It is no secret that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has had a bit of a villain problem. While there have been outliers like Loki or Vulture, for the most part, Marvel’s movie villains have seemed quite bland. BLACK PANTHER hopes to remedy this by adding three new exciting foes to the MCU. The BLACK PANTHER villains include the eccentric and self-interested arms dealer Ulysses Klaue, the tribal leader M’Baku, and the exiled revolutionary Erik Kilmonger.

1. Ulysses Klaue AKA Klaw

The first of the BLACK PANTHER villains, Ulysses Klaue, who is portrayed by Andy Serkis in a rare non-motion capture role, is as resourceful and intelligent as he is sleazy. It’s these talents that allowed Klaue to become the only man from the outside world to enter Wakanda and come out alive.

Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue in BLACK PANTHER. Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

There he discovered that Wakanda was not a “third world country” but a thriving technologically advanced metropolis. In Wakanda, Klaue enslaved the locals to mine Vibranium for him. When the Wakanda authorities caught him, they branded him with the symbol for “thief.”

After this, Klaue dedicated his life to extorting the Wakandans’ technology and rich resources. As an arms dealer in South Africa, he became in contact with Tony Stark and Baron Wolfgang von Strucker. At one point Klaue was paid ten million dollars to assassinate the Wakandan King T’Chaka. This attempt seemingly failed but put him on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s list as a potential worldwide threat.

Klaue appeared already in AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON. Marvel loves to inject characters into their films as previews for what’s to come later in their universe. While Klaue is only in AGE OF ULTRON for five minutes, we learn a lot about his character. When Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver try and fail to threaten him, Klaue seems unsurprised as if he’s dealt with superpowered beings before.

Then when Ultron successfully coerces him into selling his Vibranium, Klaue is smart enough to know when he can’t win a fight. This shows that Klaue is very strategic and that he knows how to survive in a world populated by influential people. Klaue is able to escape a fight between the Avengers and Ultron but not before Ultron slices off Klaue’s arm.

The Master of Sound

Ulysses Klaue looks to become a more competent foe in BLACK PANTHER. After King T’Chaka’s death in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, Klaue wages an all-out war against the unstable throne of Wakanda. In the trailer we see T’Challa, now the Black Panther, chasing down Klaue and his men who are in black vans. Klaue is now wielded with a sonic arm that was originally a mining device. This arm won’t do too much good against T’Challa however because we see that Klaue is soon imprisoned and interrogated.

Andy Serkis has stated that Klaue wants to expose what he views as the hypocrisy of Wakanda. He believes the country has no right to keep all of the wealth and advanced knowledge to themselves. Klaue believes that T’Challa’s family is greedily hoarding their country’s richness. Klaue hopes to take down T’Challa’s reign and to put a ruler on the throne with a friendlier attitude to his business. This will draw him to make some alliances with other BLACK PANTHER villains.

2. M’Baku not the Man-Ape

Within any long-running comic book series, there are bound to be names of characters that prove offensive. It’s no surprise that one of the main BLACK PANTHER villains was a foe by the name of Man-Ape.

Winston Duke as M’Baku in BLACK PANTHER. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Obviously, several stereotypes are comparing black men to gorillas and apes that would have been acceptable in the 1960s. This is simply not the case now. However, M’Baku, Man-Ape’s real name, still serves as an essential part of the Black Panther mythos. He is the leader of the White Gorilla Cult, a religious minority in Wakanda that coexist with those who worship the Panther God.

Marvel Studios was rightfully concerned to have a black actor dress up in a gorilla suit and calling him “Man-Ape.” So they wisely are only referring to him as M’Baku, the leader of the Jabari tribe. The Jabari have shunned the use of technology and vibranium to isolate themselves in the mountains.

They are staunchly opposed to T’Challa’s ideas of the modernizing rule of Wakanda. M’Baku, portrayed by Winston Duke, is afraid that T’Challa will destroy Wakanda culture by opening it up to the rest of the world. M’Baku must decide whether to claim the throne from T’Challa and return Wakanda to its traditional ways or to ally with him against exterior threats.

3. Erik Killmonger

While the two previously listed BLACK PANTHER villains will serve as a substantial threat to T’Challa’s reign, it looks like the king’s chief rival with be coming in the form of Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger. Killmonger was born N’Jadaka and grew up as a close friend of T’Challa. However, after the monarchy exiled his family, N’Jadaka took on the name Erik Stevens. Now under the alias Erik Killmonger, he returns to Wakanda with the help of Klaue to exact revenge on T’Challa.

Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger in BLACK PANTHER. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

It is unclear what Killmonger’s plan is exactly. We have heard from producer Nate Moore has stated: “Killmonger has his own opinion on how Wakanda has been run and should run.” Perhaps Killmonger believes that T’Challa doesn’t use Wakanda’s power for anything useful. With the help of Klaue, he may want to spread Wakandan power and wealth across the rest of the world. This line support this:

“The World’s going to start over. I’m gonna be on top.”

Killmonger could be the best of the BLACK PANTHER villains because he raises questions about Wakanda and T’Challa’s actions. If T’Challa is running around as a vigilante, beating criminals up while ruling as King, and using his advanced technology to secure his throne, does that make him much better than Killmonger who wants to use Wakandan technology to conquer the throne and spread his influence?

It is possible that Killmonger would make a better ruler of Wakanda than T’Challa. He’s a genius, a skilled warrior, and has extensive charisma and knowledge of Wakanda. He has methodically waited for his chance to return and rule Wakanda. If he proves himself worthy of the throne, does T’Challa have the right to fight him for it?

The World is Changing

A major theme of the MCU has been the changing tides of the world. The first major change occurred when Tony Stark announced himself as Iron Man. Then the Avengers revealed themselves as saviors of New York. Throughout this time, a world that seemed started out seeming like ours, has grown much more fantastical by the movie. There have been numerous responses to these changes among characters.

There are those like Captain America, the Ancient One, and Thaddeus Ross that don’t want the world to change. Instead, they try to maintain the world as they think it should be. On the other side, there are those like Iron Man, Darren Cross, and even Thanos who fundamentally want to change the world. Most of the characters are in the middle responding in their own ways to the currents of change.

The BLACK PANTHER villains also follow this trend. There are those like M’Baku who believe that Wakanda can remain the same forever and that it doesn’t have to change with the rest of the world. Then there is Killmonger who believes that the events of the MCU have led to a world in which Wakanda cannot stay isolated. He wants to open up the nation’s borders and become a leader on the world stage. Klaue probably wants to go with the option that makes him the quickest buck.

That leaves T’Challa mentally conflicted between his villains’ viewpoints. Will he honor his ancestors’ memories and stay true to Wakanda? Or will he become an increasingly modern hero and open up Wakanda to the rest of the world? As T’Challa declares “What happens now determines what happens to the rest of the world.”

The BLACK PANTHER Villains Strike

Director Ryan Coogler has quite a task in balancing three BLACK PANTHER villains in a 2 and a half hour film. We have seen the decision to include too many villains backfire in SPIDER-MAN 3.

However, it worked flawlessly in THE DARK KNIGHT where the Joker, Two-Face, and Sal Maroni all served as antagonistic figures but the Joker held the primary focus. I believe, as long as the film makes it clear that Erik Killmonger is the primary antagonist; they can throw in as many BLACK PANTHER villains as they want.

BLACK PANTHER looks like a fantastic, thrilling experience and the detail it puts into its villains only adds to my excitement. Make sure to check out Andy Serkis’ Ulysses Klaue, Winston Duke’s M’Baku, and Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger in the theaters on February 16th!

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