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Why Ryan Coogler Doesn't Think Of The Black Panther Series' Antagonists As Villains

The Marvel Cinematic Universe's "Black Panther" films are undeniably tied to the man who made the title hero a worldwide sensation: Chadwick Boseman. The late actor, who sadly passed away on August 28, 2020, at the age of 43 due to colon cancer, portrayed King T'Challa to perfection in 2018's "Black Panther," and though he won't feature in it, his legacy looms large over its upcoming sequel, "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever." Following T'Challa's death, Wakanda must rally to fend off invading forces looking to take advantage of this turbulent point in the nation's history.

Serving as the main villain of "Wakanda Forever" is the aquatic Namor, as portrayed by Tenoch Huerta. As the leader of the kingdom of Talokan, he leads his people in their conflict against Wakanda. He follows in the footsteps of Michael B. Jordan, who took Wakanda and cinemas by storm as Erik Killmonger in the first "Black Panther" feature. After spending years away, Killmonger uses his Wakandan heritage to his advantage to take the throne by force, nearly killing T'Challa in the process. Both antagonists seem rather different on paper, but director Ryan Coogler asserts that they're more alike than one may think.

According to the "Black Panther" and "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" director, Namor and Killmonger are antagonists, but they're not villains. Here's why he feels this way.

Coogler finds his antagonists more complicated than traditional villains

Ryan Coogler recently spoke with Collider about "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," providing some insight into what has the potential to be the single most emotional MCU entry to date. He also offered his thoughts on the villains of the two "Black Panther" films, noting that, by and large, he doesn't consider Namor or Killmonger to be traditional bad guys. "I don't see them as villains," he said, expressing that the proper term for both of them would be "antagonist." After all, they're not evil or villainous purely for the sake of behaving that way. They're far more complicated than that.

Coogler continues, "It'd be interesting if they want the same things, but because of who they are and what shaped them, they want to get those things in different ways, and their means come in conflict with each other." With that framework in mind, it's easy to see why Namor and Killmonger aren't strictly villains. Namor wants to protect his people, and Killmonger wanted to use Wakanda's resources to help oppressed people around the world. Those aren't dastardly plans by any means, but the manner in which they go about pursuing these goals puts them in conflict with the heroes.

Killmonger quickly became a standout MCU antagonist when "Black Panther" premiered. We'll have to wait and see if Namor reaches the same level of popularity when "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" debuts on November 11, 2022.