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The ‘Black Panther’ Exit Survey

Talking Wakanda, Killmonger, and T’Challa’s meme-attuned sister after seeing one of the biggest hits in Marvel history

IMDb/Ringer illustration
Spoiler alert

After months of waiting, this weekend we were finally able to visit Wakanda. Black Panther hit theaters full of promise (a near-perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes!) and hype (the most presale tickets ever sold!), and boy, it did not disappoint. There’s a lot to discuss, so let’s get down to it.

1. What is your tweet-length review of Black Panther?

Andrew Gruttadaro: I’ve been thinking about Black Panther for the past 72 hours. That’s 71 hours and 30 minutes longer than I’ve thought about any other Marvel movie.

Justin Charity: If I hadn’t already died for Adam Driver, I would at least consider dying for Michael B. Jordan.

Miles Surrey: Is it possible to clone Ryan Coogler and have him direct everything?

Alyssa Bereznak: I’m the type of person who thinks any superhero movie more than two hours long should be illegal. Black Panther was so entertaining that it could’ve been three hours and I wouldn’t have noticed.

Daniel Chin: For a film that had almost impossibly high expectations and hype, Ryan Coogler and his stellar cast somehow managed to exceed them.

Donnie Kwak:

Alison Herman: Am I any closer to understanding what vibranium is supposed to do or be? Absolutely not. Am I any closer to understanding the complex ethics of protecting and concealing an island of African prosperity from a world in the throes of systemic racism, including its victims? Sure am!

Micah Peters: Trying to make me do this in a single tweet is violence.

2. What was the best moment of the movie?

Peters: “You would kill me, my love?”

“For Wakanda … [smiles warmly, then BRANDISHES SPEAR] ... without QUESTION.”

Surrey: Any moment with the camera on Sterling K. Brown? The car chase in Busan? Shuri shouting “WHAT ARE THOSE?!” T’Challa’s coronation ceremony? Andy Serkis’s character briefly turning into a thirsty SoundCloud rapper? The adorable Moonlight kid, Alex Hibbert, showing up at the very end?

There are so many great Black Panther moments, but if I have to choose just one, I’m going with T’Challa’s first trip to the ancestral spirit plane, where he talks to his father about the responsibilities of becoming king that weigh on him. It’s a stunning spectacle (those panthers!) and a great way to introduce the ethos of the film.

Kwak: Everything that happens after Killmonger touches down in Wakanda and overtakes the throne. T’Challa is a benevolent ruler and all, but he’s such a damn square.

Chin: The way they revealed Killmonger’s origin and how T’Chaka killed his own brother was incredible. While it wasn’t a Christopher Nolan–level plot twist, it was a pivotal moment that immediately made Killmonger more compelling and helped propel him on his way to becoming one of Marvel’s best villains of all time.

Zach Mack: Any and all mentions of Oakland. Town Business.

Bereznak: I’m inclined to say the “what are thoooooooose” moment because (1) as a millennial, I’m programmed to love every movie meme reference the same way I’m obligated to reply “nice” every time I see the number 69, (2) it’s a good illustration of the film’s punchy writing, and (3) it made me miss Vine a lot.

Gruttadaro: It’s not easy to pick one, but the scene between Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) and his father (Sterling K. Brown) in the ancestral plane was stunning, poignant, and heartbreaking—and visually so starkly in contrast with T’Challa’s trip to the ancestral plane. In a movie with incredible set pieces like the one in Busan, it’s amazing that there was also enough time for a Sterling K. Brown–makes-you-cry scene.

Charity: The big battle in the field. I like that dozens of black African characters all get to duke it out honorably, within a depiction that’s never implying savagery. It’s a dark compliment, but Hollywood otherwise produces a lot of savagery, so I appreciated this.

Herman: When Danai Gurira literally snatched her own wig. I love a good visual metaphor!

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3. What was your least favorite part of the film?

Bereznak: I really wish the robo-rhinos weren’t weaponized for evil.

Peters: When Killmonger killed everyone at Warrior Falls. Not because the sequence wasn’t captivating and alive and human, but because you had to watch Shuri cry, which really bummed me out.

Charity: The first 30 minutes, which, functionally, revolve around a death that none of the characters seem to care about as much as they should.

Chin: I needed more of Kendrick and TDE’s Black Panther album. I’m mainly saying this because I foolishly spent way too long trying to figure out when and where the songs might show up in the movie, only for them to use three songs at most.

Surrey: Nothing! Just kidding, I do have one gripe: The CGI-heavy fight scenes lost me at times—Coogler’s direction was much better with the film’s hand-to-hand combat, à la Creed. Thankfully, most of the action was quite grounded anyway.

Kwak: Some texts from my Korean brethren: “Damn, they fucked up the Korean.” “Her Korean was worse than Lupita.” “That Korean really was so trash.” “They could’ve cast a Korean lady.” (The actress in question, by the way, is Korean.) Lupita, though: good enough. Shooting in Busan appears to have paid off, anyway.

