The small town where I live, like many small towns all across America, isn’t always a bastion of open-mindedness. There are some good people here, no doubt, but there are a lotta folks who still wish we lived in the days of segregation too. Not a day goes by that I don’t see a Confederate flag somewhere here, and this is one of the northernmost states of the U.S. So I’m always interested to see what kinda audience turns out when there’s a movie showing whose cast is mostly made up of people of color, as it is in WAKANDA FOREVER.

It was the third day after it opened when I got to see it, and I noticed that it was running on a few different screens in the only local theater. Sadly, I missed the one on the biggest screen, but it was not the smallest either. Still, surprisingly, it was a packed theater.

The lights went out, a few trailers played, and then it started. Before there were even any credits, we find that King T’challa has fallen ill from some unnamed illness and his sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) is racing to find something that will save him. But Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) appears, tears in her eyes, and we all know that, like the man who portrayed him in his every appearance in a Marvel movie, he is gone.

I’m immediately choked up.

And I look around at this crowd of movie viewers, nothing but white faces, children, parents, couples, old men with caps flying the American flag . . . and everyone else is choked up too. One girl in the far corner is visibly sobbing. Maybe I shouldn’t be, but I’m surprised.

The Marvel logo rolls, with only images of Chadwick Boseman filling the letters, as they did with Stan Lee in the CAPTAIN MARVEL opening after he died. The story picks up a year later and there is still no new Black Panther, nor is there peace for some of the characters who survived him. A great deal of the plot is about exactly that, grief and how to come to terms with it. It’s a beautiful movie, with a lotta weight but not too heavy to still be entertainment.

It’s also a movie populated by people of color. Even the antagonists, an underwater race led by the mighty Namor (Tenoch Huerta), are not white folks. Matter of fact, there are only a few of those in the movie and they don’t get much screen time. You don’t even notice it, because it’s not about that. Which is kinda the point.

Stuff happens in the movie:  well-done action stuff, dramatic and sad stuff, Marvel stuff. It moves toward an end that seemed inevitable to me, though in no way disappointing. I’ve not enjoyed one of these this much since Spiderman couldn’t find a way home.

In the end, for me, what the movie was about . . . was the same feeling as I looked around at all those teary faces in the audience when it began. It was that tiny glowing spark that can only be described as hope.

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