[quote]Basically once his backstory was out of the way[/quote]
Well, for starters he actually got to have an actual backstory that was personal and emotional. Most villains' backstory is just, they lost some war or their corrupt or evil past plans failed and they seek revenge. Revenge is still a central part of Killmonger's motivation, but we get an actual personal element to it, one of which actually has some emotional resonance.
[quote]he took over Wakanda he became very shallow with a rather nonsensical plot to take over the world.[/quote]
It wasn't a plot to take over the world, though. He was trying to send weapons to historically disenfranchised people so that they could start a revolution and rise above their oppressors. This is sort of why I find Killmonger such a good villain: he pushes some thematic concept worthy of actually thinking on. On its surface, Killmonger just wants to take over Wakanda because he feels the state has failed him. His father was murdered by the King, and he was deemed an outcast, so he wasn't "Wakandan." So, there's that vengeance element. But he grew up black in America, where the experience of many black people is similarly being deemed "other" and not really part of America either. His philosophical point, however, is that their identity is "black" rather than "American" or "Wakandan." The not that subtle subtext of the conflict is that he takes a militant stance on how black people can obtain the rights that they had long been denied or the freedoms that continue to often be challenged. He sees oppression of black people around the world and argues that revolution is the only way to gain that freedom from oppression.
His objective isn't really "world domination," although he does take that idea to the highest level of wanting to break the current status quo and rebuild it the other way around. I suppose you could argue there isn't really that much of a distinction, but I personally find the subtle nuance to make his goal a bit more engaging than even Loki's "I'm sad I won't be King and that my dad lied about my true origin, even though he still raised me as a prince and loved me as a son" thing. (This isn't meant to shit on Loki. I like Loki a lot. I am just not sure I see too much of a difference in caliber between the two. There is much to Loki that really makes no sense.)
[quote]He starts going on about bringing equality[/quote]
His objective was never to bring about equality. It was to swing the balance the other way. He maybe talks about how black people in Western nations don't have true equality as part of his reasoning for doing what he is doing, but his goal isn't ever to bring equality. It's not just to stop oppression, but to simply flip the status quo.
[quote]I'm not sure I recall the film ever showing him personally experiencing or witnessing inequality[/quote]
Well, I don't think it's that hard to imply that he saw inequality growing up in the poor stretches of predominantly black Oakland. We also knew his father had abandoned his mission in the States when he saw what was going on here (and he gives a list of oppressive elements that, while short, is compelling). So it's probably safe to say that he grew up to experience or see many of the same things. Given the film is the most overtly and intentionally political films in the Marvel repertoire, it's probably safe to assume that what these two characters discuss in brief are things we in the real world are at least vaguely aware about given the nature of mainstream political discourse.
The irony, of course, is that he also definitively experienced inequality at the hands of the Wakandan government by virtue of essentially being banned and covered up. But, Killmonger isn't the hero here. We are meant to see where he is coming from and even, to some extent, think he might have a point, but we aren't ever meant to really think he's the good guy. There is an unbridled rage with him from the very start of the film. (I'll come back to this element after some responses to your comments.)
We obviously don't expect our villains to make the most sense. Literally nothing about Thanos makes a lick of actual sense. Plenty of elements of Loki don't really add up either. On a fundamental level, we aren't really ever supposed to "get it," right? I'm not sure many of us really can understand the desire to hurt or kill others. I don't really see the elements that don't add up as a "problem" with him as a villain. That is kind of an element intrinsic to the role.
[quote]in fact he seems to have lived a very successful life[/quote]
Well, this sort of depends on how you define "success." He put himself through rigorous training with the most elite military, all with the intent to learn how to bring down the Wakandan status quo so that he could change the global one. So if you want to argue that he was "successful" because he used the military to get out of the projects of Oakland, you certainly can. But I might argue, given the overtly political sentiments of the film, that military as an escape from the projects is representative of the problem facing young people (men especially) in those areas, which often tend to be predominantly people of color. And at the same time, it makes sense that he wouldn't be able to focus on his own success when he sees a deeper, institutional problem. Him getting out of the projects doesn't suddenly mean that any institutional policies that fundamentally hold people back don't need addressing, or that he wouldn't care about those.
