T’Challa, King of Wakanda and the first Black Panther, has died. His sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) believes he could have been cured by the heart-shaped herb, which was destroyed by Killmonger and which Shuri has been trying to synthesize. Wakanda is being pressured by other countries to share their precious vibranium, and some have tried to steal it. Ramonda (Angela Bassett), Queen Mother of Wakanda, begs Shuri to continue her research, hoping to create a new Black Panther to defend Wakanda, but she refuses.
The CIA uses the new vibranium-detecting machine to search for the mineral beneath the sea, but they are attacked by Namor, the Sub-Mariner (Tenoch Huerta Mejia) and his blue-skinned forces. The CIA believes that Wakanda is responsible for the attack. Namor easily penetrates Wakanda’s security to meet Ramomda and Shuri. He blames Wakanda for his troubles and demands they give him the scientist responsible for the vibranium-detecting machine, or he will invade Wakanda.
Shuri and Okoye (Canai Gurira), the general of the all-female special forces, with the help of CIA agent Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman), travel to Boston to meet the scientist responsible, an MIT student name Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne), who has also invented an Ironman-like suit of armor. The FBI tries to capture them and they are pursued by Namor’s warriors, who defeat Okaye and capture Shuri and Riri Williams to take them down to Namor’s undersea kingdom of Talokan. Ramonda removes Okoye from command and seeks out Nakia (Lupita Nyongo), who is living in Haiti, to get her to help save Shuri and Williams.
Shuri meets Namor and explores Talokan, where vibranium is plentiful. Namor hates the terrestrial world that rejected him long ago and offers to join Wakanda against the rest of the world. If they refuse, he will destroy Wakanda. Nakia helps Shuri and Williams to escape, and Namor attacks Wakanda. Queen Ramonda drowns saving Williams. Namor will return in a week in full force.
Ross is arrested by the director of the CIA, Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, who happens to be his ex-wife, for secret communication with Wakanda. Shuri is able to reconstruct the heart-shaped herb and ingests it to become the new Black Panther. She meets Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) on the ancestral plane and is accepted by the other tribes. Though M’Baku (Winston Duke) of the Jabari counsels peace, Shuri is out for revenge for Raimoda’s death and orders an all-out attack on Namor. She gives Amelia’s Midnight Angel armor to Okaye, who recruits Aneka.
The Wakandans take a sea-going vessel called the Sea Leopard and set a trap for Namor, separating him from his forces to dry him out and weaken him. On a deserted beach, Shuri gets the upper hand but decides that the Wakandans and the Talokans are not that different. She spares Namor’s life and offers to help save his people.
Namor is impressed and accepts the offer. Though his cousin Namora (Mabel Cadena) is upset, he insists that Shuri’s empathy is useful, and besides, the Wakandans have no other allies. Williams returns to Boston, leaving her armor behind in Wakanda. Okoye rescues Ross. And in mid-credits, Shuri visits Nakia in Haiti and learns that Nakia and T’Challa had a son named Toussaint (Divine Love Konadu-Sun), also called T’Challa.
The film was directed by Ryan Coogle, from a screenplay by him and Joe Robert Cole, and produced by Marvel Studios and Walt Disney. It received positive reviews from critics. The early plans for the film were derailed by Chadwick Boseman’s untimely death in 2020, because re-casting the role of Black Panther would surely cause an outcry from fans. The film premiered in Hollywood and Lagos, Nigeria. Tenoch Huerta, who plays Namor, could not swim. When they asked him if he could, he said, “I haven’t drowned yet,” and when he got the role he quickly took swimming lessons. He also learned a Mayan language.
Namor is now said to be the King of Talokan instead of Atlantis, since Aquaman has pretty much staked out Atlantis as his own. Tlalocan was the underwater kingdom in Aztec mythology and the city in the film was filled with Aztec architecture. Namor is much more alien in nature than Aquaman and is in fact a mutant. He is one of my favorite characters in the Marvel comics and has been there since he was created by Bill Everett in Marvel Comics # 1 (October 1939). In his own comic (Sub-Mariner # 1), he was already fighting the Nazis. Throughout the Golden Age of Comics, he was part of a triumvirate of heroes with Captain America and the original Human Torch—Marvel’s answer to Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Later, he was in a strange anti-heroic outsider group along with Doctor Strange, the Hulk, and later the Silver Surfer.
Like the Sub-Mariners, the Wakandans are outsiders, and insular. They don’t trust Western Civilization--Gee, I wonder why—and their partnership with the Sub-Mariners is a nice touch. My only disappointment in the movie was the look of Namor, which is arresting in the comics. He just seemed a little too human for me, and his kingdom is not as beautiful as Aquaman’s Atlantis. But Wakanda is every bit as spectacular as in the first movie. There is plenty of action and widescreen battles and even a car-chase. The woman warriors are wonderful. There is some powerful emotional drama as well—Angela Bassett is breathtaking—and the whole thing is a fine homage to both T-Challa and Chadwick Boseman.