This has been a slightly odd year in cinema. Covid related production delays and studios still figuring out how best to combine releases in cinema and on streaming services. Indeed, this got downright frustrating at times. For much of the summer and autumn, it felt like not only was there nothing good to watch, but there wasn’t really anything to watch full stop. This is perhaps reflected in the fact that four of my bottom five films of the year came out in between April 1st and September 31st. By contrast, only two of the films in my top 10 came out in that six-month window, and one of those went to straight to streaming. Hence, for a long stretch it felt, without being too melodramatic, like cinema might never recover from Covid. An absolutely cracking November did dispel that impression somewhat. And even if it’s not been the strongest year for cinema, there were still plenty of good films, that I’d still like to highlight for anyone on the lookout for something to watch.
As always, I’m defining films as coming out in 2022 if their wide release date in UK cinemas was this year, or if they didn’t have one based on when they first arrived on a UK streaming platform.
There are mild spoilers for a few films on the list, but I have tried to keep them mild.
Oh and I also watched the first twenty minutes of Turning Red until I remembered how viscerally unbearable I find second-hand embarrassment, but that seemed pretty good. I also saw ten minutes of Men before being like “I’m absolutely not in the mood for this.”
35. Bullet Train
A film whose appeal seems to be entirely predicated on you reacting to a celebrity cameo, the way a particularly avid twitcher will to the sight of an especially endangered bird. If your like “I saw that person in another film last month” and hence not very fussed that they’re on screen for twenty seconds, then this film has very little to offer you. The plot is convoluted. Running gags – notably one about Thomas the Tank Engine – are flogged till they’re desiccated, and it’s painfully obvious that not a single frame of this film set in Japan, based on a Japanese book, which puts the name of a Japanese institution it its title, was actually shot in Japan.
34. Jurassic World: Dominion
A thought-provoking film that provokes thoughts like “maybe it was for the best that JJ Abrams directed Rise of Skywalker rather than Colin Trevorrow after all”.In the original Jurassic Park, there’s a scene where the approach of a t-rex is revealed by vibrations in a cup of water. If that had been in this film, a character would have said “there’s a t-rex coming”. Truly an insult to the intelligence of all involved, especially the audience.
33. Licorice Pizza
There’s something almost perversely impressive about the ability of some critics and filmlovers to ignore the problems with a film revolving around a romance between a 15 and a 25-year-old. Even if you set aside the obvious moral concerns, it means you are – or at least should be! – rooting against the film’s central relationship. Even ignoring that a lot of this film’s appeal seems to rest on your nostalgia for the San Fernando valley of the 1970s. If you don’t have any nostalgia for that time and place, because say you weren’t born for another decade and have never been to the US West Coast, then you’re out of luck with this one.
32. Operation Mincemeat
Ben Macintyre’s compelling book on espionage history is adapted into one of the year’s dullest films. You might think the story of WWII British spies fooling the Germans about their war plans by contriving for a body dressed like a British officer to wash up on shore carrying fake battleplans would be inherently interesting. However, there are two fundamental differences between the book and the film.
The book’s protagonist is essentially the lie itself and the character perspective shifts fluidly as it goes from offices in Whitehall all the way to Hitler’s desk. In the film, our point of view is stuck in London. The most gripping sections of the book, where British agents in Franco’s Spain try to ensure that the fake plans get shared with the Nazis, whilst pretending to do the opposite, is mostly dramatised via the main characters in London issuing agitated instructions down the phone to the guys on the ground in Spain.
Equally importantly, though mostly told from a British perspective, the book is really about how the Germans fell for the illusion rather than how the British fooled them. This becomes significant when the subject arises of their being a faction within German military intelligence that by the point these events took place, actively supported an Allied victory – and would shortly thereafter try to assassinate Hitler. In the book, this is the capstone to the story, the final piece that completes the whole. In the film, it creates the unfortunate implication that our heroes’ efforts didn’t in fact matter because even if the ruse is discovered, the Abwehr was going to give Hitler intentionally dud advice anyway.
31. See How They Run
There’s a popular internet saying, which I’ll adapt to be more apposite for a whodunnit, that goes “if you decapitate a goat, it doesn’t matter how ironically you did it, it’s still dead and you definitely killed it”. The filmmakers behind See How They Run seem to believe that their formulaic, unimaginative plot doesn’t matter if they wink and nod ironically about the plot being formulaic and unimaginative. This makes something tedious annoying as well. They also attempt to trade on nostalgia for Agatha Christie’s work, whilst being quite condescending about it. Kept off the bottom of the list by the always watchable Saoirse Ronan.
