(L-R): Danai Gurira as Okoye and Angela Bassett as Ramonda...

(L-R): Danai Gurira as Okoye and Angela Bassett as Ramonda in Marvel Studios' "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever." Credit: Marvel Studios/Eli Adé

PLOT Following the death of its ruler, the kingdom of Wakanda comes under attack.

CAST Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira, Tenoch Huerta Mejía

RATED PG-13 (action violence)

LENGTH 2:41

WHERE Area theaters

BOTTOM LINE Chadwick Boseman is deeply missed in a sequel that still checks all the right boxes for Marvel fans.

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is the rare superhero movie that opens not with a flashy action sequence but a funeral. The setting is the fictional African kingdom of Wakanda, and the casket contains its beloved ruler, King T’Challa. As moviegoers, we’re mourning not just the character but Chadwick Boseman, the regal actor who portrayed him in 2018’s “Black Panther” before dying of complications from colon cancer in 2020.

Even with Boseman on hand, it would have been difficult to recreate the power and excitement of “Black Panther,” a Black-led superhero film — Marvel’s first — that became an Oscar-winning blockbuster. Here, the supporting cast must step into the starring roles, guided once again by director Ryan Coogler and his co-writer, Joe Robert Cole. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” embodies an old entertainment-industry motto: The show must go on.

And it does, mostly successfully. T’Challa’s brainy sister, Shuri (a sympathetic Letitia Wright), drowns her grief in her laboratory, while his mother, Queen Ramonda (a commanding Angela Bassett), governs Wakanda, a repository of the valuable ore Vibranium. Wakanda doesn’t usually have much trouble protecting its resources, but a newly discovered realm called Talokan presents a new level of threat.

An underwater civilization of blue-skinned sea humans, Talokan is ruled by a winged, Mayan demigod named Namor (an intriguing Tenoch Huerta Mejía). With his back story of oppression and enslavement, he’s meant to resemble Killmonger, the embittered villain who gave the first “Black Panther” its real-world edge. At his best, Namor radiates a powerful anger, though it’s sometimes hard not to compare this water-powered being to the campy Aquaman.

Overall, “Wakanda Forever” has more highs than lows. Dominique Thorne, as the college whiz-kid Riri Williams, adds the obligatory “teen” factor but not much else. Winston Duke makes a welcome return as the big-chested, life-loving warrior M'Baku. The best moments come from Danai Gurira, who blends earthy warmth with steely menace as General Okoye, and Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, T’Challa’s still-grieving former lover. It's sometimes easy to overlook what an achievement “Wakanda Forever” is: A superhero film focused entirely on Black females.

“Wakanda Forever” includes some brief images of Boseman from the original film. They’re poignant reminders of the confidence and charisma he brought to the role, and a tribute to an actor who smashed through an important pop culture color barrier. Wherever the “Black Panther” movies go from here, that’s a legacy for the ages.

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