Witness triumph in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Published 8:00 am Tuesday, December 20, 2022
Fiercely fighting its way onto screen this week is the second installment in Marvel’s Black Panther franchise, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” “Black Panther” (2018), the first film of its name, was tremendously well received by audiences, even relative to the typically rave reception Marvel films receive from fans. “Wakanda Forever,” as most sequels do, has not received quite the same reception as its predecessor so far. However, the reception has still been strong, and the film has been nonetheless beloved by the youth audience for whom it was made.
Superhero movies, like action movies, or westerns decades before, have tapped into a winning recipe of charismatic characters, battles of good and evil, and a measure of indulgent spectacle to round it all out. Despite following a reliable path, “Wakanda Forever” does have a unique quality in its lead and titular character.
The first film established the wonderfully talented Chadwick Boseman as the superhero, Black Panther. As is typical fashion for Marvel leads, the plan was to have Boseman appear as Black Panther in many films to come, some as a lead, and some as a supporting character or cameo. Sadly, however, Chadwick Boseman tragically succumbed to terminal cancer before any further films were made.
Boseman’s passing left the second film the task of both tastefully handling his character’s own passing, as well as organically transferring the character’s superhero mantle to another. Both of these challenges are handled well, with the film still finding space to provide all of the expected and enjoyed hallmarks of a Marvel film: the quips, the costumes, the action, the conflict, and just the right number of explosions.
And while “Wakanda Forever” does provide all the reliably fun stimulation of the Marvel franchise, it does, like its predecessor, involve some deeper concepts, particularly geopolitical ones. This focus is due to the inextricable link between the superhero in question and their nation of origin.
Some superheroes are not tied to their place of origin, while some are defined by a specific one, like Batman’s Gotham City. Still, others are nationally linked. Captain America is one such national hero, his exploits and costumed identity inseparable from the nation of America. The same can be said for Black Panther. In the Marvel world, Black Panther is a superhero, but also the sovereign of a secretive and advanced nation, Wakanda. Trading in this nationalized identity, the first Black Panther film largely dealt with the moral question of geopolitical isolationism, and the implicit hoarding of resources and wealth, in the face of an unjust modern world.
“Wakanda Forever” deals more with the question of whether it is possible, in the balance of national dominance, to have two different nations (Wakanda and a pseudo-Atlantis) on the same footing in terms of technological, financial, and military superiority. It questions whether harmony is possible or whether conflict is inevitable in this balance of power. For anyone interested in seeing how this conflict plays out or anyone simply in the mood for spectacle and triumph, we hope you will join us for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”
Tryon Theatre will be closed for holiday celebrations on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.