If you’re of Black or a Marvel-head then this week has got to be one of the most epic ones. Black Panther premiered on January 29, 2018, and was released in the United States on February 16, 2018, already grossing $47 million worldwide. I was lucky to be invited to a prescreening and I just can’t stop thinking about it. We got to watch it in IMAX, 3D and had D Box seats which enhanced the cinematic experience.
In Black Panther, T’Challa returns home as king of Wakanda but finds his sovereignty challenged by a long-time adversary in a conflict that has global consequences. While the plot wasn’t particularly original and there were some missed opportunities for character development, everything else was bomb! It was most definitely the most visually stunning Marvel production, with really good acting and also hilarious.
An epic cultural shift.
First of all black people came through ready to participate I tell you. The traditional African meets tech futuristic costume and designs were remarkable to take in both on and off screen. Everyone was dressed to impress in gorgeous African inspired costumes as a nod to Wakanda culture. I love it!
One of my favourite parts about my Black Panther experience was the audience I watched with. People showed up looking like they were auditioning to be residents of Wakanda. I have been to so many movies and pre-screenings but can without a doubt say this was the most engaged audience I have ever watched any show or movie with. So much pride in everyone’s eyes – a we ready, we here moment for all the black people. For me, it was incredibly powerful and emotional to be able to watch dark skinned people collectively being celebrated and portrayed positively different for once in mainstream Hollywood. As a Zimbabwean and proud African it also borrowed so much beauty of our cultures rather than looking them as uncivilized and backward as we often see on tele. This brought so much warmth and excitement in me. It’s so wonderful to witness the validation many of us felt before, during and after watching this epic film.
When I say the audience was engaged, I mean through and through the most interactive audience. The excitement was real. There was clapping, cheering, whistling and loads of laughs ringing throughout the theatre which under normal circumstances I would find very irritating but instead truly breathtaking this time. So breathtaking that I’m going to confidently say the entire viewing experience is in my top 10 most beautiful experiences of my entire life.
Afrofuturism makes business sense.
I’m such a sucker for superhero shows and films so much that I watch them all regardless of ratings. For years I’ve been yearning for a black superhero show or film from the larger comic producers, then Marvel gave me Luke Cage and I thought I was happy enough. As someone who has been going on and on about my dreams for Afrofuturism to become mainstream, I’m on such a high. I have always read that majority black cast, or black beauty doesn’t make business sense and yet here we are all witnessing Black Panther shattering previous superhero movies records proving that Black dollars matter.
Black Panther didn’t just break pre-sale ticket records, it’s also making review history. Currently it holds a 98 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but even more impressively, the Marvel film holds the title for the highest rated live-action superhero movie ever. This is a reminder to everyone that you should never discount or under value the power of the minority groups in your world. We are here and deserve a seat at the table too.
Diversity is gorgeous.
Having mostly grown up in Africa, I sometimes get irritated by attempts by African American celebrity imitation of African accents in Hollywood productions. There were certainly moments I noticed myself irritated by that sound of the so off “African accent” like with the great Forest Whittaker who’s a brilliant actor but in my opinion not the best imitator of African accents. That said, it actually wasn’t that widespread among the cast. I later realized that they actually cast black people from different cultures Guyana, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Kenya etc, and so many of them played accents from their countries which made it so much authentic for me.
I also appreciated the diversity of roles in the film. The men needed rescuing for a change. While traditional gender roles are apparent in the plot, we saw the women of Wakanda as strong and resilient innovators, protectors, warriors, explorers and leaders. I would argue that they were actually more powerful female characters than men and it’s certainly powerful imagery for all little girls (and boys) to grow up with.
Say what you will but Black Panther is a cultural phenomenon not just for black people but for all. It is a perfect example of what the future of television and film could also include, so make sure you support it so that other types of people also come to a theatre screen near you.
PS: Be sure to stay for both post credit clips.