Herman: This is really more of a backhanded compliment, but I wanted more time to explore how Wakanda works when the country isn’t locked in a vicious succession battle bordering on civil war. Such a special, symbolic place (even within the world of the movie!), conceived with such an obvious level of care and executed with the kind of resources only Disney can offer, deserves some room to breathe and show off. You could study every frame of this movie and come away with at least a dozen new details, and I expect the internet will spend the next few months doing just that. Still, I would’ve appreciated an interlude with a more average citizen of Wakanda than a member of its royal family—or even a few more “this is how stuff works” monologues from Shuri that didn’t directly tie into an upcoming plot point.

Gruttadaro: I feel like we could’ve used a scene early on between just Okoye (Danai Gurira) and W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya). The two are apparently in love, but I know that only because I was told that. I think everyone would have gladly sat in the theater for an extra four minutes to be shown that.

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4. Finish the sentence: “Erik Killmonger was …”

Charity: … Bishop from Juice, but high-key shook.

Mack: … right to take his shirt off.

Peters: … “Terrorist Threats”–era Ab-Soul’s GTA online character.

Surrey: … another rich showcase for Michael B. Jordan, one of our generation’s finest actors. (Also, dude is swole.)

Kwak: … Oaktown down to the gold caps on his bottom teeth. “I want the throne! Yadadamean!”

Herman: … why I love living in the future, where women are heroes and men get to be sinister sex objects. Rey from Star Wars and the women of Wakanda should pour some wine and hash out their, uh, complicated feelings about the aspiring military dictators in their lives.

Bereznak: … an ice-cold villain who I simultaneously sympathized with and hated. Also: the Bonnie to his Clyde got a very raw deal.

Gruttadaro: … a mercenary who also had a Google alert set up for Supreme drops.

Chin: … a complex villain that I found myself rooting for at times. I know we were supposed to be on King T’Challa’s side, but damn, Killmonger was cool, and he was a rare example of a comic book villain you can empathize with. Not to say I can’t empathize with a purple alien with a goatee who loves colorful stones and destroying worlds.

5. Welcome to the question about Wakanda. Use this section to divulge whatever thoughts you have on the place.

Charity: The city-state is grand, the politics are deliciously complex, the people are gorgeous, the backgrounds are sporadically flat and crude.

Peters:

Surrey: Wakanda is beautiful, and what Black Panther achieved that we shouldn’t undersell: In just more than two hours, this utopia really feels lived in. This was world-building at its finest.

Chin: Incredible transportation system. If only Wakanda could share a little bit of that knowledge and technology with the MTA …

Mack: Can someone explain to me how vibranium works?

Gruttadaro: While I do question Wakanda’s electoral system, it seems like a wonderful place with a lot of wonderful street food. The only other time that I’ve wanted a fictional place’s cuisine this much was when the kids had a food fight with that rainbow stuff in Hook.

Bereznak: The brief Wakanda history lesson at the beginning of the movie added essential meaning and depth to the film for obvious reasons. But it was also striking just how strong its presence—illustrated in colorful landscapes and inventive infrastructure—felt throughout the movie. After T’Challa, Wakanda was Black Panther’s most important character. And that felt especially apparent at the end of the film as Okoye points her weapon at W’Kabi and tells him she’d kill him to protect the future of her homeland, and T’Challa shows Killmonger the kingdom as he lies dying.

Herman: Wakanda is proof that a universe doesn’t have to be expanded to be expansive. Apart from an inciting incident that took place in Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther contains almost zero tie-ins to the rest of the Marvel constellation. (This is a quality many of the superhero boom’s more acclaimed recent entries, like Wonder Woman, have in common. Executives, take note, and maybe get a little worried.) That’s for the best, because Wakanda demands a feature film’s worth of time for viewers to immerse themselves in a place so pointedly different from anything they’ve seen before—not just in superhero movies, or even movies in general, but in real life. The less burdened directors are by the obligation to set up someone else’s film, the more they can dig into their own film’s sense of place.

6. Who was your favorite secondary character?

Peters: OKOYEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

Surrey: There’s really no wrong answer here, but Okoye, head of the Dora Milaje, was an absolute badass with a heart of gold. It’s as good of a reminder as any that we’re doing the world a disservice by stranding Danai Gurira on The Walking Dead. AMC, I don’t want to advocate for character deaths, but that’s exactly what I’m doing: Kill off Michonne so the rest of us can enjoy her.

Bereznak: Shuri brought refreshing wit and character to the typically cookie-cutter role of “superhero tech guru.” The scene in which she introduced T’Challa to his new Black Panther armor, tricked him into being knocked over, and then filmed him eating it was hilarious.

Chin: Shuri. She was so smart and funny, especially in the scene where she walks T’Challa through her lab and shows him her new tech. Like a good sister, she always managed to keep her brother’s ego in check and roast him when necessary. “WHAT ARE THOSE???”

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Herman: I would be happy to take Shuri to her first Coachella. Putting a Vine meme in a megafranchise should feel pandering, but Letitia Wright’s delivery of “WHAT ARE THOOOOOOOSE?!?!?!” was right on the money. (Allow me to take this opportunity to shill for Cucumber and Banana, the excellent British series where I first took notice of Wright. They’re on Hulu!)

