Black Panther Director Ryan Coogler has described Killmonger as a very “grounded” villain, one with “a real world sensibility to him.”
Fans have long complained that Marvel has what’s sometimes called a “Villain Problem.” The Marvel movies typically feature bad guys who are essentially distorted ‘mirror images’ of the heroes. Iron Man fights a man in armor, Cap takes down a Nazi super-soldier, and Doctor Strange duels a rival sorcerer. As exciting as Black Panther may be, it’s clearly continuing that trend. The trailers have made clear that Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger will follow that trend. He’ll suit up as the Golden Jaguar, and battle T’Challa as an equal.
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In an interview with Fandango, director Ryan Coogler has explained what it is that makes Killmonger unique. He explained that, unlike a lot of Marvel villains, Killmonger is designed to have “a real world sensibility.”
“I think it’s a benefit of having Mike as an actor, but he’s a character that I think will feel very familiar to audiences. I think Marvel has had villains who you can relate to, but I think even more than that, you feel like he’s of this world. He’s very grounded, I would say.”
It’s an intriguing comment, not least because Coogler has put tremendous effort into world-building. The trailers have shown Wakanda as a gorgeous, vibrant civilization with a rich history and heritage. Every detail has been carefully considered. The film itself seems to be a blend of superhero action, political thriller, and even James Bond espionage. Killmonger, it seems, will ground the film.
The first trailer compared Wakanda to El Dorado. For the fictional country of Wakanda though, the gold is actually vibranium – a rare metal that exists in the Marvel universe. To give a sense of vibranium’s importance, Captain America’s shield is composed of a vibranium-titanium alloy. Wakanda has guarded the secret of its wealth for generations, but Black Panther promises to see the world learn the nation’s secrets. At this vulnerable time, Black Panther and Killmonger will push for radically different approaches.
Jordan himself has compared the dynamic between T’Challa and Killmonger to that of Xavier and Magneto. They stand for “two totally different approaches to the throne,” each wishing to see Wakanda head in a different direction. He admitted that the role haunted him, taking him to “a dark place.” Jordan’s comment dovetails nicely with Coogler’s; the most disturbing villains are those who are rooted in the real world. They’re the bad guys you can see all around you, the villains who stand for the worst impulses of the human heart.
Coogler’s comments are very promising indeed. They suggest that Black Panther will see Marvel unleash a powerful, disturbing villain. Whether Killmonger will be the answer to Marvel’s famous villain problem? We’ll have to wait and see.
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