Monday, November 21, 2022

Wakanda Forever!

 (Guest post by Justin)

While I do not consider myself as someone with deep feelings and fandom for Hollywood, the passing of Chadwick Boseman shook me. I had loved the man for years as he powerfully portrayed many of my heroes such as Thurgood Marshall and Jackie Robinson in film. I assumed he would continue to carry the mantle of many of the phenomenal actors that came before him like Sydney Portie and Denzel Washington. He seemed poised to build on his phenomenal legacy for generations to come. But then, just like that, he was gone, leaving a massive hole in the hearts and minds of many of us – including the plot of a historic franchise. How do you replace a legend? You cannot. However, you can celebrate their life and you can honor them by building upon their legacy. That is what Ryan Coogler and the cast did in Wakanda Forever. Some of my impressions are below.

  • Losing someone is hard - There is no one way to deal with grief when you lose a loved one. The whole spectrum of grief is manifested by the family and friends of King T’Challa - Princess Shuri, Queen Ramonda, Nakia, Okoye, and M’Baku all deal with the loss in different ways. Ultimately, death and grief is hard and messy and processing it takes time. 

  • “Weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning." (Psalm 30:5) - As alluded to, the film shows how loss and grief is not a clean linear process (it takes more than a day), and it is something that will have resounding effects throughout one’s life. However, characters in the film still manifest joy at times as they process the grief that comes with losing a loved one (many manifest joy in King T-Challa’s funeral procession).
  • Black is beautiful, powerful, and worthy of emulation - This almost goes without saying, but this film, as well as the last, brings to light the beauty and power of black culture both in Wakanda & the US. Whether through traditional African ceremonies, language, clothing or pop culture, the experience and rich history of many in the African diaspora are centered and celebrated in ways rarely seen in traditional mainstream media.

  • Women are straight bosses - Whether it be some of Christ's most faithful disciples or the women in our own lives, we know who runs the show and makes the world go ‘round. The film celebrates and centers the power of black women – queens, princesses, military leaders and technological innovators who thrive in spite of the disproportion obstacles they have to face.
  • Imperialism has dire consequences - I know, shocker. We see in the film (and world history) the tragic consequences when colonizers move in and destroy civilization, leaving death and fear in their wake. The antagonism of Namor and his people is rooted in the abuse, subjugation, and displacement they endured. Imperialistic friction is also prevalent and exemplified by the efforts of other world leaders seeking to steal the resources of Wakanda.

  • “Villans” are people too - Although more of an anti-hero or antagonist than a true villain, like Killmongerer, Namor is a complex individual whose murderous actions are rooted in childhood trauma and a desire to protect his people. While you might not like the death and destruction caused, you can understand the “why” of his thinking and he comes off, dare I say, as sympathetic. 
  • Family is forever - As we saw in the first film, the Ancestral Plane in Wakanda Forever continues to reaffirm that family bonds are meant for more than just our mortal lives. Indeed, the communications from the ancestral plane provide key guidance for Princess Shuri and exemplify how loved ones continue to be invested in our personal well-being even when they are no longer with us physically.

For millions, particularly in the black community, Chadwick Bosemen, was viewed in the light of royalty for his iconic personae, life, and entertainment contributions. While not a perfect film (I’m hoping/expecting some of the plot holes to be filled by the next film), I believe it accomplished the nearly impossible task of mourning, celebrating, and building upon the legacy of one of the greatest entertainment icons of our time, while developing an engaging and sustainable storyline. (Remember, like everyone else, Chadwick’s death was a surprise to Ryan Coogler and the directing team and he had to scrap the already completed Black Panther 2 story/script and start again).

While I do not believe any of the characters in the film have the character strength and staying power of T'Challa (at least to this point) I think the runway is there for exceptional and engaging stories and characters as the franchise continues. While long (but not too much so for me), I see the film as preparatory, similar to Infinity War, that will allow for more exciting character and story exploration and development in future films 

While not present in the film and no longer living in this world, King T’Challa and Chadwick Bosman, respectively, will continue to have significant influence over the Black Panther franchise and individuals lives, including my own. In addition to his many other accomplishments, I am grateful for all that Chadwick brought to the franchise and his impact on the MCU and I am excited at what the future holds.

Rest in power, King.

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