HOLLYWOOD—I have been trying to find time to watch the sequel to the iconic “Black Panther” for weeks now. It was a movie that changed the Marvel universe in the superhero arena as we know it breaking box-office records along the way and exciting a demographic that had been largely ignored in the genre for years. With that success comes trepidation with the original film’s star, Chadwick Boseman dying from colon cancer in August 2020.

How can you craft a sequel without Boseman’s iconic character, T’Challa, King of Wakanda? Director and screenwriter Ryan Coogler has found a way to craft a sequel that satisfies fans of the original flick while raising the stakes in a manner that will deliver heartache for moviegoers, as a new hero emerges and a new villain arises. Wakanda is still a sought after community by the American government who wants to get their hands on vibranium, which possesses superpowers America just has to have its hands on.

Shuri (Leticia Wright) is hoping to redevelop the secret flower that gave her brother his powers before he succumbs from a mystery illness. This movie does have a recurring theme of mourning and death, as Shuri and her mother, Ramonda (Angela Bassett) grieve T’Challa’s death. Bassett has a meatier role this time around and seeks her teeth into the role that is quite iconic. With all this drama between the U.S. and Wakanda, that is nothing compared to the threat that is lying beneath the surface, one that looks like blue merman and mermaids with superhuman strength similar to what the Black Panther displayed in the first movie. I didn’t love that element in the movie because it reminded me a bit of James Cameron’s “Avatar.”

Their power derives from vibranium, which Wakanda was certain their nation was the only one to possess such a powerful tool. When CIA and U.S. Navy agents are attacked by the people of the sea, led by Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejía) it becomes clear to the spectator a war between Wakanda and the underwater world of Talokan is about to change everything. Is Namor a viable villain? To a degree, but he doesn’t possess that charisma and threat that Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) possessed in the first flick, but the fight and action-sequences make up for that missing component. Wright does a reasonable job as the new protagonist for the series, but I will argue there are two stars of this movie, Ramonda and the return of Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o).

Nakia’s return is a welcome one because being honest, I didn’t know if she would even appear in the sequel and when her presence is made it is welcome on the screen and you crave more and more of her. The chemistry between Nakia and T’Challa is missing without his presence and you long for it. There are strong supporting performances by Danai Gurira, Michaela Coel, Winston Duke, Florence Kasumba and Dominque Thorne.

Coogler does a fabulous job of highlighting the many resources and the sheer wealth of Wakanda that even though you know it doesn’t exist in real life you begin to think it may be quite possible. “Wakanda Forever” is an entertaining sequel that the audience will enjoy, but it does take about a good 20 minutes for the movie to find its groove, but once found it’s a fast moving train that keeps the audience engaged until its epic finish, and that mid-credits scene, wow it’s a surprise to say the least people that changes everything when the next installment in the franchise (which inevitably will happen) arrives. Not better than the original, but this sequel gets the job done for the audience.