‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ scores biggest November opening weekend with $180M. I loved this film.
Let’s talk about ‘Wakanda Forever,’ its hidden star and the lessons ‘Star Wars’ could’ve learned from it. PLUS: Dave Chappelle hosts ‘SNL,’ and the 8- to 10-year plan for DC Studios.
I saw Black Panther: Wakanda Forever on Friday night, and — wow — did I love this movie. I fully admit that I’m already inclined to like a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, but I wasn’t expecting a mediation on grieving and vengeance and legacy at this level. I can’t begin to put myself in the place of Ryan Coogler and the returning cast and crew who lives out their mourning over the loss of Chadwick Boseman through this film.
Is Wakanda Forever perfect? No. (There are like two perfect films in the world: The Social Network and Arrival.) But it’s fantastic. There are going to be spoilers in this non-review discussion, so beware. I’ll give you this video clip to jump into the next section if you want to avoid them.
One of the things that amazed me while seeing Wakanda Forever is how it’s absolutely Letitia Wright’s movie. And, yes, she is the new Black Panther. Marvel Studios walked a weird line when promoting Wakanda Forever, never confirming that Wright’s Shuri assumed the mantle of the Black Panther. (At least one Lego set spoiled this months ago, even though she was always the obvious choice to succeed T’Challa.) Keeping that element out of all the teasers, trailers and commercials for Wakanda Forever meant it was impossible to show that this movie is Shuri’s story. I wish Marvel had shown its hand on this one so that Wright and Shuri could rightfully take the spotlight. (I dunno, maybe Marvel and Disney were worried about the vaccine controversy surrounding Wright, and felt it was best to focus on the overall experience of the film?)
Wakanda Forever simultaneously shows characters like Shuri and Angela Bassett’s Queen Ramonda mourning the loss of their brother and son while not shying away from the fact that Wright, Bassett and the rest of the cast (Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke are also great) and crew are working through their grief over losing Boseman. There’s no way someone can watch these characters hold a funeral for T’Challa without thinking of the weight that scene doubly carries.
When Carrie Fisher passed away before the filming of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Disney, Lucasfilm and JJ Abrams made the decision to repurpose unused footage of Fisher from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and cram in into the movie either by CGI tricks or by writing lines around the lines they had from the late actress.
It was the worst possible way to deal with Fisher’s death.
I fully believe that Episode IX was always supposed to be Leia’s film. The Force Awakens was Harrison Ford and Han Solo’s and Star Wars: The Last Jedi was Mark Hamill and Luke Skywalker’s. Leia and her son, Kylo Ren/Ben Solo, were on a collision course. We saw a bit of that in The Rise of Skywalker, with Leia using the last of her energy to … send Kylo Ren a message? Allow him to be stabbed by Rey?
For awhile now, I’ve said that Lucasfilm should have recast Leia in order to properly tell the end of the character’s story. Yes, it’s a bit sacrilegious to suggest that anyone could replace Fisher, but you can’t tell me sound-clips Leia was a respectful farewell.
With Wakanda Forever now fresh in my mind, Lucasfilm should’ve gone the route Marvel Studios went with Boseman’s death. They could’ve told a story that allowed characters like Rey and Chewbacca to mourn the death of the galaxy’s princess and general while giving the cast and audiences that cathartic opportunity too. The film could’ve even used Leia’s death as a rallying moment for the Resistance. (This may have been the way Colin Trevorrow’s scuttled Duel of Fates take on Episode IX dealt with Fisher’s death.) It would’ve been a lot more believable than a massive fleet showing up in the nick of time because Lando asked them after they all ignored Leia’s plea for help in The Last Jedi.
While Wakanda Forever is Wright’s film, Bassett is by far its passionate, broken heart. Many of her most powerful scenes have been featured in the trailers, but they still pack a punch during the movie.
Then we have the man bringing Namor to the big screen. Wright and Bassett made this film their own, and they were joined by Tenoch Huerta doing the same with Namor. I love this version of the character. I can’t wait to see him again. (Fantastic Four, maybe?) Huerta oozed charisma with a touch of menace as Namor. This guy deserves to be a star. The overworked special effects teams that brought the character to life deserve a ton of credit for making a character who effortlessly moves between the water and air while defying physics real.
Ludwig Göransson turned in another masterpiece with his Wakanda Forever score. Disney is lucky to have him working on their MCU movies and Star Wars shows. “Namor’s Throne” was a standout among standout to me. I still can’t place the vibe of this one — is it old-school Godzilla scores?
Michael B. Jordan’s cameo was unfortunately not a surprise for me. This one had been spoiled on Twitter months ago (someone should really look into that Twitter …), but it was a cool twist to see Killmonger return in an unexpected moment. Shuri’s choice of Black Panther suit — those gold accents reminiscent of Killmonger’s Black Panther suit — was one of the countless many smart costume design choices by Oscar-winner Ruth E. Carter and her team.