30. Confess, Fletch
Hollywood seemingly doesn’t know what to do with Jon Hamm: a talented actor with classic leading man good looks, but who seems most drawn to quite goofy roles. Confess, Fletch does genuinely seem like the role he’s been best suited to since his breakthrough on Madmen. That said, this comedy mystery would benefit if the jokes were funny or the mystery intriguing. Also, why are the Italian roles played by two Americans and a Chilean?
29. Minions: Rise of Gru
Of all the films this year to star Michelle Yeoh and feature a running joke about a googly eyes stuck to a rock, this is definitely in the top two! Does improve after a strikingly joke free first act. However, it consistently has too much plot and too little story. Lots of characters and subplots are introduced only to go nowhere. Action scenes that should be the set up for some slapstick, instead degenerate into largely pointless noise. The franchise seems to have also acquired its own lore, which the filmmakers regrettably feel they need to gesture towards. Kept worth watching by its warmth and the inherent humour of the minions, but this franchise feels like it needs to rest until someone has fresh ideas about what to do with it.
28. The Anthrax Attacks: In the Shadow of 9/11
This documentary leans a lot on dramatic reconstructions. Which to be fair, it puts a lot of work into, not least by casting Clark Gregg to play the prime suspect. In the process, it demonstrates that a documentary leaning on dramatic reconstructions is nearly always a bad idea. It also takes a very narrow view of a case that more than almost any other should invite a broader perspective.
For the past few years, one of the most consistent markers of cinematic excellence has been a Korean language film which made its way to British cinemas. Hunt demonstrates that Koreans do in fact make films that are basically ok but nothing more. This 80s set thriller about a plot to assassinate South Korea’s president is diverting and well-acted, but also messy. The plot is too complicated. The action sequences are mostly noisy and formless. Its evocation of the darker aspects of Korea’s modern history, notably the 1982 massacre of student protestors in Gwangju, weighs down the story, without leading to the sort of deeper exploration which might justify their inclusion.
This documentary profiling the tennis legend has a lot to recommend it. It does an admirable job of dropping you into 40-year-old matches for a minute or two, and yet making you feel the same tension and the stakes as someone watching at the time. That said, some of the stylistic choices, notably illustrating large chunks of the film with footage of McEnroe walking around New York at night, feel contrived. More importantly, it’s not altogether clear that it has anything especially deep to say about McEnroe as either an athlete or a person.
25. The Gray Man
Two facts loom over the Gray Man (sic): 1) its name was a hostage to fortune for a film which became a by-word for bland competence, and 2) it is the most expensive Netflix production to date costing over $200 million. Obviously, this is a lot of money. And not just for me or you, but also for a Hollywood studio. Last year’s Best Picture Oscar winner, C.O.D.A, had a $10 million budget. John Wick started an action franchise (and didn’t exactly look cheap) at a cost of $20-30 million. Indeed, even though the cost of the films has increased as it went along, the Gray Man probably cost comfortably more than the whole Wick trilogy to date. This year’s break out blockbuster, Top Gun: Maverick had a $170 million budget to cover amongst other things hiring actual fighter jets from the USAF for tens of thousands dollars an hour. Speaking of real planes, the Gray Man’s $200 million budget matches that of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, which depicted a 747 crashing into a terminal by … well … crashing an actual 747 into an actual terminal and filming it. Given this enormous expense, many viewers and critics were underwhelmed by a final product that will probably be most popular with people looking for something diverting but not engrossing they can iron to.
Which is to say it does have its merits. The cast is strong, especially Chris Evans as an ostentatiously obnoxious villain. The action sequences have a pleasing problem-solution quality. Henry Jackman’s score is a lot of fun. But none of that changes the fact that when the budget is the most memorable thing about a film, that’s a problem.
