There’s still too many layers to unravel after watching Black Panther (twice) on opening weekend. I don’t know how so many people are already writing thought pieces on this movie. I have another level of respect for all who can process a movie of this magnitude and importance so quickly. In fact, Black Panther disrupted my whole writing schedule (no new articles this week. Sorry, not sorry, blame T’Challa). It’s all I keep thinking about!
So instead of trying to rush a thought piece onto the open spaces of the internet, I thought it’d be good to share in the communal joy worldwide by specifically sharing my moviegoing experience of Black Panther.
Everyone I’ve had an opportunity to speak with about Black Panther have so much they feel and want to say, but have trouble (like me) putting it all into words. I have a few articles in the works to help think through some of the Wakandan, King T’Challa, Killmonger, and the Dora Milaje concepts.
But until then, I hope my moviegoing expereince will help you put into words some of the emotions I know many of your are still feeling. If you haven’t seen it yet, hopefully it’ll excite you to want to go very soon and support one the most impactful and important films of our generation.
The Build Up: Black Panther The Album
The days leading up to the opening night of Black Panther were filled with anticipation, excitement, joy, and a high expectation of an excellent film. Even if it wasn’t good, I was determined to like it anyway because of the way it was bringing people together around the world before it’s release. My anticipation was fed all the more by the Black Panther Album, managed by Top Dawg Entertainment’s very own Kendrick Lamar.
If Black Panther is the Constituion for Black superhero films from here on, then the Black Panther Album is it’s Preamble.
I won’t write a review of album here, but I will say it is the sound of excellence. I didn’t grow up in the era of anticipating movie soundtracks so I didn’t have any expectations for this. But, I knew K. Dot would be overseeing the project so I anticipated something good.
But like the movie, the album exceeded my expectations. It doesn’t sound like a typical hip hop album. It has elements of various Black sounds from around the world including Hip Hop, R&B, Blues, and Pop, laced with African drum sounds and trap style beats that will rattle the trunk of your car. Each element takes center stage as it bolsters what makes it’s sounds unique. It debuts artists from around the world, including SZA, Vince Staples, The Weekend, 2 Chainz, Anderson .Paak, and Babes Wodumo with gritty sounds from Northern California hoods, to South Africa. This soundtrack perfected the sound and image of Black Panther.
But back to the movie experience.
I went with a couple of friends – a Korean brother and white brother. I wore all-black clothes. We jammed the soundtrack on the way to the movie theater and the feeling in my friend Chad’s truck was electric. It was a child-like experience. I was becoming giddy and it was becoming hard to control my excitement.
As we walked up to the doors of the cinema, a few Black people were walking out. I didn’t ask, but I knew they just got out of the first showing of Black Panther. It wasn’t just the African-inspired dashikis they were wearing that gave it away, as much as it was the joy that was painted on their faces.
Black people smiling is one of the most beautiful sights in the world.
This excited me all the more. Before going into the theater, we stopped by the concessions. I’m a popcorn guy and the fresh buttery aroma of that salty goodness gets me every time, so I had to get a bucket (large, and yes layer the butter please). My Korean brother, Sean, insisted on paying, so I threw in a half coke-half cherry icee and some Peanut M&M’s (hey, you offer I might take it all the way). And besides, this was the Black Panther dawg. I had to do it big.
We found our seats, and when the lights finally dimmed and the previews ended, my heart rate increased. This was it.
To finally get to see Black superheroes, Black villains, Black supporting roles, directed by Black directors filled with Black culture was an unforgettable experience. I’ll spare you the details of the movie, assuming you’ve already seen it. If you’re an able-bodied person and haven’t seen it yet, what have you been doing with your life?
When the movie ended, my friends and I knew better than to leave a Marvel movie before the credits ended for the extra scenes. But to be honest, I would’ve stayed even if there weren’t any extra scenes. I was glued to my seat and I wanted to make sure to take in the whole experience of this movie.
Before I even got out of my seat, I knew I was going to be seeing this movie for a second time. It was that great.
When we walked out, I had the same joy painted on my face that the group of Black people who passed me on the way in had. I looked around and saw other Black people who experienced the same thing I did. There was an unsaid solidarity of celebration among us. But it wasn’t just Black people, my friends were just as blown away with excitement and shared a similar sense of happiness. Black Panther brings people together.
This is a unique time, because what’s usually the string that ties Black folks together is pain, grief, and injustice. But this time, it was joy, possibility, and excitement that connected us. The only other similar connection of excitement I could compare it to was Barack Obama’s 2008 election. But this time it was happening through an art form that the old, young, male, female, light-skin, dark-skin, African, African-American, Caribbean, lower-, middle-, and upper-class could all identify with.
That night, I didn’t go to sleep until about 2:30 a.m. I got on social media and observed everyone else’s reactions, the clothes that they wore to the premier, and read their thoughts on Black Panther. Laying in my bed still reeling from my opportunity to see this movie, I realized that I didn’t just watch a movie – I took part in a global experience.
Black Panther is important for many reasons that are still incomprehensible for me, even after seeing it a second time. I hope to go back again soon. But, for those of you who’ve been, what’s your Black Panther experience?
Thanks for reading sharing a bit of my joyful experience. If you haven’t seen it yet, I urge you to see it tonight. If you have seen it – #WakandaForever!