Killmonger is right again in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Back in 2018, by Ryan Coogler Black Panther has spawned a wave of memes that have haunted the Marvel Cinematic Universe ever since, all because the main villain, Erik Killmonger (played by Michael B. Jordan) didn’t follow through on what has become a role model. the MCU’s standard for a villain. “Killmonger was right” stuck in part because it was such a catchy phrase (and infinitely transferable to “Thanos was right”, “Riddler was right”, etc.).

But it became a pervasive debate throughout the film for another reason: because it was true. After MCU’s lackluster villain series whose primary motive is “power for power” or “I just hate the hero of this movie,” Killmonger comes across with a particularly understandable grudge against his hometown of Wakanda and an overriding agenda. went beyond personal punishment and extended to helping oppressed Blacks around the world by using Wakanda’s military might on their behalf. Audiences reacted to that agenda, often with indignation that the film’s hero, King T’Challa, aka Black Panther, never fully responded to Erik’s grievances. .

In the powerful sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda forever, Killmonger’s Tactics gets a new airing and a new chance to be the right person, in a few different ways. But his legacy is also misguided. The film respects how fans react to the character’s first appearance and takes advantage of it at the same time. But Coogler and co-writer Joe Robert Cole may have gone further by giving Erik the hearing he missed the first time around.

[Ed. note: Spoilers ahead for one key scene in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.]

Will Killmonger stay in Wakanda forever?

T'Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) battle naked in ankle-deep water against the backdrop of Dora Milaje's observers in 2018's Black Panther

Photo: Marvel Studios/Disney

Some fans were hoping it was all the same Black Panther The sequel could somehow find a way to resurrect Killmonger, and even turn him into the new Black Panther. (It seems unlikely, but in a series that increasingly leans toward the infinite possibilities of the multiverse, it doesn’t. Impossible – episode 6 of MCU animated series What if…? did exactly that.) Early rumors that Jordan would return for the role just add fuel to the fire.

As it happens, Jordan returns as Killmonger – but only after posthumously. When scientist Wakandan Shuri (Letitia Wright) finds a way to synthesize the heart-shaped herb that grants the powers of her country’s iconic hero, Black Panther, to those who consume it, she follows. the way his brother is T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) put into Black Panther, and consuming herbs in a ritual process. It brought her into a vision to the Ancestral Plane, where the former T’Challa and Killmonger could meet and talk to their deceased fathers.

But instead of her father, her brother, or her recently deceased mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett), Shuri finds Erik Killmonger waiting for her, and smugly announces that she called him and not anyone else. She denies it, but it quickly becomes clear that he is telling the truth. Grieving the death of her brother from an unnamed illness, and enraged by her mother’s death at the hands of the seemingly immortal mutant Namor (Tenoch Huerta), Shuri wants no wisdom, or a consolation she did not believe in. want revenge. So, instinctively, she turns to the most vengeful character she’s ever met.

Killmonger was right

Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) enters Wakanda's throne room, followed by W'Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya) in 2018's Black Panther

Image: Marvel Studios/Disney

The scene is a thrill for fans of the character. For the most part, the chance to see Jordan again in action acts like a strong objection to the way he disappeared in the third act of the series. Black Panther, turning into an unsatisfying CG effect instead of convincing the viewer. In Wakanda foreverhe’ll be back with the confident, bare-bones villain he played in the early seasons of Black Panther, and he can dominate a room with his presence. He also sets off some truth bombs, telling things Shuri knows but doesn’t admit: that her brother and father aren’t ruthless or ruthless enough to give her the edge she wants in the upcoming war. come against Namor.

Much Wakanda forever is the battle for Shuri’s soul: It’s about how she navigated her grief for T’Challa and then her mother, and how she navigates the temptation Namor presents to her, to turn Wakanda’s security problems into a grudge with the entire jealous, coveted world. The big question throughout the film is what will she choose: T’Challa’s dream of open and far-reaching borders to the world? Isolate in her lab, and what are her favorite experiments? The friendship and partnership at work is represented by her new acquaintance Riri (Dominique Thorne), possibly the first person she’s ever met who might match intellect, curiosity, and talent. hers? Wakanda domination at the expense of the rest of the world?

