Why Black Panther’s Erik Killmonger Was A Disappointing Villain

Why Black Panther’s Erik Killmonger Was A Disappointing Villain

Nearly six years ago, Black Panther was a game-changer for Marvel and superheroes in general. The feature presented an all-black cast within the genre and managed to climb past the billion-dollar mark. However, the reason for Black Panther’s success isn’t simply because of the race of its cast. That’s due to the film having a compelling set of characters at the forefront.

Black Panther is one of the older characters in the comics that was first created back when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby first introduced him in Fantastic Four #52Though he wasn’t particularly in the high ranks of Captain America or The Hulk, the leader of Wakanda had a unique identity that allowed his stories to nicely flourish. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Eric Killmonger. The character in the comics was a great foil for the Marvel superhero, but he fails to be a truly compelling force in the live-action film.

The Misguided Story Arc Of Erik Killmonger and Ulysses Klaue

Why Black Panther’s Erik Killmonger Was A Disappointing Villain

Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) was always billed as the main antagonist of the film. The trailer does focus more on T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and Black Panther, but Killmonger is firmly established as the force standing in Black Panther’s way. However, Ryan Coogler makes the mistake of spending more time focusing on Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis). This is no disrespect to Andy Serkis as he’s a fantastic actor, but his role feels unnecessary here.

Killmonger is a compelling figure in the comics. Ryan Coogler didn’t stray too much away from the comics as the partnership of Killmonger and Klaue does exist. However, the biggest issue is that their story arc takes away from the building of Killmonger vs. T’Challa. The former killing off Klaue in the second act meant nothing because we never understand the true nature of their relationship like in the comics.

We spend too much time with Black Panther going after Klaue for the vibranium when the perfect story already presented itself. Killmonger wanted revenge for T’Challa murdering his father. That should’ve been the focus from the very beginning.

We Should’ve Followed Killmonger’s Quest For Revenge Against T’Challa

Black Panther at the Oscars

That means establishing the elite fighting skills he gained during his time in the military. Plus, it would’ve been better served if Killmonger was the ultimate culprit behind T’Chaka’s murder. Since the film spends so much time with T’Challa going after Klaue, the ending sequence with Killmonger feels hollow.

Killmonger isn’t given enough time to truly rule Wakanda and destroy the place due to his insane delusions. Obviously, Killmonger was going to make a bad king. Had the film spent time building his quest for revenge by establishing how much of a badass he is and the emotional scars he bears from his father’s death, the climax of Black Panther would’ve hit harder?

Erik Killmonger was missing the emotional complexity that made villains like Thanos or Joker so iconic. He has a rich story in the comics. Coogler did his best adapting the source material, but some of it should’ve been fleshed out better. That isn’t to say that Killmonger is presented as a one-note villain in the film. He’s certainly one of the more fleshed-out villains in the MCU, but his entire arc was rushed because we weren’t given enough time to see his tyrannical reign as king.

His Demise Was Predictable

Why Black Panther’s Erik Killmonger Was A Disappointing Villain

Killmonger’s demise was always inevitable. However, Coogler would’ve been better off ending Black Panther with a strong cliffhanger. Killmonger had a strong win so that needed to simmer a lot more. The tragedy of Chadwick Boseman would’ve put a damper on the story, so perhaps it was best to not exact their rivalry beyond one film. Still, the audience needed more time for the main villain to rule Wakanda.

More importantly, it would’ve been great to explore how Killmonger used his evil ways to play Black Panther. It could’ve been a fun narrative to see Killmonger purposely try to destroy the image of Black Panther and even the Avengers. This could’ve been an epic two-part saga that would’ve allowed Killmonger to truly shine as a villain.

Killmonger was lackluster because the direction of his character didn’t have much depth or dimension behind it. Going into Avengers: Endgame, audiences knew that Thanos would be stopped. However, Thanos was treated as a huge threat from the beginning and the shock of his killing off several Avengers made the plot less predictable. Killmonger is far from a bad villain. Unfortunately, he’s just another Marvel villain who didn’t get a chance to prove why he’s an elite name in the comics.

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