When it first came out, the Marvel movie Black Panther (2018) was lauded as a cinematic uprising against the racial hierarchies of Hollywood, upending ideas of sovereignty and development that were based in Europe and mesmerising spectators with the most spectacular entertainment. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) has its job cut out for it in terms of living up to sky-high expectations and delivering cinematic ecstasy on par with its acclaimed predecessor, a mission it succeeds in thanks to its massive scope and potent emotional core.
The premise of the movie superimposes the death of Chadwick Boseman, who portrayed the title role in the 2018 movie, over the story with T’Challa’s (or the Black Panther’s) passing due to an unidentified illness, making Wakanda appear defenceless. As Shuri (Letitia Wright) rushes to artificially manufacture a plant that could have saved T’Challa’s life, Ramonda (Angela Bassett) protects Wakanda against external pressures to share its deposits of vibranium, a fictitious metal of tremendous value in the Marvel universe. International forces are sent out in an effort to obtain vibranium from other sources, but when they run upon a hostile undersea civilization, they start to suspect Wakanda.
If Marvel distinguished itself from DC during the Golden and Silver Ages of Comics (1956–1975) by creating flawed and human superheroes and fleshing out organic journeys, it is reasonable to claim that the most recent film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe expertly continues this history. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a very sentimental film with a pulsating emotional core.
We may need to have two interpretations in mind at once when we consider the subversiveness of the Black Panther franchise. Herbert Marcuse, a philosopher, claims in One Dimensional Man that in contemporary industrial society, the establishment and its opposition are reconciled in status quo-preserving structures, rendering meaningful resistance impossible. The films in question, which support progressive politics despite being created by and integrated into the hegemonic power structures of Hollywood, may be viewed via the prism of this logic. People who recognised the absence of revolutionary energy in just absorbing popular media expressed scepticism over Black Panther (2018).
The second interpretation of the movie is a positive one that recognises the cultural contribution the franchise provides by, at the very least, agitating the status quo, if not shaking it up, and sparking discussions that might help us move toward a better future.