24. Thor: Love and Thunder
This got a rough ride from critics, who seemed to have grown weary both of its director Taika Waititi and of Marvel. And to be fair, it was nowhere near the triumph of Thor and Waititi’s previous appearance in the MCU in Ragnarök. The long comedic sections, notably at the beginning with the Guardians and in the middle with Russel Crowe playing Zeus, were overdone. The same criticism could reasonably be made of Waititi’s rather self-indulgent overuse of Korg, who he plays himself. Nonetheless, the backlash felt overdone. The comedy not working is somewhat offset by the greater sincerity behind the drama. Chris Hemsworth rises to the emotional demand of this material and turns in his strongest performance as Thor so far. There’s also a creepy yet compelling villain in the shape of Christian Bale’s Gorr the God Butcher. And if nothing else, there’s a visually spectacular action sequence set in the ‘shadow realm’ which uses new lighting and camera techniques to blend in and out of monochrome.
Saying this film is ‘over the top’ is like saying the voyager space probe is ‘above head height’. It is a visually spectacular historical epic, packed with gobsmacking action, multiple lavish musical numbers, and a 3 hour plus runtime to accommodate it all. It begins with one of its heroes taking on a mob of hundreds in unarmed combat and winning, immediately followed by the other hero doing the same with a tiger.
It’s hard not to be impressed. That said I think I liked this a lot less than many people. That may partly reflect my unfamiliarity with the conventions of Indian cinema, but I found the sheer scale of everything made it tough to emotionally invest in. It is clearly sincere in its storytelling, yet its style often feels more exaggerated than many parodies. Plus, despite the story gesturing towards bigger things, the basic mechanics of the plot are rather thin given the elongated runtime. It probably doesn’t help that Netflix gives you the option of a Hindi or English dub but not the original Tamil dialogue. You might expect this problem would disappear when you reach the English language sections of the film. However, they serve to highlight that in a film featuring some of the biggest, most charismatic stars of Tamil cinemas, the British villains are played by V-list Anglo-American actors turning in the sort of performance one might expect from an 00s computer game cutscene. The contrast is jarring.
That said, even if you don’t watch the whole thing I’d still strongly recommend seeking out, say, the first hour. It’s definitely an experience.
22. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
This is a lot of fun. Nicolas Cage’s on- and off-screen persona is a pretty deep well of comedy to draw from. Resting the film on an on-screen bromance between Cage’s fictional alter-ego and a wealthy Cage superfan played by Pedro Pascal is a great decision. Both Cage and Pascal are eminently watchable, but in quite distinct ways. There’s also a strong supporting cast including Sharon Horgan, Tiffany Haddish, and Ike Barinholtz.
However, to love rather than like this, you would probably need to be a Cage aficionado on the scale of Pascal’s character. The final act tips the balance of this action-comedy way too far into action – and rather boring action at that.
Very mixed. The first act is this oddly overstylised retelling of Elvis’ Wikipedia page. However, it becomes far more compelling when it settles into the story it wants to tell about how Elvis’ relationship with Col Tom Parker ultimately destroyed him. It’s a film that plays into both director Baz Luhrmann’s strengths and weaknesses. His ostentatious flair smothers the proceedings at time. To give one example, because he’s constantly cutting between scenes, in every conversation all the participants dive straight into the meat of what they’re going to say in a way that becomes conspicuously artificial. He also seems weirdly insecure in his own abilities as visual storyteller, throwing in voiceover and exposition, to tell the audience stuff he’s already ably illustrated on screen. But it’s hard to imagine any other director convincingly recreating the electricity of an Elvis concert.
20. Don’t Worry Darling
I feel like the off-screen drama has maybe pushed people into having stronger opinions about this than it merited. It’s neither a triumph nor a disaster. It’s a bit on the long side and doesn’t really break fresh ground. But it drew me in and seemed to spark plenty of discussion amongst my fellow cinema goers on the way out.
19. Top Gun: Maverick
There’s a glib version of reviewing this film which goes something like ‘the characterisation is a bit thin, it’s basically sponsored content for the US Navy, and the climactic action sequence is ripped-off of George Lucas, but also planes go wush and pew, pew. So, five stars’.
The primary appeal of this film does indeed undeniably lie in the stunning ariel sequences shot using actual planes and requiring the cast to learn to pilot them to make the shots from inside cockpits look realistic. However, that sells the filmmaking short. There’s a version of this film where the scenes on the ground detract from the action. Indeed, we need not imagine. Just look at Jurassic World: Dominion, a film that begins by recapping the events of the previous instalment of the franchise via several minutes of clunky exposition disguised as TV news report, which sounds nothing like any new report ever made. By contrast, Maverick rather more elegantly and economically has the camera linger over some photos its hero has pinned above his desk, which serve to key us into the key facts about the character dynamics from the original Top Gun which will play into the sequel.
