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Millions of people around the world have seen Black Panther now and the single most fascinating conversation to come out of the movie is whether or not Erik Killmonger is really the villain. Played with laser focus by Michael B. Jordan, Killmonger is a complex, passionate, and somewhat sympathetic character who hopes to achieve his goals through potentially devious methods. The character has struck a chord with many fans, sparking a debate if Killmonger can really be considered a villain. Sterling K. Brown, who also stars in the movie, believes that Killmonger is the villain, but he ultimately has a point.
He is a villain because, while his intentions, and N'Jobu's intentions for that fact, are honorable, they didn't necessarily go about it [in a way] that would actually bring about the change that they want.
In the movie, Killmonger essentially wants to arm the disenfranchised with Wakandan weaponry so that they can rise up against their oppressors. This comes from a place of clear pain due to something that happened in Killmonger's past. It's what makes Killmonger such a sympathetic character, but one can't forget that he plans to accomplish his goals by killing anyone in his way and then probably a lot more people after that. According to Sterling K. Brown in an interview with ABC, Killmonger's (and his own character, N'Jobu) intentions are honorable, but ultimately his methods won't result in meaningful or good change.
Part of the reason that Killmonger has become so sympathetic is that his main viewpoint is right: Wakanda is wrong to keep it's vast wealth and resources to itself and refuse to help others. Even Chadwick Boseman considers T'Challa an enemy in the movie in this regard. However, Killmonger ultimately really only cares about himself, and as Sterling K. Brown later points out, his intentions are being confused with his personal ambitions.
He wasn't trying to create a legacy. He was like 'I want this for myself. That's where the intention gets confused with personal ambition, but what he was able to illuminate... is that he is not without a point.
Killmonger places himself in a position of power in Black Panther, and then he takes steps to make sure that he is the only one who will ever hold this power again. That goes against his central sales pitch of ultimately helping others and future generations. Plus, you don't get a name like Killmonger for being a good dude. However, it's endlessly fascinating that a villain in a comic book movie is being painted with such subtle strokes that both sides of the debate are valid.
Join the conversation and watch Black Panther, in theaters right now. For more Marvel movies, be sure to check out our Marvel movie release guide.