I always felt that the old Bond films were only as good as the villain. As a child, I rather fancied a future as a colorful megalomaniac.
Harry Hart – Kingsman
The quote above is one of my favorites from the original Kingsman movie, and aptly describes the way I feel about Black Panther.
I went to the movie because it was the newest Marvel release. As with most movies these days I tried to stay away from reviews prior to the showing, satisfied instead to watch it with few preconceived notions. All I had heard was that it was good.
The movie, rightfully so, will have people writing about it for years. There’s a lot to say about the movie, but after having seen it twice now, there’s one aspect in particular that truly stands out to me, and that’s Killmonger.
It’s kind of easy to pick fun of Marvel movies, simply because of the tremendous success they’ve enjoyed. Typically, I expect little from them besides being a fun and entertaining popcorn flick. By those standards, they’ve almost always succeeded. But Black Panther stuck with me in a way no other Marvel movie has, and I think the credit belongs to the primary antagonist.
Again, much has already been made of Killmonger’s character, and I’m sure more will be written as time goes on. But what makes Killmonger special in the Marvel universe is that he is a well-rounded, believable villain. The only other evildoer who comes anywhere close is Loki, and while I’ll always be a fan, he’s surpassed easily by Killmonger.
Killmonger is intelligent, ruthless, and broken. When we see what happened to his father, and especially in the conversation he and his father have in the spirit world, we see the suffering Killmonger’s endured. He’s sympathetic, to a degree. More important – he has a character arc – changing as the story progresses. As he dies, we see that he has started to see the error of his ways, making his death even more meaningful, and even a little tragic.
I’ve always thought that one mark of quality in a story is how well-developed the antagonist is. Whenever I’m confronted with a generically “evil” character, the story begins to lose me. Black Panther avoids that trap, all too common in superhero and comic book movies. In no small part, this is yet another sign of its excellence.