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18 February 2018 @ 05:15 pm
Film Not!Review: Black Panther (2018)  
The 18th Marvel film has been labeled a "gamechanger" by many a critic due to its rather bold representation of racial, national politics and a notable predominant black cast. And I'm sure I'm not the only one to say this when I note that really the standout, most affecting character is the film's antagonist, Erik "Killmonger" Stevens.

I don't have time to give a super lenghty review of the movie as a whole (it's really good, though. See it! So much fun action, humor, and heart) but I did want to take a moment to discuss Killmonger's two scenes that stood out as the most memorable (to me at least).


We learn halfway into the movie that Killmonger, the main antagonist is actually the son of T'Challa's uncle,N'Jobu, making him T'Challa's cousin and also in line for the throne of Wakanda. N'Jobu went to the US on a specific mission and during his time fell in love with an African American woman and had Killmonger. After N'Jobu's death, Killmonger was left orphaned in the US despite his Wakandan heritage and grew up with the experience of many black boys of low SES in the US. His later mission to tip the playing field in the favor of black people across the world by equipping them with unparalled weapons at Wakanda's disposal is both morally terrifying but also completely understandable given his view of the world. However, the scenes which drove home for me Killmonger's point of view where I couldn't feel right in labeling him a "villain" were ones where he visits the ancestral plane and later when he is ultimately defeated by T'Challa.

Like T'Challa, Killmonger gets a chance to enter into the ancestral plane to commune with his father. However, unlike T'Challa who envisioned this plane as the Wakandan landscape of beauty and light, Killmonger sees it as the old Oakland apartment he shared with his father as a little boy. More than that, while T'Challa remained his adult self during this vision, Killmonger momentarily reverts back to his child self when he sees his father. I nearly cried when N'Jobu asked if Killmonger wouldn't shed tears for him and Killmonger as a child replied with a flat "People die. It's just the way it is." But seconds later as an adult again when he hears N'Jobu lament that his soul is forever abandoned between Wakanda and America, you see Killmonger shed tears. This scene more than anything else Killmonger says drives home how much he has been affected by the loss of his father and the treatment he has received by being a black man in the US. It later dovetails perfectly with his decision to die by T'Challa's hand rather than be saved, saying the world's most affecting, moving exit line: "Bury me in the ocean, with the rest of my ancestors who jumped ship because they knew death was better than bondage." We never find out anything about Killmonger's mother, but the idea that it was her people he was thinking of as he took his final breaths was incredible.

All in all, I couldn't agree with Killmonger's plans for world change. But I felt like I understood his story at a level where I couldn't hate him in the least. And in the end, he at least affected some difference in that for the first time, the antagonist changed the mind of the hero in a Marvel movie as T'Challa ends the film by lifting the isolationist barriers between Wakanda and the rest of the world.
 
 
 
X-parrotxparrot on February 19th, 2018 12:35 am (UTC)
Yeah, in our conversations about the movie afterwards, that was the element that most struck our brother in particular -- that the MCU had a villain who was so completely sympathetic, in that you understand exactly where he's coming from and (as does T'Challa) end up agreeing with his point, if not condoning his methods. (And I gotta say Michael B. Jordan really knocked it out of the park -- like, he doesn't force it, he never plays Killmonger as trying to be manipulatively sympathetic, but his humanity and anger and pain are so vivid.)

The other thing my brother noted was that Killmonger actually plays by the rules, when it comes to Wakanda; he has a completely legitimate right to the challenge, and he wins it honestly. The only thing he does that's villainously wrong (in Wakanda) is try to break the traditions of succession by burning the plants; everything else he's above board.

Edited at 2018-02-19 12:43 am (UTC)
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on February 19th, 2018 12:49 am (UTC)
The other thing my brother noted was that Killmonger actually plays by the rules, when it comes to Wakanda; he has a completely legitimate right to the challenge, and he wins it honestly. The only thing he does that's villainously wrong (in Wakanda) is try to break the traditions of succession by burning the plants; everything else he's above board.

Yes! I noticed that as well and was kind of glad M'Baku clarified later that T'Challa's death was "less of a murder and more of a legitimate defeat." Erik playing by the rules made it all the more understandable that Okoye stayed loyal to serving the king because he HAD won the title.

But yes, the minute Erik ordered the herbs to be burned and refused to do the challenge again when T'Challa came back, it gave more reason why he had to be stopped and that he shouldn't be recognized as king.

Edited at 2018-02-19 12:50 am (UTC)
aelfgyfu_mead: Winter Soldieraelfgyfu_mead on February 20th, 2018 12:52 am (UTC)
Michael B. Jordan was amazing as Killmonger, and I was sorry to see him go, really, though I totally disagreed with his plan to send weapons all over the world. T'Challa saw a kind of literalized family tree, with panthers/ancestors all over it; I think Killmonger only saw the apartment and his father because they had been cut off from their ancestors in various ways.

I think I'm gonna have to make myself some new icons, though, because I also thought Shuri rocked, and Nakia, and Okoye!
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on February 20th, 2018 12:59 am (UTC)
I think Killmonger only saw the apartment and his father because they had been cut off from their ancestors in various ways.

Yeah, that totally makes sense. Of all the moments in the movie, watching Killmonger and N'Jobu talk about how Wakanda had abandoned them was heart-wrenching.

Shuri rocked, and Nakia, and Okoye!

While Killmonger was the most affecting character for me, my personal favorite was Okoye. I loved her from the moment she gave T'Challa the side eye when he said he'd do the mission to find Nakia on his own.

I remember when I saw Civil War, how much I liked T'Challa and was interested in his story. So I was really surprised (in a good way) when he actually turned out to be the least interesting character in his own movie. I mean, he was great but everyone surrounding him was SO great. I felt like they all deserved their own movie.
aelfgyfu_meadaelfgyfu_mead on February 20th, 2018 10:37 pm (UTC)
I remember when I saw Civil War, how much I liked T'Challa and was interested in his story. So I was really surprised (in a good way) when he actually turned out to be the least interesting character in his own movie. I mean, he was great but everyone surrounding him was SO great. I felt like they all deserved their own movie.
Yes! This!