The life of Killmonger would make for a riveting spin-off.
There is no end to our love of Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger at Film School Rejects. Black Panther director Ryan Coogler made the ultimate Marvel villain; a distinct character with emotional motivations that make sense. There are many reasons Killmonger is an iconic character in the canon of the MCU, but what if there was a way to explore what made him tick on a more personal level?
During the Cannes Film Festival, Coogler spent 90-minutes going in depth on the creative process of Black Panther. He discussed making the world of Wakanda, the effect of Black Panther on the film industry, and women of Black Panther spin-off, among others. One of the other tidbits Coogler dropped during the panel was exploring the character of Killmonger more.
Killmonger as Batman? That is enticing all by itself. Using what Coogler gives us of Killmonger’s past, it’s easy to imagine what this would look like.
After the murder of his father by mysterious assailants, young Erik Killmonger becomes orphaned. Unlike Bruce Wayne who was still given the shelter of Wayne Manor and Alfred, Killmonger grew up in the streets of Oakland, California surviving based on the hatred of the family who cast him aside.
Killmonger’s father N’Jobu did his country wrong by stealing the precious resource of vibranium, but only because he desired change. If Wakanda was all-powerful, wouldn’t they have the technology and resources to help all who suffered? This was additional fuel to the fire that burned deep inside of Killmonger. He wants to provide liberation to the millions of black people who suffer in the world with the technology of his people.
What could be so bad about the liberation of black people from around the world? That’s where his goals are defined more as an antagonist. He doesn’t see the future, he only sees the present. Once he achieves his goal of revenge that’s where his great journey ends. No matter who or what stands in his way, he is blinded by that rage.
We know that Killmonger survived the ghetto and made it out of Oakland. He moved forward in miraculous ways, studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This where Killmonger’s story further coincides with that of Bruce Wayne. It is said Killmonger is a war veteran with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He even had a tour in Africa where he acknowledges, “I killed my own brothers and sisters on this continent”. It didn’t matter who stood in his way as long as he learned the tools he needed.
This mirrors the events of Batman Begins. Bruce Wayne ends up in prison since he has been given a sentence for theft. That is where he meets Ra’s Al Ghul and begins his training as a member of the League of Shadows. A significant portion of the early movie is about Wayne’s training to become the Batman and the trials that shaped one of the greatest detective’s that ever lived.
In an origin story for Killmonger, this could be interpreted as a globe-trotting mission and add gravitas to the emotions that would lead Killmonger to kill anyone in his path to achieve his goal. What makes him such a successful villain is that there was enough to build upon because he was more compelling than Black Panther himself.
It isn’t hard to imagine this coming to fruition. Coogler has a penchant for working with Michael B. Jordan, having cast him in his previous films Fruitvale Station and Creed. In fact, I can’t imagine a Black Panther sequel without Killmonger involved in some fashion, even if his death was definitive at the moment. If there is one thing we know about Marvel movies, it is that death is only an inconvenience and rarely permanent.
If they move to a different villain in Black Panther 2, a prequel would give Coogler or someone else at Marvel reason to keep Jordan in the fold. There are many avenues to explore with Killmonger. There is a way he could be connected and aware of the happenings of the Marvel universe while chasing his demons, thus giving us a new perspective that hasn’t been focused on enough during the feature film series. And if nothing else, Killmonger was such a compelling antagonist he crosses that line into an anti-hero. His film would that character’s life in a way that a villain hasn’t seen since the Joker. There might be more comparisons to Batman than expected. Marvel producer Kevin Feige, make it happen.