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M'Baku sitting on his throne

Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther 2 is still a couple of years away, but that hasn’t stopped fans from speculating about the sequel to the wildly successful 2018 film. One of the major points of speculation has surrounded who the film’s villain should be. Will T’Challa face off with Achebe, Mephisto, the Skrulls, Namor or will Killmonger return somehow? It turns out that actor Winston Duke has a surprising idea for who the villain should be in Black Panther 2: M’Baku. Winston Duke explained his reasoning, saying:

[M'Baku] is a hero, but he has so much going on. I think what makes a really great villain is that they have the power of seeing things their own way, and they can define their own circumstances.

It definitely comes as a surprise to hear Winston Duke say that his character M’Baku should be the villain in Black Panther 2. Although M’Baku started off as, if not an outright villain, at least an antagonist in Black Panther, by the end of that film and then through Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame he was very much a hero. But as Winston Duke tells Screen Rant, it’s more complicated than that.

According to Winston Duke, M’Baku is a hero, but as a character he has a lot going on and that complexity would lend itself to making him a great villain in Black Panther 2. M’Baku and the Jabari tribe are proud people who have had serious ideological differences with T’Challa and the rest of Wakanda. It’s those qualities that could allow for M’Baku to assume a villain role.

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What Spenser Confidential star Winston Duke seems to be describing is a trait that is most commonly associated with Magneto. He’s often a villain that does some horrible things, but he’s also kind of right and he sees himself as the hero. Winston Duke elaborated on his thinking, saying:

And that's what's really cool about all the MCU villains so far as well. Loki always sees things his own way, and he chooses when he's going to be an ally or an antagonist. Thanos always had the power of self-definition. That's his greatest strength. It wasn't the rings, it wasn't his superpower or the fighting. It’s that he made his mind up and said, “This is how I define justice.” Because he wasn't a bad guy; he's just a dude who was seeking ultimate justice and balance. That's not bad. But he defined it himself, and all the really great villains that Marvel interrogates always have that ability, so they can go anywhere.

Villainy is a matter of perspective. Loki vacillates between hero and villain, often finding himself as the frenemy of the more cut and dry superheroes. Even though Thanos advocated genocide on a universal scale, he did so because he truly believed it was for the greater good. In Winston Duke’s estimation, it was Thanos’ conviction in his beliefs, not the Infinity Stones, that made him such a threat. It’s a great point from the M’Baku actor.

It seems that Winston Duke believes that M’Baku has some of these same qualities because he is a character that sees things in his own way and is strong in his beliefs and aims. Therefore, if the actor had his druthers, he would have M’Baku be the villain in Black Panther 2.

It’s an interesting idea, even if I think it unlikely. While M’Baku is compelling and formidable, I think Black Panther 2 would have to do some serious legwork to convince audiences that he was a genuine threat to T’Challa. That said, I think the franchise would be well served by keeping M’Baku as a bit of a foil to T’Challa.

The two can still be friendly and unite against common enemies, but it would be interesting to see M’Baku remain not villainous, but antagonistic. T’Challa is the king of a nation and continuing to see him have ideological differences with someone that is both friend and rival would really play into the weight of the crown.

As for now the villain and the plot of Black Panther 2 remain a mystery. Black Panther 2 hits theaters on May 6, 2022. Assuming you want to see movies before then, you can check out our 2020 Release Schedule to see what’s coming out this year. And you can see Winston Duke opposite Mark Wahlberg in Spenser Confidential, streaming on Netflix on March 6.