[quote]Isn't he just a narcissistic guy who goes on a power trip?[/quote]
I dunno that he fits the description of narcissist, and I wouldn't say he's on a "power trip." And either way, I would hardly suggest that that is "just" what he is. But villains - including Loki - aren't entirely known for being the most mentally sound people. (I mean, Loki is probably closer to fitting into the "narcissist going on a power trip" to be honest. I don't think he's "just" that, but I mean, he lies and deceives and cheats literally everyone to fulfill his needs, and he clearly does desire the throne himself.)
[quote]Wasn't his story just about some guy who felt entitled to the throne[/quote]
No. It's not about the throne. The throne is power, and that fundamentally means the ability to accomplish larger ideological goals. T'Challa wants peace in Wakanda. Killmonger wants revolution to flip the status quo around the world. Both men feel entitled to it, because both men have lineage that makes their claim valid. (And, really, anyone can claim the throne if they want. Defeat the current king in combat and it's yours, which Killmonger did. So even if he did "feel entitled" to the throne, he still also earned it through legitimate means in the political structure of Wakanda.)
[quote]then when he got it went about destroying any possible threat to his rule (such as burning the flowers) and also trying to conquer the world? [/quote]
Well, he wasn't out to "conquer" the world. But yes, obviously he is going to destroy threats to his power. That's what corrupt people with power, or people corrupted by power, do. He's the villain. I mean, it's not exactly like this wasn't Loki's main course of action during the third act of the first Thor movie. (He threatens Heimdall, deceives everyone to keep Thor banished, then sends the Destroyer to kill his brother, and kills the king of the Frost Giant - all moves done to secure his power. Every one of those people could have challenged his power or authority.)
The fact that Killmonger fits into the normal Marvel film scene is part of why he's good. He stands out to me for various reasons that make him more interesting than all the other Marvel villains, save Loki (I tend to think of them on a similar level, well, outside of Avengers where Loki sucks, and is also before Marvel started retconning him being a "villain" in the truest sense.) He's still the villain. He makes a lot more sense than Thanos does, frankly.
[quote]Loki I can relate to and empathise[/quote]
Right, because Loki's motivation and background isn't specific. It's pretty broad in theme. His motivation is ultimately shallow (he's sad that he was adopted but still loved like a real son), but most of us can relate to the idea of our parents lying to us, or to feeling inferior to a sibling. That's pretty broad strokes. Killmonger is a lot more specific to namely the African-American experience: of not feeling totally welcome in America, but also not feeling totally welcome in Africa either. For me, this central component makes him a lot more sympathetic than even Loki.
(I want to take a moment to also call attention to that word: I kind of have a problem when people say that Killmonger is "empathetic." I kind of have a problem with anyone who finds villains to be "empathetic." If we're feeling empathy for people who actively want to do harm to others, then maybe these films are doing a bad job. Understanding one's feelings and sharing those feelings are different things. Some villains are good because they are sympathetic figures. But they should not been presented or viewed as empathetic ones. This might sound like semantics to a lot of people, but it does make a difference. I feel sympathetic to Loki, but the moment he decides to destroy an entire Earth town just to kill his brother [or just the fact that he wants to kill his brother], any possibility of empathy goes out the window.)
[quote](he even admits he didn't even want the throne of Asgard)[/quote]
But this is a blatant falsehood, one of many that Loki makes throughout his film appearances. Loki says that he never wanted the throne, but all of his actions and deeds, and indeed even some of his other statements indicate that. If he *didn't* want the throne, he wouldn't have tried to kill Thor - the only person who could challenge his claim to it. Further, he even makes comments implying that he was more worthy than his brother to be Odin's heir (noting that he was only denied the throne because he was the true son of Laufey - which, speaking of feeling entitled to the throne...) And then there's the fact that in Thor: The Dark Thor, he deceives everyone specifically so that he can sit on the throne at the end.
