When tickets for Black Panther went on sale late last month, we here at The Root just knew it was our duty, as the unofficial news source of Wakanda, to be there on the first night. Luckily, our editor-in-chief, Danielle Belton, was able to score tickets so that we could be there to give you our impressions of the film. (Although we’re not too spoilery, if you’re afraid to know too much, it might be better to see the movie first.)
Danielle Belton, Editor-in-Chief
For most of Black Panther, I couldn’t believe what I was watching. An African nation that was never colonized? Two black women talking to each other about their mission and not, I dunno, either not talking at all or talking about a man? Moments that went on forever where no white characters spoke, or where they were summarily chastised for speaking? Black women who were fully realized characters with agency and their own beliefs? Black men who were completely confident and actualized in their ideals, even if the viewpoints were opposing and varied? A cinematic parallel for the real-world tensions and conflicts that often exist between Africans and African Americans? Black people who were the victors and not victims? What!
“What did I just watch?” was all I could think after I saw it, but in a good way—but also in a sad way, in that I’m 40 and a lifelong movie lover who’s seen almost every cliché in cinema; but Black Panther took cliché and chucked it off a waterfall, making me wonder why Hollywood is so lazy and often afraid of new ideas that it took this long to see a black film like this, on this scale.
But ultimately, I want to see more. I want there to be a sequel (I’d love to see where things go in Wakanda after the actions of this film), but I also want there to be more blockbuster movies that take risks and tell new stories. Lastly, I want people to respect assigned seating in theaters. One dude in our theater almost ruined the entire movie because he did not want to find his ... probably crappy ... seat. But nobody has time for this game of seat leap frog. Not today.
Genetta M. Adams, Managing Editor
It’s been a while since I’ve been this hyped for a movie. And in this age when the most eager fans can line up the night before the official opening to see a movie, I’ve rarely felt the urge to be among the first paying customers to see a film—until now.
As the splendor and beauty of Wakanda washed over me, I couldn’t stop thinking about what Africa would’ve looked like if it had never been invaded by colonizers. What if the continent’s vast riches were never stolen and the plunder of black bodies never happened? Black Panther offers the best version of that possibility.
The eye-popping fashion was even more amazing on the big screen (and if costume designer Ruth E. Carter isn’t nominated for ALL the awards, I’m boycotting award shows forever). And the storyline (again, the screenplay and director Ryan Coogler better be up for ALL the awards) is so timely and relevant that I actually felt empathy for the “villain” Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan).
And though the movie is called Black Panther, it is the black women of Wakanda—from the fiercest warriors of the Dora Milaje to Shuri (Letitia Wright), the brilliant scientist who develops Wakanda’s tech (and delivers the funniest lines in the movie), and the calm, regal beauty of Queen Mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett)—who give the movie its heart. I wish my 12-year-old self could have seen such badass black women so prominently featured in a big-budget action movie. And I know that 12-year-old black girls who see the movie today will feel inspired and empowered by these black women, and encouraged to pursue their dreams, no matter what.
Look for me in the line as I hit the theater a few more times to bask in the glorious world of Wakanda.
Angela Helm, Contributing Editor
I was hopeful but a little bit afraid of the hype surrounding Black Panther (see Empire three years ago). I shouldn’t have been. It was every single thing. Big-budget action. Drama. Comic relief. And an all-encompassing, well-lit blackness that flew off the screen and overwhelmed my senses.
There will be much said about Killmonger, a complicated character who had one of the most powerful lines of the film (I gasped when he said it, and then threw a hand in the air), but what I loved most about him was that although he graduated from the Naval Academy at 19 and went to MIT, he was still so Oakland with his gold teeth and unrepentant brilliance.
The white gaze was nonexistent. This was for us, by us and quite possibly a game changer for cinema. I cannot wait for my unborn grandchildren to see it. Wakanda forever.
Corey Townsend, Weekend Social Editor
One word: FASHION! The looks that were served in Black Panther sent me into a state of euphoria. The bold patterns served as a reminder that color was indeed invented for those with melanin.
The movie also served as a reminder that the world would be lost without black women!
Terrell Jermaine Starr, Senior Reporter
As soon as I stepped out of the movie theater, I was no longer in Wakanda. And that made me sad. I was forced to share an UberPool with two colonizers. I wanted to yell “Colonizers!” and ask them for their tourist visas, but I could not. We weren’t in Wakanda. Nor am I Shuri. I am joking, but I’m really not.
For more than two hours, I was surrounded by blackness, consumed with a power of self and possibility I’d never experienced during a film. For two hours, whiteness was not centered. I was. It was challenging to wrestle with that reality and the possibilities of such a world because I was born into a reality where whiteness is the default. My struggles, my successes, my dreams are all predicated on fending off and negotiating with whiteness. In Wakanda, whiteness negotiates with me and has few options but to comply.
