BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER. In this widely anticipated sequel, director Ryan Coogler faces the impossible task of honoring the legacy of recently deceased global hero Chadwick Boseman, while directing not only a cast of grieving actors, but also meeting expectations of Marvel movie fans. In this context, the movie becomes an enigmatic embodiment of grief itself, an albeit chaotic but riveting tribute to the life and legacy of Boseman as the Black Panther, and a testament to the resilience of Black women.
I had the honor of viewing this film with fellow Black community members and their families (who came in all shades) at an event hosted by Black Humboldt, which included a dinner by Mother's Cooking Experience at Northtown Coffee, similar to a previous showing of The Woman King. At the dinner before the movie, the café quickly filled up with both smiling faces of families eager to see the movie and the aroma of Afro-Cuban cuisine. As the night went on and anticipation grew, I continued to catch glimpses of people checking their watches in hope of good seats at the Minor Theatre.
The film opens with the Wakandan celebration of life honoring their fallen protector, the Black Panther. The ceremony closely mirrors African diasporan traditions and in a predominantly Black audience, many of us felt suddenly immersed in ancestral memory with an emotional and visually captivating sequence enlivened by sounds of drumming, and the smiling and weeping faces of dancing Wakandan tribal members in the white garments of grief. The opening stirs feelings of nostalgia and longing for a home I have never experienced, as well as the ache of personal losses I experienced earlier this year. All this is compounded by the myriad of images of Chadwick Boseman that flash on the screen before culminating in the introductory Marvel logo.
Angela Basset's portrayal of the powerful African Queen is awe inspiring as the grieving mother gracefully fills her son and King's role. She confronts the United Nations about its recent desperate attempts to steal and mine vibranium (previously thought to be unique to Wakanda), leaving the assumptive council speechless. However, even one year after her son's death, death cannot stop time in the face of increasing demands. Among those is
a whirlwind of political drama that leaves King T'Challa's grieving little sister Princess Shuri (Letitia Wright) at the center of it all, where we begin to see her develop into an unexpected heroine. Throughout, she struggles to come to terms with not only her brother's death but other unexpected losses as they face threats from a newly introduced civilization. Some daunting elements here are overcome by our wonder at God King Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejía) and his underwater nation of Talokan. There is somewhat of a breather in the escalation here, too, as we dive under water to briefly explore this kingdom and learn about Namor's mystical rise to power. Shuri is challenged and supported by several characters, including Chief M'baku (Winston Duke), warrior Okoye (Danai Gurira), Nakia (Lupita Nyango), and the young and brilliant scientist Ironheart (Dominique Thorne) — their exchanges are a dance that leave one's head whirling. The complex and talented cast gives everyone in the audience someone to identify with as we navigate the new civilization colliding with Wakanda in Talokan's ongoing battle with the surface world.
The chaos of the political strife the Wakandans and Talokans face from the exploitative surface world reflects ongoing narratives in our world that feel similarly daunting and at times unresolvable. Alongside the grief, this real-world theme gives the plot a necessary grounding point amid an otherwise fantastical world of Afro-Futurism and mysticism. Following suit with other Marvel movies, the plot is at times convoluted but a few larger themes emerge and seem likely pivotal to the next movie in the series.
After the last few years in the real world, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever serves as a much-needed grieving tool for those who have been touched by death. It truly honors our fallen Black Panther by highlighting the effects of his absence and the strong Black women in his life left behind to pick up the pieces. Young women all over the world will be inspired by the multi-dynamic heroines in roles widely played by men. With the support of her community, Shuri, the top scientist of the high-tech nation of Wakanda, also becomes a peace-making ambassador and lethal warrior, reminding us all that it is often the most painful experiences that bring the greatest potential out in us, if we allow them to. PG13. 116M. BROADWAY (3D), FORTUNA, MILL CREEK (3D), MINOR.
— Aundrea Stuckey (aka Aundrea All'Love, she/her) is a culture bridging activist, co-leader of Art Representaiton & Culture, and Director of Youth Art Will Succeed. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Instagram @youth.art.will.succeed and @art.representation.culture.
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For showtimes call: Broadway Cinema (707) 443-3456; Fortuna Theatre (707) 725-2121; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Minor Theatre (707) 822-3456.