That said, as much as I admire the filmmaking here, the choice to make the film’s antagonists nameless, faceless, and objective-less is jarring. Like we are supposed to be bought into the righteousness of military action without cause or context. If one were being uncharitable, one could also suggest that this does also perhaps reflect the difficulty American culture sometimes has in the recognising a world beyond the US exists. Also, the characterisation is a bit thin, it’s basically sponsored content for the US Navy, and the climactic action sequence is ripped-off of George Lucas.
18. The Woman King
Impressive both as a historical epic and a bloodthirsty action film. There’s a training sequence which involves characters scrambling though bushes of thorns, which is probably the most wince-inducing thing I saw on screen all year – all the more so for apparently being grounded in historical fact. The Woman King also passes what I’m calling the ‘the Widows Test’ – wherein you know a film has a really good ensemble if they can avoid being acted off the screen by Viola Davis in the lead role. Also, I wish Marvel would hire some of the behind the camera talent from this film to consult on how to shoot action sequences set at night where the audience can see what’s happening.
Two things stopped me placing this higher. Firstly, a lot of the dialogue is rather on the nose. Secondly, making resistance to the slave trade into the moral crux of the film, even though the fighting force it’s based on owed their existence in part to their kingdom’s participation in the trade, robs the film of some of its power.
17. The Batman
Given that this is, by my count, the 15th feature with Bruce Wayne as the lead character, and comes barely a decade after Christopher Nolan delivered what is probably the definitive adaptation of this material, it is a remarkable achievement that the Batman can even justifies its existence. Robert Pattinson’s take on the character is genuinely different – younger, wrestling not with the spectre of mania, but of depression. The danger is not that be becomes like his villains, but the more insidious threat that he will sink into apathy. The choice to turn the Riddler into a Zodiac-style serial killer, not only provides a different kind of antagonist, but also shifts the feel and story structure of the rest of the film. Also, I must mention Michael Giacchino’s score, which is probably the best of the year.
If I was going off my initial assessment, this probably would have wound up higher on the list. However, I found it maybe didn’t stay with me the way I expected – especially given how much I’ve listened to the score.
16. The Banshees of Inisherin
This is probably the film where my subjective personal reaction and my attempt at an objective assessment of a film’s merit, if such a thing exists, differ most wildly. By any reasonable measure, this is a masterpiece. It is fantastically written and acted, thematically rich, and it evokes the relatively contained world of a small island off the coast of Ireland in a way that feels thoroughly convincing. It is bracingly original. The story is never predictable, except for when you are supposed to feel dread about what you know is coming next.
That said, I hated it. I was in a bad mood when I went to see it. Its thoroughly bleak worldview weighed me down even further. Hence, I have put it in the lowest position I can possibly justify placing a basically perfect film in.
15. She Said
A subtle and sensitive gut punch of a film. This is less a story about finding the truth – as characters point out multiple times, the outlines of Weinstein’s crimes were widely known prior to being made public and multiple outlets had tried to report them only to be silenced. Instead, our hero’s central struggle is to persuade enough people to speak out together that they can break the story. That foregrounds character over plot. This works due to some of the best performances of the year. Samantha Morton should really get a supporting actor Oscar nomination for the single scene she’s in, where she plays a former assistant at the Weinstein company, who recounts the price of speaking up when her friend was assaulted.
About as far from a fun watch as you’ll get, but a journalism film like this coming along every few years feels like an important reminder of the significance of an independent media and of investigative reporting.
This is a tricky film to write about because so much of its success is grounded in restraint. That most especially applies to Bill Nighy’s central performance as a deeply private man, who is understated to the point it becomes pathological. This isn’t even a case of keeping things small to heighten the contrast when the acting goes big. There’s an artful (and commendable) commitment to expressing everything in a way that is no less powerful for being subtle. Unfortunately, this slightly dissipates in the final act, which becomes more about telling than showing. However, up to that point it is excellent.
13. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
The desire to build up another film on this list – which better lives up to the billing “multiverse of madness” – led to a fair amount of depreciation of this film. Which was a) unnecessary and b) missed quite how much there was to like about this instalment of the MCU. It is remarkable that even working within the confines of the largest film franchise ever, horror maestro Sam Raimi was able to produce something that not only reflects his personal visual style, but is also weird and in places rather messed up. That said, I do share the criticism that where we find Wanda at the beginning of this film and where we left her at the end of Wandavision, and that her arc is a bit retrograde. Even given that, Elizabeth Olsen turns in a classic villain performance.