All of these imply that he very much indeed crave the throne. Loki, especially, is not a character that his words should ever be taken alone on their face.
Posted February 4th
by Jet Presto
Well, ok, so that was pretty lengthy. I just wanted to respond to some of your comments before getting a little into why I found him so great of a villain. Anyway, here is why I personally found him a great Marvel villain.
So, I think he had a more interesting background than almost any superhero movie villain. I don't think he is *the* best movie villain, but I thought his background provided some sympathetic component to him to make me reflect on myself for feeling that way about a man who is willing to destroy so many lives. I think good movie villains don't just challenge heroes: they challenge us. And I found myself at times thinking that he did have a point, but hating that I felt that way about a man like that.
On top of that, I think he's a great Marvel villain because of the way he causes the protagonist to grow. Killmonger is the extreme revolutionary version of Nakia, the love interest. Both he and she want Wakanda to be more involved in the world around us. It's T'Challa, our hero, who wants isolationism. While T'Challa wins out in the end, he takes part of that "point" that his antagonist had and acts in a substantially healthier manner to accomplish a more moral objective. This shows us both growth of T'Challa (that he now sees value in opening up the borders) as well as the moral strength of him (that he knows restraint and has a more genuinely acceptable and healthy vision). To me, this is more narratively interesting than just "Thor mopes because Loki gave up his life after trying to kill him." Thor grew as a character because of Odin's actions, not Loki's. Loki is used to show us how much Thor has developed, rather than being the impetus of Thor's development. There really aren't that many Marvel villains that fulfill that function, really. Killmonger does, which to me, makes him a narratively stronger villain.
And then at the core, where Loki is more "fun" of a bad guy, I really thought Michael B. Jordan really just *brought it* to make Killmonger kind of genuinely intimidating. I found him to be a really imposing force, in a way that most Marvel villains did not (including Loki). Not that I want to compare this element to Loki, because they are very, very different kinds of villains. Loki is never meant to be imposing. He is often meant to be more entertaining and weirdly lovable. (Might be the Tom Hiddleston effect, really.) When he was on screen, I felt like I really took notice. It's hard to say who the *worst* Marvel villain is (I tend to go, sadly, with Ronan - sadly because in the comics Ronan is rad as fuck). But there are so few Marvel villains that I pay much mind to. I don't find most Iron Man villains to have much of a presence on screen. Ronan scenes are when I spaced out the most. Maleketh, I'm pretty sure, is a character I always have to ask myself, "Was...was that his name?" Yellowjacket is just generic, as much as I loved Ant-Man. I just thought that Jordan had so much more of a presence that was really imposing and intimidating than most others. Which is certainly a factor here.
Sure, part of it is certainly just that half-way decent villain is by default one of the "better Marvel villains." But yeah, these are sort of the main reasons why I actually found him a better movie villain than Loki. (I'm never quite sure whether to take points away from Loki as a villain because Marvel has sort of been walking back the "villain" moniker for him of late.)
Posted February 4th
by Jet Presto
Killmonger did nothing wrong
Posted February 5th
I think it's safe to say that Jet's response was rather thorough! He's touched on most of why I find Killmonger so compelling (though I'm still on the Loki > Killmonger train, it's not by much, and part of the reason why is that Loki had multiple movies to undergo a character arc).
[quote]I'm not sure I recall the film ever showing him personally experiencing or witnessing inequality, in fact he seems to have lived a very successful life[/quote]
This is an interesting comment to me, and I'm wondering if it speaks to differences between UK and US culture. I think the reason it doesn't ever really show him experiencing inequality is that, sadly, it can pretty well be assumed--after all, this is America. At the risk of getting too political for this forum, racism is systemic enough and ingrained enough in the culture that you can pretty much take for granted that most minorities (let alone a black man growing up fatherless in the projects of Oakland) have encountered some form of racism and inequality. Maybe that's different in the UK and other Western nations--I assume that racism and inequality are still issues, but I'm wholly ignorant as to what extent. But I could imagine some of the themes of this movie and of this particular character not landing as solidly without the backdrop of USA culture and current political climate (similarly, I could see the image of a black man in a hoodie as used by Luke Cage not being as impactful).