As for Wakanda Forever’s mid-credits scene? I’m going to believe that there are no plans for T’Challa and Nakia’s son to play a major role in the MCU anytime soon. It’s just nice to know there’s another T’Challa out there.
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Weekend of Nov. 11-13, 2022
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (NA)
Weekend gross: $180M / Total domestic gross: $180M / Percent drop: NA
Wakanda Forever didn’t match Black Panther’s lofty domestic box office debut mark, coming short of the $200 million mark. A $180 million opening weekend, though, is still no small feat. If this estimate holds up, Wakanda Forever’s opening weekend will be the thirteenth biggest in domestic box office history. (An extra $3 million more, and the film passes Incredibles 2’s $182.7 million. One million dollars less, and the film slips behind Captain America: Civil War’s $179.1 million debut.) Wakanda Forever’s opening weekend is the eighth biggest among Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, trailing Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ $187.4 million. Wakanda Forever’s $180 million debut now stands as the biggest for a November release, passing the $158.1 million grossed by The Hunger Games: Catching Fire in 2013.
Black Adam (1)
Weekend gross: $8.6M / Total domestic gross: $151.1M / Percent drop: -52.9
The new DC Studios leadership is hard at work trying to fix this, but seeing Wakanda Forever outgross Black Adam’s entire domestic run in one weekend shows how far the DCU still has to go to catch up with the MCU. (And yes, comparing these numbers are exactly what the folks at Warner Bros. Discovery are doing.) If you want to look at worldwide numbers, Black Adam currently stands at $352 million. Wakanda Forever? Already at $330 million worldwide.
Ticket to Paradise (2)
Weekend gross: $6.1M / Total domestic gross: $56.5M / Percent drop: -28.6
Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile (6)
Weekend gross: $3.2M / Total domestic gross: $40.8M / Percent drop: -5
Weekend gross: $2.3M / Total domestic gross: $102.8M / Percent drop: -41.5
An ‘eight- to ten-year plan’ for DC Studios
If you’ve been following Warner Bros. and how it handles its DC superhero movies over the past decade or so, you know that they’ve boomeranged back and forth between trying to copy the Marvel Cinematic Universe and allowing their films to stand alone without necessarily supporting an overarching narrative.
We’re now back in the cinematic universe camp, with new DC Studios heads James Gunn and Peter Safran discussing part of their plans for DC in a virtual town hall last week.
“This was such a unique opportunity to tell one great overarching story,” Safran told participants. “One beautiful big story across film, television, gaming, live-action and animation.”
“We spent the past couple days with a group of some of the best thinkers in the industry, the best writers in the industry starting to map out that eight- to 10-year plan of what it’s going to look like in theater, in TV, in animation, across the board for these characters,” Gunn added.
While I’m happy to see Gunn and Safran trying to create a roadmap for the DCU, we’ve been down this road before. (Remember the infamous earnings call where Warner Bros. announced a ten-movie plan for what was then the DCEU, only for a handful of those movies to ever actually release?) I guess things couldn’t go any more poorly this time than the first time Warner Bros. tried to apply the MCU model to their superhero films (and animation and gaming!). At least this time we get to watch Gunn apply his unique perspective to these movies and characters.
Speaking of these characters, Gunn also specifically highlighted two of them during the town hall. “I love Superman, and I love Batman,” he said. “I love their interaction.”
I dunno if we need to see Superman and Batman together again for a bit. (That actually goes directly against my advice for rescuing the Superman franchise …)
Community movie: ‘It was truly so last minute. Everything is last minute.’
It was surreal when the cast of Community suddenly announced at the end of September that the long-promised movie was finally happening. It turns out we weren’t the only ones surprised by the speed it came together.
“Joel McHale started it, texted me. But it was truly so last minute. Everything is last minute,” Danny Pudi told GQ. “I get a text from my agents saying, ‘It’s going to be announced tomorrow morning.’ Then I'm talking to Joel and we’re figuring it out, and he's telling me what time he's going to post.”
My biggest question about the Community movie? Is Donald Glover returning? Because if he’s not, I don’t think moving forward with the movie is a good idea.
Community creator Dan Harmon realized the same years after Glover left the show. “I needed to convince myself that Donald leaving wasn’t the death of the show,” he once told The Hollywood Reporter, “but now that it’s all over, I think we can agree that it was.”
Thankfully Harmon believes that Glover will return for the Community movie, telling Variety: “For lack of a better word, there was a ball fumbled … [Glover] is down to clown. Man, I would not want to think about making [the movie] without Donald.”
Kevin Conroy dies at 66
Kevin Conroy, the longtime voice behind the animated Batman, died on Nov. 10. He was 66. From The New York Times’ obituary for Conroy:
Without ever showing his face, Mr. Conroy spent more time playing Batman than any actor who donned the character’s signature cape and mask onscreen. His distinctively deep and raspy voice helped define the character in nearly 60 different productions, including 15 films, 15 animated series that spanned almost 400 episodes, and two dozen video games, according to DC Comics.
