Three years ago, Black Panther made history when it became the first comic book and superhero film to be nominated for Best Picture, along with 7 other nominations, including three wins for best Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, and Best Original Score. Now that its sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, is out and met with great critical acclaim and is breaking box-office records and has a very awards-friendly release date, can we expect this film to match, if not exceed, its predecessors awards potential? Probably not, but I will discuss its awards potential anyway.
To start, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is poised to be a strong player below the line. The two categories that I am confident this movie will land nominations in is Best Costume Design and Best Original Song. Ruth E. Carter, who won for the previous film, really upped her game here. Everything that made the costumes so vibrant and unique that only added to the world building of Wakanda is doubled here, alongside some stunning new work for the world building of Talokan. As for song, Rihanna’s tribute to Chadwick Boseman, “Lift Me Up”, while not the typical kind Oscar winner due to its subtler nature, I can definitely see landing Rihanna her first Oscar. It services the ending of the film very well as it gets to the credits and leaves the audience feeling emotional as we see clips of Boseman to the opening to the song. Even if it may not win, I think Rihanna should feel a sense of security that she’ll receive her first Oscar nomination.
As previously mentioned, the last film won Best Production Design and Best Original Score, and while I don’t see those winning again, nominations are back on the table. It was a little easy for me to look at the production design of this film and say, “This terrific, but there isn’t a whole lot new here.” A lot of the production design in Wakanda is the same as the previous film, but the new they do add, such as some of the Wakanda streets and the sets for Talokan, I believe is enough to bolster this film into a Best Production Design nomination. Best Original Score is certainly an area where I question a nomination. In short, yes I think it’s very possible. Ludwig Göransson’s score in the first film was extremely unique and stood out. This time around, it’s certainly still amazing; however, the new stuff that Göransson adds in relation to Talokan just doesn’t stick out in a strong way this time. Best Original Score seems to be getting more and more competitive, and I do have my doubts whether or not this is enough.
The last film was very heavily criticized for its visual effects, resulting in a snub in Best Visual Effects, despite how successful the first one was with the Academy. While there are some noticeable issues with the visual effects in this film at times, there is a noticeable improvement. The film doesn’t fully rely on it and only uses visual effects when absolutely necessary; however, it is in those moments in the movie when it was absolutely necessary to use visual effects when the visual effects became noticeable. That said, I do feel good about a Best Visual Effects nomination for this film, due in part to the fact that this film’s visual effects were given a relatively low bar.
The previous film also missed the category Best Makeup & Hairstyling, however with that category, it might be simply because at the time, the category was limited to only three slots for nominees. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever does a lot more with its makeup, thanks to the designs of the Talokans. The film also shares a lot of similar prosthetic work and hairstyling with the previous film, and unlike some of the previous categories discussed, it won’t have a “we nominated this before” mentality against it. Another category that’s since changed since the first Black Panther released is Best Sound, though this change feels like more of a disadvantage. Black Panther received both sound nominations (Sound Mixing and Sound Editing), however now that it’s only the one sound category, I do think it’s at a very serious risk of missing. Best Sound is incredibly stacked with films that are much stronger than Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and while there are some interesting uses of sound in the film, I have a hard time seeing it land the nomination this time around.
Below the line I don’t foresee being an issue with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Above the line is where things get interesting and a lot less optimistic. I’ve seen a large amount of buzz and hope for a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Angela Bassett’s amazing performance as Queen Ramonda, however I’m not gonna hold my breath on it. She gave a worthy performance, and maybe if she had one more “Oscar scene,” I could buy it more. I do see a reality where she lands a surprise solo nomination at the Golden Globes or SAG, but when it comes to the Oscars, I don’t believe she’ll have the power to sustain the hype she currently has all the way.
Now we get to Best Picture and this is where I think it’s key to understanding why Black Panther was able to beat all the odds and land a Best Picture nomination. Black Panther has always been the movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that draws the line between the popcorn entertainment versus real cinema debate on superhero films. Yes, the film came out before Martin Scorsese made his infamous statement, but each film in the MCU, even the more acclaimed ones, were seen as nothing more than just a fun time at the movies. Black Panther came along and provided a truly standalone film in a sea of interconnected storytelling. And that’s not to mention the many barriers this film broke for Black artists, as the film dealt with themes of identity and America’s troubled history with Black people. The film does display Black excellence and African culture in a way that’s never been seen in a high budget action blockbuster before it, culminating in a multiple record-breaking box office. The original Black Panther was a cultural phenomenon, alongside being an amazing film.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will likely not match that. This film does deal with some heavy subjects such as colonialism and grief, the latter in relation to the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman. The film handles Boseman’s passing in an emotionally satisfying way, which would, in theory, grab voters on an emotional level. And the film did feel like a standalone still; however, there were a handful of moments that I feel Ryan Cooler was forced to put in. While those moments are minimal, they’re prominent enough where this film begins to feel like a Marvel movie and not a Black Panther movie. If you removed those moments, I do believe I would be talking about this film’s Best Picture chances in a more positive light.
A Best Picture nomination for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever isn’t outright impossible, however this film not being cultural landmark that the first film was does make this harder for it to land, especially with multiple action sequels vying for one of the 10 slots, including Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way Of The Water. Given the film’s strength below the line, I won’t say it’ll take a miracle, but it will take a lot of good luck. It will require a top prize nomination, which I can’t fathom happening at the Critics Choice or BAFTA, and I find highly unlikely at the Golden Globes. If it were to make an appearance at PGA or even AFI, I would gain some confidence, but I can also acknowledge that that is a bit of a reach.
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