Updated Nov 13, 2022 - Economy

"Wakanda Forever" reimagines an untold future

Photo Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios. Photos: Jesse Holland, Sheree Renee Thomas

Marvel’s “Black Panther” is viewed by many as a win for the culture that T'Challa and his community represent. What happens when the actor who played T'Challa is gone?

Why it matters:Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”, the long-awaited sequel to Marvel’s first “Black Panther” movie, is projected to be hugely successful, capitalizing on the popularity that created Black America's big screen hero.

Driving the news: As of Sunday, the movie had earned $180 million across North American theaters since its release last week, making it the second opening of the year. Overseas, it brought in an additional $150 million from 50 territories, bringing its worldwide total to $330 million.

The intrigue: “Wakanda Forever” had to move the franchise with a new leader after Chadwick Boseman died of colon cancer in 2020. The beloved actor played T’Challa in the original film.

  • Women are expected to play heightened roles in the new film.

What they're saying: “Wakanda Forever” is “something unique” and the sequel “puts Black women first and foremost in a movie,” Jesse Holland, author of Black Panther: Who is the Black Panther?, told Axios.

  • Audiences will see greater representation of the Dora Milaje, the skilled female warriors of Wakanda, he said
  • “Outside of Storm (Marvel’s X-Men), who has never been the center of any movie, there’s been very few black women portrayed as powerful, independent superheroes.”

Flashback: Marvel originally introduced the Black Panther, one of its first Black superheroes. in 1966. That's a year after Malcolm X was killed and President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act.

  • Black Panther first appeared in Fantastic Four No. 52 and joined the Avengers in 1968.
  • “This is, frankly, why Afrofuturism began,” Holland said.

Context: Afrofuturism describes an alternative place for Black people in space or a fantasy setting, or in relation to technology that allows one to escape slavery and discrimination.

Between the lines: The new film pushes the limits amid persistent resistance to diversity embraced on the big screen, Sheree Renee Thomas, author of Black Panther: Panther's Rage, told Axios.

  • Even in science fiction worlds, outrage surfaced when Disney announced the new live-action version "Little Mermaid" would swap out the mermaid’s famous blue eyes and red hair for the features of Black actress Halle Bailey.
  • “Mermaids were Black. Ancient stories, religious beliefs about merpeople; it’s not a European invention.”

Of note: The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture announced it will debut the exhibition, “Afrofuturism: A History of Black Futures.”

  • One of the highlights will be the Black Panther costume worn by Boseman.

Go deeper: Afrofuturism: The rise of Black science fiction and fantasy

Editor's note: This story has been updated with box office figures released Sunday.

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