Posted February 5th
by white lancer
I'm not sure I recall the film ever showing him personally experiencing or witnessing inequality, in fact he seems to have lived a very successful life, so to me his motivations come over more as "I'm the evil villain so I am doing evil villain things like trying to start a war".
=Idk they point out that all black leaders advocating for change were killed or thrown in prison. They also touch base on the racial tensions blacks were facing during that time. I am sure he grew up seeing people like himself suffer. the projects of
oakland are not a friend place. Especially for young black men. (it is changing now though, it is not good change)
Posted February 5th
[quote]At the risk of getting too political for this forum[/quote]
This is a forum about entertainment and media, so political elements will inevitably come up. Black Panther is kind of a great example as to why. Whether one agrees with the political points present in Black Panther or not, it doesn't mean that those points aren't there. What you described is pretty clearly the perspective of the filmmakers. Everything you just discussed is clearly laid out by Killmonger's father in the opening scene, right? Black Panther is not even subtly a political film. And it's politics aren't exactly hidden.
Posted February 6th
by Jet Presto
There also isn't really a need to rank them. I found Killmonger a better villain and foil than Loki was to Thor, and I found him more interesting. Would I say he was "better" than Loki? They're such distinctly different characters that it is sort of hard to really compare the two generally. I maybe just typed out novellas that suggest I think Killmonger is better, but I really mean to just say that I personally found him a more imposing and interesting character because of his more ideological roots. I generally don't say that "Character A is better than Character B." Loki obviously wouldn't work in Black Panther just as Killmonger wouldn't work in Thor. They do different things.
Posted February 6th
by Jet Presto
Not that it really affects why I like a character or not, but I also gotta say that Killmonger has one of the coolest themes of any Marvel character. (Particularly at that 1:00 marker. Ugh. The soundtrack is so good.)
Posted February 6th
by Jet Presto
I'll make a proper response at some point I promise!
>I'm wondering if it speaks to differences between UK and US culture.
Unsure. Where I live it is very much not a major issue but at the same time most people are "White British" here and we kinda just get on with it and don't bother too much about what race or colour someone is, the few black people I have met (mostly at school and college, not such much in my working career) were all very nice and never seemed to have an issue with racism.
I think you would probably get a better insight from someone like Arch or Smiling Apple as they both live in London, though there is a fairly large difference in culture & views around the UK despite how small we are.
So don't know, but you are probably right in saying that my lack of exposure to such things gives me a different view of the movie and perhaps makes me less sympathetic to Killmonger's goals.
Posted February 6th
[quote] I found Killmonger a better villain and foil than Loki was to Thor, and I found him more interesting. Would I say he was "better" than Loki?[/quote]
Wow. I typed so much that I broke through to the point of becoming incoherent. "I thought Killmonger was better, but would I say he's better than Loki? No!" Ugh.
I meant to suggest that I found Killmonger more interesting and imposing, and thus fit more of an "ideal villain" character type to me than Loki did in Thor. There is no better villain for Thor than Loki. (I actually am one of the few who did enjoy Hela in Ragnarok, but Loki was a much more compelling villain.) Actually, it kind of seems like these movies tend to try to either have a compelling villain you can sympathize with to a point, or an imposing villain who just scares you. Loki never scared me, but I found him compelling - in part because of his confusing motivation. That felt pretty real to me, even if he was manipulating to the end. I found Red Skull to be scary and imposing, but never found him compelling. I found Killmonger had aspects of both. Which was part of why I appreciated him a lot in the Marvel villains pantheon.
