Thursday, August 24, 2023
Mackay and Whitsunday Life
When Black Panther arrived in theatres in 2018, black audiences felt they had been given their mainstream cinema voice. Marvel, at the height of its powers, had given their culture the platform it deserved.
There had been arthouse films before it, like 2016’s Moonlight, or more mainstream ventures like Jordan Peele’s Get Out, and audiences were experiencing a renaissance for black cinema – particularly the American kind. But Black Panther was the one that picked up the ball, and Marvel had a touchdown. A huge commercial and critical success and following it up was always going to be a challenge.
What doubled the difficulty of the task was the death of Black Panther’s star, Chadwick Boseman.
Ryan Coogler, who returns to direct Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is hyper aware of this. He has a balancing act that now demands several things: The action needs to be exceptional, the stakes higher, the culture vibrant, and it needs to be a poignant tribute. But, of course, if that weren’t difficult enough, Coogler is tasked with maintaining the tired Marvel demand that all things must serve The Franchise.
The Franchise demands toy sales, it demands comic sales, it demands more box-office, more tie-ins, more sequels. And so, here we are, two years removed from Boseman’s death with a sequel that, yes, audiences asked for. But was it in this circumstance?
I don’t think any director would envy him for the tearing pain the directions his studio, his actors, and his conscience were tugging him in throughout production.
How does Black Panther: Wakanda Forever fair, though? Its performances are its beating heart; its actors are grieving and the moments where Boseman is remembered are its most remarkable and touching. That heart is surrounded by a standard Marvel film body. One that is serviceable but could have been much more had Coogler been free of commercial constraints. Grief overshadows this superhero sequel.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (PG-13) is showing at the Bowen Summergarden Cinema from Saturday, December 3.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is serviceable Marvel cinema with a strong, sombre story at its core