The release of Marvel’s Black Panther earlier this year was a moment in the cultural zeitgeist like few others produced by superhero movies. While there have been other, and even a few (very few) bigger caped and cowl epics put on the big screen, it is rare company when one hits a nerve the way Ryan Coogler’s film about Wakanda has. Grandiose, epic, and startlingly about today, the movie feels authentically current despite how fictional vibranium is. And this is in large part thanks to Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger.
The ostensible villain of the piece, Erik Killmonger is the antagonist who, in spite of being the son of a Wakandan prince, grew up as a fatherless orphan in abject poverty on the streets of Oakland. As such, opinions might differ among audiences when he first asserted himself as the man who would be king on the Wakandan throne in Black Panther, which is something director Ryan Coogler and production designer Hannah Beachler touch upon in our exclusive clip from the commentary track on the Black Panther DVD and Blu-ray release.
Both Coogler and Beachler consider what Killmonger is pitching, which the former notes is a war strategy that involves destabilizing implicitly Western governments and societies the way he has seen the U.S. military and intelligence community destabilize regions… as well as how he feels people of color have been treated by authority figures. Intriguingly, Coogler strains a bit to say that Killmonger wishes to dominate nondescript people as a revenge for what has been done to Killmonger all his life, but it’s as clear as the fury on Jordan’s face.
“We want him to talk about the ugly violence of revolutions, you know what I’m saying?” Coogler comments. “He’s very intent on doing to other people what he felt like was done to him and done to his people.”
It is also worth noting that while Okoye, Danai Gurira’s character, is immediately opposed to Killmonger’s wartime mindset, even Beachler, at least while initially seeing the film in a theater with an unsuspecting audience, briefly saw the appeal of Killmonger’s anger. He is not quite just a bad guy… at least “until he starts talking crazy.”
This ambiguity about the villain, as well as the justifiable rage that drives his choices is one of the most compelling aspects about the character and the film, which we explored in-depth here. Easily Marvel Studios’ best villain, and a major success for Coogler and Jordan, Killmonger is a character who makes Black Panther worth revisiting.
Which is par for the course since Black Panther was released for digital download today and will be out on Blu-ray/4K on May 15. You can order them here.