12. The Northman
There’s a point in this Viking epic when two occupants of a remote outpost in Iceland comment on the fact that several towns to the south have begun worshiping “a corpse nailed to a tree”. This moment points to how writer-director Robert Eggers uses this film to take us into an unfamiliar, pre-Christian moral universe. Let me illustrate this point with a comparison to Gladiator. Both films are super-macho historical dramas about a warrior seeking vengeance for his family. However, in Ridley Scott’s film, Russell Crowe’s Maximus is seeking to kill an unpleasant and cruel man who by rising to become Caesar has risen to a position where can tyrannise both Rome and his own family. Hence, in that story ethical values align. The post-enlightenment audience readily and indeed necessarily accepts the righteousness of Maximus’s mission. The Northman makes things far more complicated, and, therefore, interesting.
Less high-mindedly, while Gladiator certainly delivered big, brutal fight scenes, it didn’t have, say, a stark-naked sword fight to the death on the lava flows of an active volcano. So, in the macho action stakes the Northman is victorious.
11. Nightmare Alley
You know how you know Guillermo del Torois a genius? He gets you to gladly submerge yourself into this bath of bleakness.
As my top TV series this year included a comedy which showed the end of the Northern Ireland Troubles from the perspective of Catholic Secondary school girls, it seems fitting that this list features a film about the start of the Troubles as seen from the perspective of a Protestant primary school boy.
That Belfast reflects writer-director Ken Branagh’s own experiences growing up in the Northern Irish capital during its darkest times, shows through in how real and immersive the period setting feels. Indeed, when a set of readings about Northern Irish Protestant communities came up as part of my politics masters, I recognised some of the dynamics they outlined from this film.
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a film directed by a celebrated actor, the performances are impeccable. Ciaran Hinds as the central character’s grandfather is especially affecting.
Basically, take everything I said about Living, apart from about it having a somewhat misjudged final act, and double it for Aftersun. Paul Mescal gives a performance that is if anything even subtler and sadder than even Nighy, despite coming after a career a fraction of the length. You could also make a comparison with Belfast in drawing on the creator’s own childhood to conjure a world that feels authentic and lived in. A similar use of a child’s perspective also makes this a sweeter and more poignant story than it otherwise would be. However, there’s also the interesting choice to make the viewpoint character a child who is now old and smart enough to see that despite her father scrambling to maintain a façade, he is deeply unhappy.
The consensus on Prey seems to be that it’s the best Predator film since the original. I demur. In my view, it’s the best including the original. For all its evident strengths, the first Predator’s roided up, OTT machismo tips over into cheesiness. It also rather undercuts the film’s more high-minded aspirations to draw a distinction between the Predator for whom killing is a sport and Arnie’s solider for whom taking life is only ever justified as a necessity. Without getting into spoilers, the mirroring between this film’s Predator and our protagonist, a young Comanche woman seeking to become a hunter (Amber Midthunder), is much cleaner.
This should be a star-making turn for Midthunder. She is seldom off-screen, often acting alone or opposite a guy in a suit, whilst providing the film’s emotional core, frequently having to deliver exposition through non-verbal cues, and executing a bunch of intense stunts.
My suspicion is that had this gone to the cinemas, rather than straight to Disney+, it would have been a breakout hit. This was a particular missed opportunity as it came out right in the middle of the summer lull. In any event, I suspect this may wind up being the film on this list I rewatch the most.
7. The Worst Person in the World
I’m not sure I can parse why this film works so well, but it does. There’s perhaps something about the way it steadily morphs from seeming like a series of episodes into something more like a coherent arc, which arguably is how memories of our own lives go over time. Or perhaps it’s something to do how the characters are as far as one can get from being stock characters. In any event, this is perhaps the definitive millennial film.
6. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Knives Out seemed like such a singular (and complicated) concoction that, as exciting at the prospect of a sequel was, it inevitably invited the question of whether Rian Johnon could repeat the feat. It turns out I needn’t have worried. While for my money, Glass Onion is not quite as ingenious as its predecessor, it is still near perfectly executed. It finds a fresh way to offer you the same things you liked about its predecessor. It manages to be both one of the year’s most entertaining films and deliver quite a satirical bite.