Not all of these options are mutually exclusive, but they are all on the table, and they all represent possible paths she could navigate, if she didn’t let revenge. swallow yourself. But Killmonger, who do to avenge his destruction, represents a barrier that she must overcome if she is to move forward. He’s what all good villains are supposed to be: a dark mirror to her obsessions, a reflection of exactly what she could become if she made good choices. selfishness and self-interest.

But at the same time, you To be right when he says she’s hurt and angry, and wants to do something about it. He’s right when he says that kindness, mercy, and prioritizing the needs of others have not saved her family members. And he was right to call her for denying what she was feeling and what she wanted. He may be dead and on the Ancestral Plane, but he is as sharp and determined as ever.

Killmonger was wrong

Shuri (Letitia Wright) stands in a throne room surrounded by pillars of fire reflected in puddles in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

Image: Marvel Studios/Disney

However, the scene can be much more than that. Black Panther never really let the Wakandan characters admit the injustice when T’Chaka abandoned Killmonger to grow up fatherless and alone in America. The audience feels the injustice and sees the depth of Erik’s emotions, but the others in the story are more concerned with their own schedules. Wakanda forever there’s already so much going on, there’s no point in redoing that plot or respecting that point. But what’s remarkable is how eloquent, emotional, and persuasive Killmonger is in the first movie when it comes to voicing his opinion, and how little he can say in the first film. Wakanda forever.

He points out that Shuri has been looking to him for advice on revenge and power, but he hasn’t offered any more specific or helpful advice other than “take care of the business”. He didn’t give her tactical advantages or insight that seemed to come naturally to him. He mocks the Shuri family but offers no alternative to what he considers their weakness, other than “Follow the path that I took, the path that failed and caused me to die. and is seen as the bad guy.” A lot of opportunities were lost in the scene between him and Shuri, because he had so little to say other than to confirm what audiences already know: that Shuri is angry, abandoned, and looking for someone. there to confirm her anger was justified and fair.

Killmonger’s endorsement of Shuri’s anger makes sense at this point, and is also terrifying in the best way. It’s the moment when a hero searches for the villain to tell her she can commit evil deeds, to assure her that whatever she wants to do with her enemies. We are all reasonable. And her exchange with Killmonger helped her: It confirmed what she was thinking and feeling, as well as what she was trying to deny. Inadvertently, he helps her make the right choices by clearly defining what the wrong choices are and why they’re so appealing – even if that’s not what he’s trying to do. done while talking to her.

But it’s a short scene, wasted on denial and a hand. Shuri never came up with any of the most logical arguments for her to come up with. She doesn’t explain how grief prompted her to embrace the idea of ​​talking to her ancestors, despite her lack of faith in the supernatural. She doesn’t make it clear that the path he’s pushing her down isn’t doing him any good. With just a little more resistance from her, he could have triggered so much more – and it would be worthwhile to see why he still believes revenge is the way to go, even though it has failed him, or he may have told her how she was hesitant to accept the path.

And in the end, she turns to him for advice, but all she gets is “Revenge is good.” Killmonger has a lot of strengths in the righteous aspects of his target and is completely confident in his actions. But he’s also a strategist and a planner, and he doesn’t conjure up any of that, even in the simplest of things. The Art of War-style, in terms of telling her to find and exploit her enemies’ weaknesses. His eloquence and the power of his presence are also primary weapons, and Wakanda forever don’t give him enough space to free them.

It was a glorious scene anyway. It was both a shock to the audience and a perfectly reasonable confirmation of what we already knew. (It also opens up more questions about exactly who will hang out on the Ancestral Plane, which is clearly unrelated to the hero/villain dichotomy.) But the sequence still has a lot of potential. on the table, if there’s an opportunity to separate Killmonger from his origin story and let him shine. That’s where Coogler was able to dig deeper into themes of revenge, grief, and vindication, while making more use of Jordan’s presence. Who knows how many more chances there are for Killmonger to show up and yes — why not take advantage of this opportunity more?

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