Yes, this new trailer for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever looks spectacular. It’s more conventional in structure (and exposition) than the jaw-dropping teaser, but that’s how this works. It lays out the plot (those T’Challa left behind face off against Namor while the outside world schemes against the potentially vulnerable Wakanda).
It gives plenty of screentime to Tenoch Huerta’s marquee baddie. His ocean master wreaking havoc on the surface world (yes, these comic book plots can’t help but blend) joins Disney’s tradition of thirst-quenching villains. The overall palate seems like an angry rebuttal to accusations that recent MCU movies have become visually drab. I’m curious to what extent it will play in the whole ‘grimmer, darker sequel that challenges the simplistic morality of its crowdpleasing predecessor’ box since the first Black Panther flirted with that narrative.
As for how it will perform, it’s just a question of whether it earns ‘all the money’ or must settle for ‘the vast majority of the money.’ If it merely plays like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (-37% domestic but -28% worldwide), it’ll still gross $441 million domestic and (minus China, presumably) $950 million worldwide. That feels like the realistic worst-case-scenario, and quite a few sequels to well-liked predecessors (Star Trek Into Darkness, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, The Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Avengers: Age of Ultron, etc.) gross less domestically but more overseas for relatively over/under global totals compared to the respective first flick.
Absent Covid, this would have happened with Wonder Woman 1984, which is why I continue to argue that it shouldn’t be counted as a strike against DC Films. But I digress.
However, the presumption is that Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will continue the MCU’s tradition of breakout sequels, a considerable part of their ongoing success. What would be a significant upswing for any other franchise (say, Thor: The Dark World earning 13% more domestically and 43% more worldwide than the first Thor) is par for the course. Not to state the obvious, but Black Panther was a critically acclaimed, Oscar-winning mega-smash whose relative popularity among general audiences hasn’t diminished over the last four years.
It earned $700 million domestic from a $242 million Fri-Mon debut and $1.346 billion worldwide. It sold $105 million worth of DVDs and Blu-rays in North America (more than Civil War and Age of Ultron and most big titles I looked up from the last several years) and was (so says sources) Netflix’sNFLX +1.5% most-watched movie in 2018.
That Chadwick Boseman died of cancer in August 2020 casts a skewed pall over the film. Unlike Furious 7, Star Wars: The Last Jedi or The Dark Knight, Black Panther 2 explicitly acknowledges the death of its onscreen title character (and, by proxy, the actor).
Television shows, like NewsRadio and Eight Simple Rules, have worked a shocking death of a significant cast member into the ongoing narrative, but this is uncharted territory for a blockbuster theatrical. Wakanda Forever would always have been a super-smash had Boseman again starred. I remain curious whether the extent to which the film acts (speculation, obviously) as a wake/funeral for its late protagonist (think, relatively speaking, the post “Death of Superman” arc, fittingly titled “Funeral for a Friend”) makes it more cathartic/crowdpleasing or an emotionally tougher sit for theoretical repeat viewings. I don’t know.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Black Panther: Wakanda Forever outearned its predecessor domestically and worldwide, give or take China and Russia. If you want my irresponsibly bold prediction, I see it outgrossing Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water in North America, following an opening on par with Spider-Man: No Way Home ($260 million). The Way of Water should still rule worldwide, especially if it plays in China. Frozen II legged out to $477 million domestic from a $130 million debut in November of 2019, so we should not panic if it “only” opens to Thor: Love and Thunder or Jurassic World Dominion-levels (over/under $145 million). Unlike four years ago, nobody’s even trying to put up tentpole competition (RIP, Annihilation, A Wrinkle in Time, Red Sparrow, Tomb Raider and Pacific Rim: Uprising).
But, c’mon, what regular moviegoer isn’t going to line up for this one? I mean, aside from folks truly burned out on superhero movies and/or racists, but you wouldn’t want to sit next to the latter demographic anyway. Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever stars Angela Bassett, Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke, Florence Kasumba, Tenoch Huerta, Dominique Thorne (as, eventually, Iron Heart) and Martin Freeman (as I presume, the next Black Panther). It opens November 11, three weeks after Black Adam and Ticket to Paradise and followed only (among tentpoles) by Walt Disney’sDIS +3% Strange World over Thanksgiving weekend. All three November/December tentpoles (Black Panther 2, Strange World and Avatar 2) come from Disney. Nice of them to show up at the turn of the tide. Hopefully, they will finish what Godzilla and King Kong started.