I have a preference for Killmonger in Black Panther over Loki in Thor, but I don't really think one is "better" than the other in the ranking sense. I don't often feel a need to rank them, even if I wind up comparing them. And I know I inevitably did in this thread, mostly because Loki is the one that any Marvel villain will be held to. So while I will compare them when necessary to sing the praises of Killmonger, I do not mean to bring down Loki from on high. He's a great villain, too. I don't really rank them. For me, it's Loki = Killmonger. (Which makes it such a shame that Black Panther ended as it did. But I am not really sure I see how else it could have ended, really.) They have more similarities than I think people realize, but they also are very different, and exist in different films also doing different things.
Not sure if I'm clearing up my incoherent statements any.
If we *were* to rank them, I'm curious how people would go about it. (Honestly not sure I can remember every Marvel villain.)
Posted February 7th
by Jet Presto
My half-hearted attempt at remembering and ranking them (haven't Ant-Man and the Wasp):
I would suspect that these are every one's top 3. Jet, I know you have a bit of a hate boner for Thanos, but I think performance-wise and certainly his fight scenes are among the best of the best in the MCU. Yes, you can scratch your head over his motivations and you can (very reasonably) get mad when people say his motivations are sympathetic, but I believed that Thanos believed that killing half the universe was justified, and I think that's what matters for a dumb comic book movie. If the MCU's villains could ever reach above mediocre, he could certainly be lowered, but we don't live in that world.
Also I'm sort of with you Moonray on Killmonger being overrated, but again, the other villains are so bad that it doesn't really matter.
Actually pretty decent tier:
Zemo's probably the most controversial pick here, but I've always had a soft spot for his plan. He's obviously not super memorable, but that twist works so well, and a normal dude succeeding in tearing the Avengers apart is really cool to me. The other four get by mostly on performances. Red Skull is pretty weak, but given the tone of that film, his over the top villainy works really well. Ego is almost certainly the strongest. His motivations have this weird combo of being completely alien (spreading his gross ass spawn across the universe so he can become everything) but terrifyingly familiar (wanting to form connections with others and leave behind a legacy), which I think is pretty interesting.
These are what everyone thinks about when MCU's villain problem is talked about. None of these guys come close to passing middle of the road tier. It's not any kind of coincidence that I had to use the actors' names for a lot these villains. I think Hela and Mads are probably the strongest (Mads' Mister Doctor joke is one of my favorites in the series, cheesy but it gets me every time) and Whiplash and Abomination are probably the weakest.
Jesus Christ wtf are you doing tier:
The Dark Elf is *offensively* boring. I've seen that movie multiple times and I don't remember anything about him at all. Yellowjacket is probably the stupidest villain in the MCU. His evil serum made him crazy. Like holy shit were they even trying with that? With Ronan, I suspect most people won't hate him as much as I do, but he really makes me angry for some reason. There's this (I assume) complicated backstory with the Kree and Xandarians that is his entire motivation for the film, but it's basically never talked about at all and he's just presented as mister bad guy. He gets some of the clunkiest dialogue in the series ("You stand accused!" and when he name drops the Guardians of the Galaxy). I despise the scene where he kills the Other, not just because Thanos' performance is completely atrocious, but it's like I can hear Gunn whispering in my ear, "wow, this guy just killed Thanos' henchman, what a badass!" and that just pisses me off (it also feel inconsistent with Infinity War, because Thanos seemed to genuinely care for his other henchpeople; I guess the Other was just a huge dick or something). Oh, and I hate his voice. Seriously fuck Ronan, I probably won't even go see Captain Marvel because he's in it.
I possibly missed some, idk. If we include the TV shows, then Wilson Fisk is the best, every one else is trash.
Posted February 8th
by The Bandit
Not to derail the thread, but I don't completely understand why everyone likes Loki. His characterization isn't consistent enough for me to grow attached (and it isn't character development so much as writers using him to suit their needs). Granted, it's been ages since I watched a Loki movie that wasn't Ragnarok.
Posted February 8th
[quote]Jet, I know you have a bit of a hate boner for Thanos, but I think performance-wise and certainly his fight scenes are among the best of the best in the MCU.[/quote]
For sure. Performance-wise, Josh Brolin really knocks it out of the park. My gripe with Thanos isn't so much with Thanos himself. The biggest issue I have in that sense is that I'm just not that much a fan of the "waaaay over-powered baddies." I know they need someone powerful enough to require all the Avengers to beat - or I suppose even just some of the Avengers as will happen in End Game - but there is just something inherently boring to me to have a bad guy so powerful that after 2 hours of fighting, all they can muster is a single scrape (before Thor comes in with a special ax at the very end.)
