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Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)
Filmmaker(s): Ryan Coogler

Queen Ramonda, Shuri, M’Baku, Okoye and the Dora Milaje fight to protect their nation from intervening world powers in the wake of King T’Challa’s death. As the Wakandans strive to embrace their next chapter, the heroes must band together with the help of War Dog Nakia and Everett Ross and forge a new path for the kingdom of Wakanda.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)

A Hidden Nation

There seems no way to remark on this without anchoring it in what I believe is a new cinematic vocabulary. We all cheered when Gal Godot, in the first of that series, established a woman hero. But that character was spooky strange, literally born from a cartoonist’s sexual fetish, and designed on screen to maintain that ambiguity.

This, this is something quite different, at least for me, who was a young adult in the 70s and 80s. Who discovered the quiet power of black women holding families together in spite of absent black men. Women who almost define the American family in the face of the religious right who would cudgel the rest of us with their Taliban-like use of family to oppress.

Everything that is Marvel here is ordinary: the silly tech, the routine battle scenes, the colour and score. All of that smears across the franchise as a whole and is not unique here. What is unique I believe is that Disney magic of finding something real in the world to burnish and commercialise.

So I see this as both as a celebration of the the power of the black female-driven family, and an exploitation as well. From my perspective, I’ll accept the exploitation in exchange for the power of the notion — women taking their own, without sexual possession. I haven’t seen the other current ‘African women warrior’ movie, but suppose it to be less centred on family. I expect this notion of warrior motherhood to matter in what I now believe will be a cultural war in the US. And I’m thankful.

But holy cow, the cost of what we have to endure as a scientifically justified notion of world-building! In other Marvel properties, they elevate legend, or suppose magic. Or invoke some profound celestial force. We know it is silly. We know the force that drives, say the Thor franchise, is made up as they go, and we accept it because it provides a rationale for the moving colour.

But the rationale here is science, and conflating it with tech. MIT literally is a character here as we are introduced to what I suppose will be a recurring representative of ‘real tech’: a brilliant young black woman Tony Stark. Complete with Fast and Furious car and Iron Man suit for god’s sake.

The first Black Panther posited a world of technology where the citizens seem to be split between pastoral happy simpletons maintained by scientific geniuses who we never see, empowered by a unique metal. Is it the force of this bolide that has agency, like the force of Ms Marvel in Carol Danvers? Or is it just an accident of geography that a bright technorati exploit? You can’t have it both ways, but they do here — the underwater people are not explained as geniuses, just the lucky owners of the magic stuff.

Just as powerful as I believe the convention of the innate female force will change the US, is it worth the cost of taking the logic of the scientific soul away? Can a nation survive losing its ability to think?

Posted in 2022

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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