.

4K in action: Despite a reference quality presentation culled from the 4K master format, an early selection of nighttime scenes, especially a CIA ship under attack, are just too dark to be appreciated, even with high dynamic range enhancements.

However, with nearly three hours of visuals to examine, the movie eventually shines on home theater screens spotlighted by Shuri sucked into a bubbly underwater vortex surrounded by the blue and green lighting of the Talokan capital city; Namor in his comic-style costuming coming out of the ocean on a sunny day to meet on the beach with the queen; and Namor flying through the air and cutting the wings off of a Wakanda ship in midflight.

Colors and crispness are primed throughout displayed, often by the Wakandians and Talokanians costuming along with moments such as a whale breaching the water near a bridge with Namor’s blue-skinned glistening minions aboard; or a volley of water bombs exploding metal and glass shards with a battle playing out behind the wash.

Best extras: Owners will need to access the included Blu-ray to find the smattering of bonus content that certainly I would not consider worthy of the package’s Cinematic Universe Edition moniker.

First, an optional commentary track with director and co-writer Mr. Coogler, co-writer Joe Robert Cole and cinematographer Autumn Durald Arkapaw touches on lots of detail such as shooting techniques, location lighting, action scenes, shot choices as well as the importance of children enjoying the movie. Ms. Arkapaw often reengages the lighthearted conversation during any lulls.

Next, a pair of featurettes offer a way, way too short, 11-minute production overview focused on the details of the Wakanda culture; building Talokan and underwater effects; and six minutes on the transformation of Shuri into a leader of Wakanda mainly discussed by Ms. Wright.

• Joseph Szadkowski can be reached at jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com.

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