Black Panther aka T’Challa is the rightful King but Erik Killmonger gives us enough reason to view his side of the argument in a rational way….
By basic archetypes, T’Challa is the hero and Erik Killmonger is the villain of Black Panther. The former stands for justice, righteousness and for a society that has maintained its secrecy for ages. He can judge the wrongdoings committed by his father and for the most part of the movie, he is conflicted as to whether Wakanda must maintain its secrecy or should reveal itself to the rest of the world.
Killmonger, on the other hand, is the villain but unlike MCU villains, this guy isn’t just bad because he has to be. He has a backstory that gives him more than enough reason to act the way he does. The audience might not root for him but he still evokes empathy. Killmonger wants to be the King of Wakanda as he believes that he has a right to the throne. He never saw his home because King T’Chaka took it away from him when he was young and this has always been the factor that drove Killmonger.
Speaking about his character at the Asia Premiere of Black Panther in Seoul, Michael B Jordan said, “So Killmonger’s perspective and T’Challa’s perspective are two sides of the argument, of a conversation that are both kind of saying similar things. Basically, they both have valid arguments, there’s some truth to both sides. Depends on where you are sitting at the table and what you are taking from it.”
In the first challenge between the two, it is Killmonger’s sheer hunger for the throne that motivates him. At this point, nobody wants it more than him, not even T’Challa. But his brutal ways of destroying the Herb garden show the audience that this man is ushering Wakanda into danger.
T’Challa and Killmonger’s morality is poles apart but at the end of the day their goals are quite similar. They both want to help those who need Wakanda’s resources but their approach is starkly different. They’re brothers but while one has been brought up in a protected environment with his family, the other one has seen the harsh side of the world where he didn’t even have anyone to talk with about his roots.
“Black Panther’s almost like a good version of Darth Vader. But he’s noble, wise and smart,” Ryan Coogler, the director of Black Panther said this about T’Challa at the Asia Premiere of the film and we can see how that is valid. Black panther is, of course, noble and wise but he can also be brutal when Wakanda needs him to be that way.
Black Panther is the rightful King and like in any film, we know he is going to emerge as the winner but Killmonger gives us enough reason to view his side of the argument in a rational way and that balances this story of good v/s evil.