Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (and the Issue with Marvel)


Cooper Milliken

Whenever you hear the word “corporation” what do you think of? The first thing that comes to mind, for me, is “Disney”. Disney is a borderline media monopoly that has more power over the media we consume than you probably know. Hulu? Majority owned by Disney. ESPN? Majority owned by Disney. Fox? Majority owned by Disney. ABC? Majority owned by Disney. Almost every piece of media that you consume from Star Wars to Jimmy Kimmel Live is probably owned or was almost owned by Disney. Although, it wasn’t always liked this, and in my opinion the media landscape was probably better for it. There was a wider variety of content, it was more interesting, and had a lot more…creative freedom. Disney has an image, a clean, fun, family friendly image, and if it were up to Disney they would make everything they own into a clean, opinionless product. Although, luckily enough, other companies own large portions of streaming services like Hulu or Fox Channels like FX. The Bear on Hulu? Sure, partially produced by Disney, but also having enough creative freedom and legal tape to stop Disney from saying “no, we only make products for children.” Although, not every creative endeavor is as lucky. One of the largest titles that has taken the toll from Disney’s oppression is Marvel. 

Recently, I watched Black Panther: Wakanda Forever as I, like many CHS Students, have been stuck at home due to bad weather. I sat down, opened my laptop, and watched all 164 minutes of this movie. By the end of the film I felt quite empty and disappointed as it had so much to live up to, so much to pay tribute to, but in the end it was such a base level Disney product that I couldn’t help, but obsess over what this movie could’ve been. It could have been a more meaningful tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman and it very clearly tries to be. Although the moments of meaningful reflection and thematic question are undercut by the rushed, factory-like process that the rest of this film obviously went through. Despite being almost three hours long, the film feels like it’s constantly running out of time, or having too much of it. It drags in the worst places, and rushes through the places that need much more time. 

Now, this is very clearly not due in part of the creatives behind this project. Ryan Coogler, director and screenwriter of the film, is a fantastic filmmaker. He continues to be in this film as he works with director of photography Autumn Durald Arkapaw to give audiences an abundance of beautiful, honest, and real moments. As well, everyone in the film does a fantastic job working with what they have. Letitia Wright, who I’m not a fan of, admittedly does a great job in the film encapsulating previous performances by Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan and turning them into her own nuanced performance. Angela Bassett also gave a good performance that somehow got her an Oscar Nomination. Newcomer to the MCU, Tenoch Huerta gave my favorite performance in the film as Namor, and was the best anti-hero of the 2022 superhero cinema landscape (boom, shots fired at Black Adam…more like Whack Adam). Everyone is doing their best in this film, and yet I still don’t particularly like it. 

The film, not by part of the people who actually took the time to make it, is watered down and drowned by the classic conventions and rules that Disney puts on their products. Because despite the fact that this film is preceded by the death of one of this generation’s most fantastic actors, they don’t care. This film is still a product. A product that was rushed, a product that had moments of absolutely horrid CGI, bland dialogue, set ups for future Marvel (™) products, and a manipulative marketing strategy. I mean, Jesus Christ, could they have played up Boseman’s death anymore than they did? The producers and the CEO’s behind this film don’t care about artistry or passion or love they simply care about the money they put forth on their hundreds of projects and the millions, no, billions of dollars they make back from consumers. 

And I wouldn’t be so upset it was something like Ant-Man. Ant-Man is a nothing character in the MCU. His movies haven’t had the impact or care put behind them for anyone to get mad at the fact that his movies are just “dumb fun” or whatever. Those are genuinely bad movies and that has nothing to do with the fact that there was studio interference more so just the fact that Payton Reed is not a good director and everyone except maybe Paul Rudd is just there for the paycheck. Meanwhile with Black Panther, Ryan Coogler actually cares and the cultural impact that the first film had can not be understated. Black Panther absolutely changed the Black community and that was in part to Ryan Coogler’s fantastic writing shining brighter than the greedy creatives above him. The sequel should’ve been left alone, but instead I feel like Coogler was bombarded with more grubby, greedy hands the second time around. It’s a sad thing, because this movie should’ve just been left alone. It should’ve just been Coogler and his team of incredible creatives working together to create a beautiful send off to Chadwick Boseman. 

But instead…it’s a product. A product promoting Ironheart…coming soon to Disney Plus. A product promoting Namor The Submariner coming soon to a theater near you…a product promoting The Thunderbolts and Black Widow…now streaming on Disney Plus. It’s sad, it’s really, really sad, and I hope I never get the chance to work on a Marvel movie. Especially not if their process is anything like it is now. Whenever I make my movies, I will refuse to be silenced, I will refuse anyone to be silenced in my industry. There’s a lot of manipulation, black mail, and hate in the film industry, but that won’t stand on my sets, in my conference rooms, and on the red carpets for my movies. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is, unfortunately, a 2.5 out of 5 paws.