The creative team behind Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” faced a monumental challenge to make the sequel to the 2018 feature “Black Panther.” It was up to director Ryan Coogler and the writers – Coogler and Joe Robert Cole – to find a way to keep the franchise going after the death of “Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman in 2020.

Bosman embodied the character with such power, grace and intelligence that it is almost impossible to think of any other actor taking on the role. It would be the same as if Robert Downey Jr. had died between the first two “Iron Man” movies or Chris Hemsworth had not been alive to make more movies as Thor.

Ending the franchise was not a feasible idea considering “Black Panther” earned $1.3 billion in global ticket sales. The success of the first film from a financial and critical standpoint all but demanded a sequel be produced.

Coogler and Cole came up with a heartwarming and smart solution using three major elements to balance the loss of Boseman. Their efforts make “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” one of the better films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe despite the loss of such a powerful actor.

The team started with a key element of the selection of Namor (Tenoch Huerta) as the chief nemesis. The contrasts of Namor’s undersea kingdom with the jungle beauty of Wakanda sets clear lines of battle. The two kingdoms end up in a major clash over Vibranium, the almost invincible element. It was believed the only source was a meteor that crashed in Wakanda.

Since the people of Wakanda won’t share the precious metal, scientists begin searching around the globe for another source. When that exploration gets too close to Namor’s kingdom, he reveals a plan to go to war with all of the nations of the world with Wakanda as an ally. When Namor’s deal is rejected, he launches a deadly assault on Wakanda.

Huerta plays Namor with a perfect pitch or pride and commitment to his people that make his actions an understandable threat. And, that results in some massive battle scenes. It was smart to introduce Namor in this way. He has always been a second tier character in the comic books and would have difficulties as the central figure of a movie.

The second element that makes “Wakanda Forever” a worthy sequel is having Angela Bassett’s character of Queen Ramonda move into a more dominant role. Bassett is equally strong as the leader of the Wakanda people and vulnerable when her family is put in danger.

Coogler immediately establishes the importance of Queen Ramonda early in the film. He also allows for quiet moments including some very touching scenes between Bassett and Letitia Wright who plays her headstrong daughter, Shuri.

And then there is the supporting cast that makes every scene work. Tops among these players are Danai Gurira as Okoye, Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, Florence Kasumba as Ayo and Winston Duke as M’Baku. Each brings the right mix of dramatic intensity, dark humor and respect for the genre to make it that there is never a weak player on the screen. Even Martin Freeman makes the most of the little time his character of Everett Ross has on screen.

All of these strong elements were the key to Coogler’s success. He did have a slight advantage having written the screenplay and directed “Black Panther.” That meant there were parts of the production that were in place that he knew would automatically elevate the production.

The look of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is stunning from the undersea kingdom to the Wakanda palace. Blending the cold reality of science with the traditions of the people ends up supporting each other. Leaning one way or the other would have thrown everything off kilter.

Then there is the spectacular wardrobe for all of the characters from costumes designer Ruth Carter who earned an Oscar for her work on “Black Panther.” It is easy to be impressed with the gadgetry that goes into the superhero costumes. But, even the everyday clothing is rich in color and texture.

Boseman is given a loving tribute but that also serves as a reminder of the great loss the franchise has faced. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” rises to a difficult challenge with strong characters, superb acting and visual effects that are a marvel. The film proves that Wakanda can go on forever even under the worst of circumstances.

Movie review

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Grade: B+

Cast: Angela Bassett,Tenoch Huerta,Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Florence Kasumba, Martin Freeman, Winston Duke

Director: Ryan Coogler

Rated: PG-13 for violence, action scenes, language

Running time: 161 minutes.