That is a wonderful feeling. I have never watched a Marvel film—nor am I a comics fan—but that has changed. Black Panther left me with a buoyancy about what our current world strives to make impossible: a world centered in blackness, our existence. There are no bells and whistles to Wakanda. It just was. For two hours, so was I. I just was.
Now I am in America, where just being is a struggle. I long for Wakanda.
Danielle Young, Producer
This is my second time seeing Black Panther, and it won’t be my last. My emotions are not done with this movie. It not only lives up to the epic hype but also pens the only love letter to Diasporic blackness that you’ll ever need. When I got a chance to watch the movie the first time, I wrote a spoiler-free review that allowed me to dig into the black pride this movie undeniably gifts you. Watching T’Challa’s (Chadwick Boseman) baby sister, Shuri, bounce around her lab, brilliantly leading Wakanda’s tech, made me feel like a little girl watching her new role model. Representation matters, and there’s nothing quite like showing little black girls and boys that tech is a possibility for them.
There are just so many good parts, pieces, moments, visuals, everything, but Killmonger is another standout. Obviously, Michael B. Jordan is ribbed for our pleasure, but his portrayal of a villain is delicious. His character is so well-rounded, so wounded and almost right in his attempt to dethrone King T’Challa. And having his character represent black America in the sense of longing to reach home, the Motherland, was so uncomfortably beautiful. The only thing I have left to say about Black Panther is thank you for ...”colonizer.”
P.J. Rickards, Video Producer
I’ve been taking my 12-year-old son to see superhero movies for years now. It’s definitely his thing: the opening, big action scenes, the one-liners, the larger-than-life graphics and the excitement after. It hit me while watching Black Panther: We’re going to share that with a movie about a black superhero, strong black characters in a remarkable, all-black world. I already felt that way after seeing the trailer, but it was a whole other thing when I got to finally experience the full movie.
All I could think about was how he would react at certain parts and the discussions it could open up. And to see it with black people proud and dressed up. It reminded me a bit of the level of pride when Malcolm X came out and everyone was wearing X hats and dashikis. You could tell it was made with love by people of color for our people. It also made me hopeful that this will continue to be a regular occurrence, and even though it’s a big deal for the grown-ups, the impact on young people growing up might be greater than we think.
Jason Johnson, Politics Editor
I still don’t know what the heck I saw, and I’ve seen the movie three times. All I know is that I was fighting back thug tears every time Killmonger spoke, and this might’ve been the first time in my life that I sat in a mostly black theater and people only made noise at the appropriate times. The other thing I know is this: it’s Valentine’s week and Black History Month, so if you bought us Black Panther tickets this weekend, we go together ….
Ashley Velez, Digital Video Producer
Black Panther made me feel so many things. I’ve shouted “Wakanda forever!” too many times to count since last night. Not only was Black Panther visually stunning—from the cinematography to the lighting and costume design—but the writing was also incredibly executed and engaging. It created space for film watchers to have meaningful dialogue surrounding things like generational trauma, conflicting methods of liberation, and identity throughout the Diaspora. Nothing about how these themes was presented felt forced, which is where modern films and television tend to drop the ball.
I really appreciated the fact that Black Panther didn’t feel like it solely revolved around T’Challa’s mental and physical conflicts. The bulk of the characters were elevated in sincere ways. Because of this, I was able to connect with multiple characters throughout the film. I still can’t decide if I want to be Okoye (Danai Gurira), Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) or Shuri! That alone speaks to the significance of how black women were portrayed throughout the film.
Oh yeah, listen to the soundtrack again after watching the movie! I appreciated it so much more!
A final note: If you’re a colonizer, I feel bad for you, son.
Psych. No, I don’t.
Anne Branigin, News Fellow
Before the film, I kept thinking about how Black Panther came out almost a year after Get Out. Wakanda is in some ways the antithesis of “the sunken place.” Where the latter expressed a loss of control—being at the mercy of “benevolent” whiteness—Wakanda represents liberation and self-determination in a powerful way.
My mother’s country has been colonized twice: first by the Spanish, then by the U.S. Although one of our national heroes killed one of the world’s greatest colonizers, Ferdinand Magellan, the enduring evidence of their actions is in our names, food, features, vocabulary. I love how Black Panther imagines a land written off as a Third World country as being, instead, a superpower—a land free from colonization and subjugation. I love the questions it asks—about what we could be if we got to keep the most precious parts of ourselves, and about the responsibility associated with that.