In this column, I discuss the striking similarities between Michael B Jordan's Killmonger character in "Black Panther" and a certain "boy who lived":
The primary villain in “Black Panther” has a secret weapon that elevates not only himself but the entire film, and it’s not a mega death blaster or an ice-freezing beam shooter.
It’s that he’s right.
Minor spoilers for “Black Panther” to follow, because I can’t stop thinking about this movie, and I want to dig in a little bit for a discussion of the character played by Michael B. Jordan, known in the film as Erik “Killmonger.”
A villain who is right is the best kind, because their conflicts often mirror those in real life, allowing them to offer a social critique that the heroes themselves rarely can. Great villains can be found all throughout archetypal mythology (like a serpent offering a fruit of knowledge, for example), but for some reason, in blockbuster films, villains are almost always the weakest parts, even in otherwise excellent films, like “Wonder Woman,” or even the fourth “Mission: Impossible” entry, directed by Brad Bird.
But Killmonger is not created to be a simple plot mechanism. He is a fully fleshed-out character, the heart of the film’s provocative cultural commentary. He is given life both by the script’s authors Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, and by Jordan’s illuminating and humane performance. In their capable hands, Killmonger is an antihero who feels totally relatable.
He’s so relatable, in fact, that he has more in common with most heroes than with bad guys. The more I thought about Killmonger, the more he reminded me of a certain “every person” hero audiences have loved and related to through seven novels and eight films: Harry Potter.