The best villains force you to draw a line in the sand splitting hairs of moral and social decency. It’s why we have that love/hate respect and admiration for Heath Ledger’s Joker, Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator, and Ian McKellan and Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of Magneto… and why Black Panther fans have a special place in their hearts for Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger.
A Closer Look at How Erik Killmonger is Introduced in Black Panther
Michael B. Jordan’s portrayal of Erik Killmonger is like a meteor whose full and total impact of who he is and all he represents in the movie doesn’t hit you right away. The movie introduces him in a museum admiring a display of rare African artifacts. His appearance is that of a modern intelligent b-boy laced with spectacles and locs. The dude is woke. When inquiring about his ancestor’s artifacts, he’s directed to a white woman to learn about his own nation. Without hesitation and with full confidence, he rudely, yet brilliantly enlightens her about the Wakandian artifacts she thought she knew so much about. Then he confronts her about the elitist disposition she has against him as if he doesn’t belong there even though he is more educated about the subject than she. Just when we’re ready to rally behind Killmonger, he actually proves her right by admitting he’s poisoned her drink in order to rob and pillage the place.
At this point, it’s clear that Killmonger is the bad guy.
The Complexity Behind the Black Panther Killmonger Character
The brilliant storyline that the screenwriter, Ryan Coogler imparts in the movie is by building a compelling back story to Killmonger’s character. In fact, the movie actually begins with it. We’re so engulfed with the glory of the Black Panther in the scene, that we don’t bother questioning anything else, because frankly, we don’t care to. We don’t care to question any justice that the Black Panther dispenses because we know he’s the good guy; we also don’t bother to inquire about the social impact at which justice is carried out. It’s the distant echo of Captain America: Civil War’s conflicting storyline in terms of acknowledging the aftermath and collateral damage fighting crime has—the movie in which Chadwick Boseman is introduced as the Black Panther.
Young Killmonger: Fatherless in the Ghetto
In Black Panther, Little Boy Killmonger is the collateral damage. He is abandoned in America, far from his homeland with no father, left to raise himself.
Killmonger is a representation of the African American. To add more complexity to his character, he is also an American patriot. He enlisted in the arm forces, served his adopted country and became the ideal soldier, getting promoted and earning his iconic codename.
Marvel Villain: African American Soldier Rejected by Native Nation, and Woke AF!
The character of Erik Killmonger is an African American with no father who was raised by his adopted government. King T’Chaka, T’Challa’s father, the Black Panther before him, had already foreseen this well before young Killmonger came into his own which is why he left him.
The only true patriarchal identity Killmonger had was the Wakandian book his father kept that enlightened, yet complicated his own perception and realization of his true identity and how his family abandoned him. Understanding that his native family didn’t want him, rejection festered within Killmonger conjuring up discontentment which led him to wax a vigilante plot to redeem his true heritage and possibly restore a sense of identity and cloak of protection to the African American community.
What I’m basically saying is Killmonger is the ghetto’s Batman. Queen’s Spiderman, and now that we know Tony Stark’s father was murdered, New York’s Ironman.
Ok, let’s just stick with Killmonger being the Black Dark Knight, but T’Challa was no Joke—r (hey-yooo)!
Everybody’s loves the Batman, right?
And I LOVE Killmonger! Is there a way to dip him in a pool of Vibranium and bring him back? Give Jordan time to get some more Creed movies in and bring. Him. Back!
So Killmonger’s plan works! He makes it back to Wakanda, challenges T’Challa for the throne and wins. Killmonger’s dreams have come true. Yayyy!
So is Killmonger Justified? Is He Really a Villain or a Victim?
Remember Big Poppa Panther already knew Killmonger was going to be a problem which is why he left his a** in North America as a kid; but would that have happened if T’Chaka had brought him home as a young boy where he could’ve been taught the Wakandian ways and traditions? Would he have still learned the truth and just been salty? Probably, but chances are he wouldn’t have gone on a museum killing heist for a Wakandian artifact. On the other hand, Killmonger would have never experienced the African American plight, so there would be no reason to smuggle Vibranium into the hood. However, if he didn’t do it, Klaw would have continued smuggling it for sure—kind of like how automatic weapons somehow find their way in neighborhoods below the poverty line.
Poor Killmonger. Could Things Have Been Different?
What kind of person would Erik Killmonger have been if T’Chaka had brought him home to bury his father. Would he have been a “good” person or would he had been one of the Wakandian perpetrators Black Panther and Nakia were saving refugees from? We’ll never know.
What I do know is that Black Panther is a good a** movie and Michael B. Jordan played the hell out of Erik Killmonger! His last words he spoke in the movie echoed throughout the world and rocked the soul of any viewer whose ancestors were slaves. Your mind not be able to fully comprehend the brilliant storyline of Black Panther, but your spirit definitely will. I am eagerly anticipating the next two stand-alones!
“Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, ’cause they knew death was better than bondage.” ~Killmonger
We know what Wakanda represents but let’s look at Danai Gurira’s Okoye and Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakia’s characters. Let me sit on that a little longer and get back to you. The pot is still stirring.