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Thread: BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER (Ryan Coogler 2022)

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    BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER (Ryan Coogler 2022)

    RYAN COOGLER: BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER (2022)


    ANGELA BASSETT IN BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER

    No, Lucinda, there ain't no T'Challa no more

    The Black Panther sequel staggers from the loss of its star, the brilliant Chadwick Boseman, whose already astonishing career was brought to a premature end in 2020 by cancer. We know young Black moviegoers were ecstatic in 2018 to get a Marvel Comic Universe Black version: this writer saw the long lines of them. Now they're stuck with a limp, hollow sequel made in the absence of their star that's strongest in its focus on grieving - but that too often is posturing. One has recourse to Armand White again this time, and he has the invective ready. "Has any other social group ever had its history diminished to comic-book trivia and then [been] encouraged to take that insult as a compliment?"

    Armand's conservative horror here, with the sequel, is that the regal African sistahs - who already reigned, sartorially, in the first film - now appear to be going to take over. "T’Challa’s death equals the demise of black patriarchy, to be replaced by matriarchal majesty," he guesses, perhaps correctly.

    What is being done to the young Black public here, substituting fantasy for their real African American history of slavery and struggle, is one question, brought up by White about Black Panther I. Another is what's happened to the director, Ryan Coogler, who started out with harsh history, then realistic uplift with, first, the story of the notorious 2009 Oakland, California BART police killing of a young Black man, Oscar Grant, at an transit station (Fruitvale Station, 2013), and, second, a rousing personal boxing epic (Creed, 2015) focused on a Black athlete and inspired by Rocky. Then, he latched onto a comic book franchise which, even if a Black version, was serving white corporate business.

    The range of critical opinion on Black Panther II varies from admiration to approval to boredom (which adds up to a Metascore of 67; Black Panther I's was 88). The N.Y. Times' A.O. Scott says this is "a Marvel movie to be sure," but "a pretty interesting one," "partly because it's a Ryan Coogler film," which he says means an"interplay of genre touchstones." The Irish Times' Donald Clarke appears slightly bored but sympathetic ("Coogler and his team have pulled together a functional time-passer in difficult circumstances") except for admiring the fashions (as I did and still do) - "a gorgeous exercise in Afrofuturist chic." The music, Clarke credits with interweaving "ethnic elements" with "triumphant orchestral swirls" and he calls the actors "consistently strong" too (and Angela Bassett, Letitia Wright, and Lupita Nyong'o are great; Isaach de Bankolé is back too). Clarke's review is a critic doing a job writing about filmmakers doing their job. There's no fun here. The thrill is gone. The subtitle "Wakanda Forever" gives it away: the thrill is gone but we will still be loyal to the brand.

    The first Black Panther arrived with éclat - and Chadwick Boseman (who also, I feel, like Ryan Coogler, was nonetheless being used), and it proceeded with oddball, interesting transitions from scene to scene, with the nice, if wishful-thinking, idea that a small African nation could offer munificent aid to urban American Black ghettos, and with touches of humor along with the posing and the machismo and the panache. The new movie lumbers along with uncertain rhythms, out-of-place scenes, grief, and too much length.

    The justification for that length is a new villain for Wakanda to contend with, Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejía), the pointy-eared and wingèd-ankled king of the undersea world of Talokan and a hero who goes back to 1930's Marvel prehistory and now feeds into an overcomplicated new plotline that involves an MIT student, a vibranium-detecting device, and a proposed alliance against oppression of Wakanda with Talokan, which was a nation of indigenous resisters to Spanish colonialism. And so on. But this is not going to wake you up if you are bored.

    For young Black superhero fans and Marvel completists only - even if there has been much worse.

    Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, 161 mins., opened in US theaters Nov. 11, 2022. It later will be on Disney+.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 11-14-2022 at 01:56 AM.

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