The reason I really hate Thanos has more to do with the effort the filmmakers put in to make us sympathize with him. To me, it's one thing to depict a bad guy believing in his own plan. Villains don't think they are the villains of the story, so it makes sense that Thanos thinks his idiotic, short-sighted, disastrous plan would be a positive. I don't have a problem with that aspect. And yeah, he's one of the few villains in which we actually do get to know what their plan and motivation actually is. But I have a problem with the presentation that clearly wants us to sympathize with him, and worse, I have a huge problem with the way the present his relationship with Gamora. I don't really hate Thanos as a villain. I more just hate when people act like his plan made a lick of sense. We understand his motivation, which is good filmmaking. But it's weird to me how many people I've heard talk about how he has a point and that his plan isn't totally off-base. And I think that comes from some poor filmmaking decisions.
I suppose I kind of feel about Thanos as you do about Killmonger. Obviously a top tier Marvel villain, for what that means. But a bit overrated.
[quote]Zemo's probably the most controversial pick here, but I've always had a soft spot for his plan. He's obviously not super memorable, but that twist works so well, and a normal dude succeeding in tearing the Avengers apart is really cool to me. [/quote]
Totally agreed. While cinematically, he suffers from that Hollywood trope of overly-convoluted plan that makes less sense the more you actually think about it, I did really love that the villain drives the action but largely from behind the scenes. Zemo doesn't get that much screen time, but is the reason for everything unfolding as it does in Civil War. It feels unique in the genre. Not to mention he has one of the best final moments of any Marvel villain, when Martin Freeman asks him how did it feel to fail so spectacularly, and he just goes, "Did I?" There's something refreshing about a villain with a slightly less grandiose objective.
Posted February 8th
by Jet Presto
I don't disagree too much with that villain list, Bandit--I think I tried ranking my top 10 not too long ago on this forum, and it wasn't all that far off. For me, Loki and Killmonger are a half-step up on the next group of villains, which would include Thanos, Vulture, Ego, Ava Starr/Ghost, and Zemo in some order. Agreed that Zemo was a lot more interesting than he gets credit for--I think he got overshadowed by all of the Avenger vs. Avenger spectacle in the film, but the fact that a normal guy without powers went up against the Avengers and arguably [i]won[/i] is pretty awesome (until Infinity War, he's the only villain you could say actually accomplished his goals). I've also maintained for a while now that Ronan is the worst one (though it's close with Malekith, to be fair). The first Guardians film would likely be in my personal top 5 if the villain weren't such a black hole of boredom and cliche. Think I'd move Hela up (she doesn't have much depth and is another of those generic doomsday bad guys, so she's not super high on my personal list, but at least she was charismatic and entertaining) and Ultron and Red Skull down, but otherwise your list is not that far off from what mine would look like. Maybe my opinion on Ultron will go up when I rewatch that film, but I remember finding him pretty boring on first watch. And if we want to include the Winter Soldier, I like him in the second tier.
[quote]If we include the TV shows, then Wilson Fisk is the best, every one else is trash.[/quote]
Agreed that Fisk is awesome, hard disagree about the rest being trash. At the very least, I'm a fan of Kilgrave, Cottonmouth, Mariah, Jigsaw, Mary Walker, and Bullseye as far as Netflix goes, and there are a few other interesting ones from the other MCU TV shows as well. I'll give you Diamondback, Alexandra, Bakuto, and a few others as boring or mediocre villains, though.
Edited February 8th
by white lancer
You guys are disrespecting my boy Ward from AOS.
Posted February 8th
Ward was one of the other TV characters I had in mind! AoS is a mixed bag as far as the villains go, but there are a few very good ones.
Posted February 11th
by white lancer