‘Black Panther’: Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger Is Marvel’s Best Villain So Far
Often when it comes to Marvel movies, there is an understandable focus on the hero. People typically know the hero better because they are who we follow over time. But it’s truly the villains that make the movies either great or terrible.
We have previously talked about Marvel’s history of terrible villains. A lot of them are simple, silly, and don’t really bring enough to the table to hold people’s attention. Loki is the one villainous character who has managed to stand out from the others.
But now thanks to Black Panther, we have a villain that really challenged the hero and audience. We’re talking about Michael B. Jordan’s’ Killmonger. Here are seven reasons why he is Marvel’s best villain so far.
1. His backstory makes the audience almost want to root for him
The best villains often are created by our own heroes. This is the case in Black Panther, with Killmonger’s father being killed by his brother, the king. He was abandoned by his own people because his father saw the value in saving those who aren’t from Wakanda.
The difference between these brothers sets both Killmonger and T’Challa off on different roads. This trope, when done well, is amazing because it asks what our hero would be like under different circumstances. The answer to that question, for T’Challa, is that he would be angry and resentful. But he would also demand more empathy and desire for people to help those outside of their own country. This dichotomy is what makes the audience also see the good in Killmonger.
This line of questioning isn’t just done by the audience though, it’s done by the characters themselves. T’Challa also pushes back against his father and his own ideas about how to rule because of Killmonger, which then has lasting consequences.
Next: Killmonger helps change T’Challa in this way.
2. He accidentally makes T’Challa better
Villains shouldn’t just exist to represent the “bad” to our hero’s “good.” They should actively challenge our heroes to be better, and Killmonger does that.
After finding out about Killmonger’s father, T’Challa’s thoughts on dealing with “outsiders” become much more personal because some view Killmonger as an outsider, despite him being his cousin. In the end, he realizes that it would be foolish for Wakanda to continue to isolate itself than to share its knowledge and help the oppressed.
Killmonger won’t be in the future movies. But his lasting effects will be felt through T’Challa and Wakanda.
Next: His principles are what makes him great.
3. He is more tied to his principles than greed
Many villains are not as compelling because they are just about greed and power. Killmonger’s perspective is pretty specific in that his motive is taking back what he sees as his birthright to help other communities free themselves with Wakanda’s technology. He also seems to want to destroy the peaceful and isolated Wakanda because of their dangerous indifference to others.
When Killmonger dies, he doesn’t completely break from his perspective and still sees the people of Wakanda as those who want to persecute him for his motives. That makes the scene even more powerful and heartbreaking because all long, you were hoping for his distrust in Wakanda to change.
Next: The villain can represent so many things.
4. Killmonger represents important real-world ideas
The complicated character is so well-written, but also his story gives space for others to relate his story to multiple real-world themes.
Killmonger can easily be a stand-in for black Americans and the angst of losing their African heritage through atrocities like slavery. He can represent anyone who has resentment towards a secretive and corrupt government. He can represent those who have been made to feel like an outsider, despite obvious ways that this claim is untrue.
The character could also be a symbol for those who resent countries that avoid giving aide, despite being able to afford it.
Next: The character is impressive mentally and physically.
5. He is very educated and skillful
Killmonger doesn’t just have strong beliefs, but he backs them up with facts and skill. In his first scene of the movie, he walks into a London museum and corrects the expert on ancient artifacts. While others call him lost, he proves he knows exactly who he is by knowing all of Wakanda’s history and traditions, along with American black history.
He, of course, is also skillful in what he does because of his military training. He is a physical match to T’Challa and Ulysses Klaue. So you’re not quite sure if he’s going to start lecturing a class about British imperialism or take down a whole army by himself.
Next: This scene is one of Marvel’s best.
6. He has the best emotional moment in a Marvel movie
When Killmonger goes to the ancestral plane, he talks to his father in Oakland. It’s a heartbreaking moment with his father telling him he feared that Wakanda wouldn’t accept him. He says, “They will say you are the one that’s lost.”
This scene is a testament to Sterling K. Brown’s acting, but also to Michael B. Jordan’s talent. The two characters don’t seem to regret their decisions at all and are willing to take the bad and be viewed as outsiders or traitors. But the emotional relief in seeing a shared moment between two characters who were isolated from each other makes this one of the best scenes in a Marvel movie yet.
Next: His last words are just as good.
7. His last words are haunting
There is a lot of pressure on a villain’s last scene to be as satisfying as possible. Killmonger’s scene lives up to that not by a crazy death scene, but one full of peace. He remains relatively calm and is in the embrace of his family that has done nothing but turn from him previously.
This seems like a moment where they can finally come together, and T’Challa acknowledges this by saying maybe he can be healed. But Killmonger says he knows that would only lead him to be imprisoned, and he would rather jump the slave ship to his death, like his ancestors, rather than be enslaved.
It gives a perfect reasoning for why the character makes the choice he does throughout the movie. It also pays respect to those who made the same decision before him.
His words are haunting for the picture they paint and will hopefully stick with many people after the film.
Follow Nicole Weaver on Twitter @nikkibernice.
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