“I’ve been really fortunate to have gotten Batman, because he’s a character that’s just evolved,” Mr. Conroy told The New York Times in 2016. “It’s just been a character where you can ride that wave for 24 years. Keeping him alive, keeping him from getting just dark and boring and broody, is the challenge.”
I hate to admit it, but I’ve never actually watched Batman: The Animated Series. Even though it was on Fox Kids, it wasn’t a show we were allowed to watch when I was a kid. (I used to bike over to a friend’s house to watch Power Rangers.) It’s a show I should really try to squeeze in at some point considering how important it is to the evolution of Batman and for telling a story through animation.
Saturday Night Live transforms into a different show when Dave Chappelle hosts. Saturday Night Live With Dave Chappelle. Dave Chappelle Presents Saturday Night Live. Most hosts (even comedians) stick to the routine: Five- to ten-minute monologue. Sketches written by SNL writers. Maybe recurring characters if this isn’t your first time hosting.
Full fifteen minutes of standup to start the show (which oddly takes SNL back to its roots). Intros straight out of Chappelle’s Show — that then lead to sketches with characters from Chappelle’s Show. Smoking a cigarette the entire time.
While Chappelle showed enough restraint to not make transphobic jokes or comments during his monologue, he did thinly complain about how he can’t make those jokes.
“It shouldn’t be this scary to talk. About anything,” Chappelle said at the end of his monologue. “It’s making my job incredibly difficult, and to be honest to you, I’m getting sick of talking to a crowd like this.”
I’m going to leave James Acaster’s bit on comedians making trans jokes here before jumping into a few sketches from this weekend’s SNL.
OK, so the sketches …
I’m struggling to figure out what the point was of this sketch. A ton of work must’ve gone into it based on how perfect of a recreation SNL pulled off when it comes to the House of the Dragon costumes and set. But the entire point was “hey, you remember these characters from Chappelle’s Show?” It’s 2022. Loved James Austin Johnson as Viserys, though.
Sarah Sherman seems like a pure weirdo, but I love her energy on SNL, especially when it’s paired against Colin Jost.
Molly Kearney has already had a few standout moments during their freshman season of SNL. (Loved the sketch from a few weeks ago about Lorne Michaels having them try to kill Vladimir Putin.) Kearney often reminds me of Chris Farley, especially when they’re playing panicked.
“Dave’s not even resting. He’s right there.”
“That’s what a potato hole is, bitch.”
This one was worth it for the reveal alone.
SNL also revealed that Keke Palmer will host its Dec. 3 episode.
John Wick: Chapter 4
The fight choreography in the John Wick films is on another level — and it looks like John Wick: Chapter 4 is going to take that choreography even higher. This trailer has people deflecting bullets with a sword!
John Wick: Chapter 4 opens on March 24, 2023.
“So far this episode has focused on a poll and a crumbling boat,” my wife remarked halfway through us watching the first episode of the new season of The Crown. Amazing how some sweeping music in the background over a shot of a newspaper can add weight to this storyline.
The second episode of this season was much stronger than the first, thanks to Elizabeth Debicki’s Diana and Jonathan Pryce’s Prince Philip (It feels like a million years ago when Matt Smith was portraying Philip.)
And, wow, did King Charles III luck out in The Crown casting Dominic West to portray him in the show’s fifth season. Elizabeth Debicki absolutely nails it as Diana, though. (Even Diana biographer Andrew Morton says he was “left me breathless” and “was shaken” by Debicki’s performance.) I don’t know how The Crown cast such a perfect Diana while biffing it on Charles.
It’s always fun to see which actors pop up in roles during this show. Over the first four episodes, you get Timothy Dalton and Johnny Lee Miller.
The Great British Bake Off
Totally forget to include in recent Playlist segments, but we have been watching Season 13 on a weekly basis, usually on Saturday’s while baby naps. (We’re a ways off from when we once binge-watched full seasons all weekend long.)
This season really hasn’t connected for me. There was never a breakout personality. The highlight was without a doubt the hilarious disaster of Mexican Week.
How Hot Ones turned spicy chicken wings into celebrity interview gold (Natalie Jarvey, Vanity Fair)
Amy Schneider and Matt Amodio browsed Reddit before their big Jeopardy! tournament (Devon Ivie, Vulture)
Tenoch Huerta’s role in Wakanda Forever is a huge moment for Latinos (David Betancourt, The Washington Post)
Sex and Revolution: ‘Andor’ showrunner Tony Gilroy on challenging the limits of the Star Wars universe (Adam B. Vary, Variety)
Inside look at Andor’s Narkina 5
Lucasfilm posted a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of Andor’s Narkina 5 prison. It’s still wild to me to see this show building massive sets while the Disney+ shows that came before it were so devoted to The Volume.
I know I sound like one of those people who bashed the prequels for using green and blue screen (while they also built a bunch of sets and miniatures too), but these Star Wars shows really did become too reliant on what can be a pivotal piece of filmmaking technology — when used with restraint.