Warning: This post contains SPOILERS for Black Panther.
Producer Nate Moore thinks that Black Panther antagonist Killmonger has the right goals, but not the right methods. Whereas the Marvel Cinematic Universe has typically been criticized for its weak movie villains in the past, Black Panther has been universally praised for featuring one of the best Marvel villains ever in Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). The praise not only comes from Jordan’s excellent performance, but also thanks to the movie dedicating time to him, plus his backstory, motives, and plan. And really, what he wants to do is perfectly understandable.
Killmonger’s primary goal in Black Panther isn’t becoming king of Wakanda, that is just something he had to do to accomplish his true goal: help the less fortunate around the globe and help them break free of oppression. While that sounds like a good life goal to have, it all comes down to how one decides to make it possible. Killmonger goes to extreme places to see his plan carried out, which is where he goes wrong according to the film’s producer.
Longtime Marvel Studios producer Nate Moore joined The Empire Film Podcast‘s spoiler special Black Panther episode, and did indeed get into spoiler territory. When discussing Killmonger’s story and how it parallels that of T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), Moore highlights part of what made him really stand out:
I think Killmonger sees himself as a victim. I think that’s how he’s always seen himself, which makes him tragic right? I think what the movie hopes to do is show that his point of view is not wrong but his methods are. So you feel the sympathy, but you realize he never got over this awful thing that happened to him as a kid but was never able to circumvent that and become a good person. He actually becomes a bad person because of it, because vengeance consumes him to a degree that he becomes a killer and has plans of essentially mass murder. Interestingly enough, T’Challa makes the opposite choice at the end of Captain America: Civil War. So there he’s confronted with Zemo and decides not to do the thing that I think Killmonger would’ve done immediately. And that is where I think they are two sides of a different coin in a way. The men who they are dictate how they react to that very tragic circumstance, and that again is really interesting on a dramatic level. But what I think is great, and what Ryan [Coogler] did so well is – and this is something I can’t point to another movie that does this – where the hero actually takes a lesson from the villain and changes his behavior because of his experience with the villain. That’s really powerful.
Moore’s assessment of Killmonger is spot on. Killmonger’s goal sounds great on paper, so much so that T’Challa realizes the flaw in Wakanda’s approach to the world and adapts it. While T’Challa is going to help those in need by setting up outreach programs around the world (and starting in Oakland), Killmonger planned to send Wakanda’s advanced weapons to their War Dogs across the globe. From there, he wanted them to overthrow all governments and assassinate world leaders that led the earth to its current state. That isn’t a great plan and a tough one to get behind for many, which is what stops Killmonger short of being an anti-hero instead of a villain.
There’s also a great parallel between T’Challa and Killmonger that began in Civil War, as noted by Moore. Killmonger wanted nothing more than to avenge the death of his father at the hands of T’Chaka, and was willing to kill everyone and anyone who could be held responsible. But, when T’Challa lost his father to Baron Zemo’s (Daniel Brühl) plan, he wound up saving his life, saying vengeance would no longer consume him. That mantra holds true throughout Black Panther, down to Killmonger’s final moments where T’Challa still tries to save his cousin. Killmonger has other plans as he once again chooses death over life, leaving T’Challa to take his goal and make it new.
Source: The Empire Film Podcast
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