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Opens November 11
It seems silly in retrospect, but Black Panther as a movie wasn’t a sure bet before it was released in 2018. Then it made over $1.3 billion internationally, making it the second highest-grossing film of the year (after Marvel brethren Avengers: Infinity War), the highest-grossing film from a Black director, and at one point the ninth highest-grossing movie of all time (it’s now at #14). Then it became the first comic book movie nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, where it still picked up three awards for score, production design, and costumes (hell yeah, Ruth E. Carter). Aside from the box office and accolades, it also happens to be a sensational movie, one that proves that whatever version of “Hollywood” you believe in should stop underestimating non-white audiences.
Then in 2020, actor Chadwick Boseman died from colon cancer, leaving the sequel without its lead character: T’Challa, the king of the African country of Wakanda. Coogler (Oscar Grant biopic Fruitvale Station, the franchise-resuscitating Creed; both excellent) considered leaving the franchise and filmmaking entirely when he heard the news. Instead of throwing in the towel, though, Coogler and the team rebuilt the narrative as a continuation of the story and a tribute to Boseman, T’Challa, and the community.
The sequel actively concerns a nation in mourning, putting Wakanda in the crosshairs of invading forces. The first film’s biggest strength was the depth of the ensemble—one that includes Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett, and Winston Duke—so I think the film is in good hands, regardless of what it does for the MCU’s bottom line.
(On a personal note, director/co-writer Ryan Coogler and I went to the same high school. He was two years behind me, very kind, and very well-liked, and I deeply appreciate the Oakland sequences in the film.)
📸: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever / Ark Lodge Cinema