5. Everything, Everywhere, All at Once
Even in a year with RRR, this manages to be the most epic, extravagant film of 2022. But whilst its story transcends the multiverse, it is also grounded in the intimate, apparently mundane reality of one family. Even allowing for the so mad it’s genius premise, the outrageous action, the even more outrageous humour, and the astonishing visuals, it is these characters – and actors playing them – who are the key to the film’s success. The performances in this film are all the more impressive given that all the core cast are essentially playing multiple roles.
4. Decision to Leave
The label “Hitchcockian” mostly refers to filmmakers who want to make films like ‘the Master of Suspense’. However, Park Chan-Wook actually makes films which measure up to Hitchcock’s. This twisty cat and mouse tale of a detective pursuing a suspect – or is it the other way around – is as smart as it is compelling. Cinematographer Kim Ji-Young delivers probably the best-looking film of the year. He conveys energy crackling across the screen, whilst maintaining the chilly aesthetic of a neo-noir. In the process, he deploys perhaps the biggest innovation in showing phones on screen since Sherlock. English speaking viewers should also be thankful for the truly excellent subtitling. One of the central characters is a Chinese immigrant speaking Korean as a second language and that fact is central to the story. The subtle distinctions in how she uses Korean and how Koreans speak to her are lovingly rendered into the subtitles. Honestly, had I not found the very ending a bit unconvincing, it would probably be my film of the year.
3. The Menu
A phenomenally effective mix of thriller, horror and satire. It is almost perfectly cast, featuring amongst others Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Fiennes, Nicholas Hoult, Hong Chau, and John Leguizamo. It also relies on the very careful deployment of the etiquette around gourmet food to evoke a kind of social horror about being exposed for what you really are. It seems to get lumped in with films exposing the evils of rich people. This, however, is to unduly simplify a film of substantial thematic richness, that should genuinely challenge its audience.
Speaking of thematic richness, Jordan Peele’s latest film, a horror western is a bewilderingly dense latticework of ideas. Peele seems to delight in his capacity to do without the crutches that many horror writers rely on. In particular, he avoids characters making idiotic, reckless choices to power the plot. Indeed, the verisimilitude of the characters is a consistent strength of the film. The interplay between co-leads Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer as a brother and sister is expertly drawn. Real thought has clearly been given to both how they grate on each other and the ways that under the right circumstances they complement each other.
1. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
This is a monumental feat of a film, even before you factor in that it was shot in a pandemic following the untimely death of its leading man. It manages to pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman, whilst also showing that Wakanda’s story can still continue. It also reflects that there being a new Black Panther must fundamentally alter that story. Boseman’s T’Challa was a man, both literally and figuratively, born to be both monarch and the Panther. Letitia Wright’s Shuri finds both mantles unnatural and her discomfort, exacerbated of course by her grief, is a source of dramatic tension.
Her internal turmoil is mirrored by the political turbulence affecting her kingdom. This is a truly grand plot. The clash of two mighty kingdoms and a succession crisis is the sort of material many fantasy show would spin out across whole seasons. Naturally, Wakanda Forever also continues using the idea of an African superpower to hold up a mirror to the power politics of the real world.
This is all brought together with great skill. The dialogue in a lot of blockbusters is embarrassingly bad – Jurassic World: Dominion being a prime example – but the writing here moves easily between being punchy, funny, moving and rousing. It also helps that there’s such a strong cast to deliver it. There’s deserved talk of Angela Basset getting an Oscar nomination for powerhouse performance. And naturally, a lot turns on Wright being able to show us Shuri in a very different role, whilst also convince us she’s the same character we saw before. I’d also particularly highlight how Winston Duke successfully plays both the film’s main comic relief and a voice of quiet authority simultaneously. Wakanda Forever is also technically impressive. Though Marvel is rightly criticised for poor quality of the effects in a lot of its films (and even more so its TV shows), and the definitely related issue of overworking VFX artists and giving them unrealistic deadlines, and there are some problems in Wakanda Forever, notably the muddy looking night-time sequences, in the main it looks fantastic.
Between Creed and now two hugely successful Black Panther films, Ryan Coogler is absolutely at the pinnacle not only of blockbuster cinema, but of cinema overall. I do hope he’s willing and able to keep returning to Wakanda. However, I do also hope that, that studios look at the precedent of Christopher Nolan’s career after directing a hugely successful set of superhero films, and start viewing him as a talent they can give latitude to explore projects they might not otherwise find too risky.