Kwak: Shuri had the best one-liners (“Don’t scare me like that, colonizer!”); badass Okoye and the Dora Milaje deserve their own spinoff; and Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) was so perfectly trollish that Conor McGregor should’ve auditioned for the role.

Charity: M’Baku—he’s such a dickhead to everyone, most of all to Martin Freeman.

Gruttadaro: M’Baku saved T’Challa’s life. He also barked at a man until that man stopped talking.

7. Please describe your favorite wardrobe choice in painstaking detail.

Kwak: It’s a tie between the furry shawl/cape thing draped across M’Baku’s shoulders (he’s a vegetarian, though?) and King Killmonger’s floor-length cardigan-slash-bathrobe.

Mack: Ya gotta love Killmonger’s Black Panther suit with the gold accent and the subtle leopard spots, which hinted at him being a close cousin of a Black Panther but not quite one himself. Nice touch.

Peters: I’ve been thinking a lot about giving into my impulses over some canine gold tooth caps, and I choose to see Erik Killmonger as permission. It’s only right that I take something of his.

Bereznak: Killmonger’s “I’m king now” sweater duster thing was a hilarious flex. Shuri’s colorful neon mesh/wetsuit getups were very Fenty x Puma spring/summer ’18. And no matter what type of quilt, evening gown, or armor Nakia appeared in, she always looked amazing. But the outfit that stood out was, by far: the flowy red dress and wig combo Okoye wore in the South Korean casino. The second her cover is blown, her first instinct is to rip her wig off and throw it in her opponent’s face. Then her spear starts slicing through bodies like a knife through butter and she jumps off the balcony into the crowd, the blur of her bright red dress streaking across the screen like a fucking phoenix.

Surrey: A screenshot is worth a thousand words:

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Gruttadaro: ALL HAIL KING SHEARLING JACKET.

Herman: I would like Okoye to design a line of battle-ready formalwear as part of Wakanda’s newly established knowledge exchange. The women of the world are in dire need of gowns they can swing a spear around and look gorgeous in.

Charity: Martin Freeman wearing an American accent.

8. Is Black Panther the best movie in the MCU? If not, where does it rank?

Chin: Black Panther was unique in that it was a Marvel movie that stood on its own, without forcefully shoving the MCU agenda into its story line, and it left its audience with compelling social commentary and a dialogue to consider upon leaving the theater. No Marvel movie has really succeeded in doing this before, and for that I think it must stand atop the MCU podium.

Charity: Generally, Marvel movies—even the best Marvel movies—suck. They manage to be surprisingly procedural, unimaginative, and bland for trillion-dollar movies about violent deities who wear beautiful costumes. Black Panther is more fun than those wack-ass Captain America movies that people seem to love, I’ll say that much.

Herman: I honestly don’t love thinking of Black Panther as a movie from the MCU. Yes, T’Challa was introduced in a previous movie; yes, he’ll have to rejoin the fray for Avengers: Infinity War, where Chadwick Boseman will costar with Chris Evans’s beard. But I mostly admire other installments in the MCU, whether it’s the kickoff Iron Man or more recent highlights like Thor: Ragnarok and Civil War, as either acrobatic feats of dot-connecting or amusing distractions that know not to take themselves too seriously. Black Panther is a movie worth loving in its own right instead of merely enjoying as part of an ongoing onslaught, and as such transcends the instant ranking game.

TL;DR: Yeah, it’s the best movie in the MCU.

Surrey: Immediately after seeing the movie, I tweeted that it’d be right up top with The Winter Soldier (and also that Ryan Coogler is a god, which I stand by). Having had a few days to soak it in, I not only need to return to the theater ASAP, but I’m ready to put Black Panther at no. 1 in the MCU rankings. As it stands:

1. Black Panther
2. The Winter Soldier
3. Guardians of the Galaxy
4. Thor: Ragnarok
5. The Avengers

Peters: Black Panther is a Top 1 Marvel movie.

9. There will presumably be a Black Panther 2—what do you want to see from it?

Gruttadaro: Love scenes between Okoye and W’Kabi.

Peters: I’ve said this a few times, but it is IMPERATIVE that we get to meet Namor the Sub-Mariner, and experience the blood feud between him and T’Challa.

Chin: If Marvel Studios owns the rights to X-Men by the time of the sequel, I need to see Storm in it. (Sorry, Nakia.)

Bereznak: All the excellent characters, drama, and fight scenes—but with just a smidgen more sexy time. For such a hot cast, there was disappointingly little romance.

Surrey: Oprah.

Kwak: Turns out vibranium exists in another nation thought to be technologically backward: North Korea. But unlike King T’Challa, the North Korean leader (a.k.a. Chubb Rocket) is stashing the resource to make potential world-destroying weapons. His plan is to infiltrate the Pyeongchang Winter Games and unleash havoc via his own version of the Dora Milaje: the North Korean cheer squad. But Nakia has discovered Chubb Rocket’s evil mission and alerted T’Challa, who accompanies a Wakandan delegation to Pyeongchang posing as Olympic athletes. Everything comes to a head on the final night of the ice dancing competition, as T’Challa and Nakia perform a sensuous routine to “All the Stars.”