© 2024 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Ticket Sales For Marvel's 'Black Panther' Are Superhero-Sized


Advance ticket sales for superhero movies are always supersized, but even accounting for that, Marvel's "Black Panther" is breaking records. Civic groups have been buying out entire screenings so that African-American children can experience the film together. Critics are singing the film's praises, a chorus to which NPR's Bob Mondello will now add his voice.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Superhero origin story, be it spider-bit, hammer-fisted or Amazonian - you know the drill - a backstory quickly dispensed with so super heroics can get underway. In this case, though, the backstory isn't something you want glossed over.


DANAI GURIRA: (As Okoye) We are home.

MONDELLO: Home is Wakanda, a fictional African kingdom that's hard to reach and, as far as the outside world is concerned, not worth reaching. Though in this sequence, we're in a Wakanda-made hovercraft, so guidebook stereotypes...


MARTIN FREEMAN: (As Everett K. Ross) Textiles, shepherds, cool outfits...

MONDELLO: ...Need to be augmented with the things outsiders have never seen - Afrofuturist skyscrapers based on geologic forms, flying maglev trains and a glowing, miraculous substance vibranium, which makes such African treasures as gold and diamonds seem not worth the digging for. Our hero, played by Chadwick Boseman, is T'Challa, about to be installed as king and already the Black Panther - so a force to be reckoned with.


CHADWICK BOSEMAN: (As T'Challa) Only reason I don't kill you where you stand is because I know who you are.

MONDELLO: He's surrounded by spectacular women, warriors, thinkers and an ex who so regularly renders him speechless that his generals have taken to coaching him on romantic tactics...


GURIRA: (As Okoye) Don't freeze.

BOSEMAN: (As T'Challa) I never freeze.

MONDELLO: ...Also a sister who teases him mercilessly.


LETITIA WRIGHT: (As Shuri) Did he freeze?

GURIRA: (As Okoye) Like an antelope in headlights.

WRIGHT: (As Shuri, laughter).

BOSEMAN: (As T'Challa) Are you finished?

MONDELLO: But she also provides him with vibranium-powered gizmos.


WRIGHT: (As Shuri) I have some new tech to show you.

MONDELLO: If he were 007, she'd be his Q.


WRIGHT: (As Shuri) Hey, look at your suit. You've been taking bullets, charging it up with kinetic energy.

BOSEMAN: (As T'Challa) Pull around the truck.

MONDELLO: Filmmaker Ryan Coogler has created a world that's exciting in all the conventional superhero ways but that gives the form vibrant, new textures, fabrics, rhythms to go with a leading man who for once is not melanin-deprived. Coogler's movie doesn't operate like the others, either - no lone wolf hero getting rid of bad guys on his own. Black Panther is part of a community, a family. And his story is about working together, as families do, with imperfect fathers, brainy sisters, uncles harboring secrets and everyone hoping against hope that that cousin who's always in trouble will straighten up and fly right.


MICHAEL B JORDAN: (As Erik Killmonger) I'm going to burn it all.

MONDELLO: This guy played with aching intensity by Michael B. Jordan brings real-world fury to a Wakandan society that's been bypassed - this is a fantasy, remember - by colonialism and institutional racism. Those poisons exist outside, though, and the aptly named Killmonger is the harrowing result.


JORDAN: (As Erik Killmonger) I trained. I lied. I killed just to get here. I killed in America, Afghanistan, Iraq. I took life from my own brothers and sisters right here on this continent - and all this death just so I could kill you.

MONDELLO: Other superheroes fly off to do battle with alien life forms. Black Panther deals with pain that comes of real injustice. That anchors the story, gives it heft and will make it matter to audiences in ways few superhero sagas even contemplate. I'm Bob Mondello. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.