Beware of major spoilers to Black Panther, ye who enter here
Black Panther is a great film; Erik Killmonger is a great villain. Needless to say, everyone involved in the production has plenty of reason to be proud for making an incredible film. That includes Michael B. Jordan, the actor who brought Killmonger to life. You might recognize him from Chronicle, Creed, or Fantastic Four. He and Ryan Coogler have been partners in crime for years now. So it’s no surprise when he actually needed a partner in crime, Coogler called Jordan.
Unlike most Marvel films, the villain gets significant focus here. His motivations are just as pivotal to the plot as Black Panther’s, because he is also a Wakandan prince.
Because Killmonger is Wakandan he is able to challenge King T’Challa for the Throne. He does, and he wins. Plain and simple. There was no augmentation; there was no trickery. It was an important moment in the film because it laid our hero low. Allowing for his growth and return to glory by the end of the film.
It was an amazing fight. A fight between two kings. Because that’s something that can’t be taken away from Erik Killmonger. The fact that he is Wakandan; the fact that he beat T’Challa and became King.
This is no ordinary villain. Because his goal isn’t simply to kill T’Challa, it’s to take his power and do something else with it. Real power and real motivation. It made him an incredible villain and allowed Ryan Coogler and his team to give voice to so many hurting by way of an angry son vengeful over a lost father.
And that’s how Erik Killmonger became one of the best villains in the MCU for a brief moment.
The FINAL FIGHT
Most realize, but few care that the final fight of the film was actually revealed in the very first trailer. This fight between T’Challa in his Black Panther suit and Erik Killmonger in his own, is the climax of the movie. It’s intense, fun, innovative, and so much more. It’s a wonderful cap to a film about warriors. Many might note that it’s likely mostly CGI over some motion-capture, but that does little to hamper the fun.
What does hamper the fun is the end result: the death of Erik Killmonger.
Killmonger and T’Challa are evenly matched; parrying and riposting as they duel it out for the throne. It’s dramatic and almost Shakespearean, somewhat reminiscent of Kenneth Branagh’s Thor. High fantasy drama in a Marvel superhero film, who would have thought?
But that’s the kind of chemistry Erik Killmonger brought to Black Panther. The kind of brutal, destructive fire that needed to die out. Because as he points out in his final moments, he would never be suited for more bondage or imprisonment. A possible echo of Coogler’s own thoughts on the community for which he painstakingly created something wondrous.
Killmonger is stabbed by T’Challa, a blade protruding from his chest. He gives a short monologue on what he expected Wakanda to look like. And so T’Challa walks his cousin out to a Wakandan sunset, not unlike the one featured in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
The two ponder life and their own ideals before Killmonger pulls the dagger from his chest, effectively killing him. Unfortunately, that will be the only sunset Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger sees in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But it was glorious.