Video essay by Michael Tucker: Black Panther — Creating an Empathetic Villain

(image via IMP Awards)


Black Panther is hands down one of the best films of the year. (Not just Most Popular OK Oscars, thought it is that, but BEST FILM.)

Part of the reason it is so damn watchable, among so, SO many reasons, is that it took the time to not simply give us a compelling hero but an equally compelling villain in Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) who is impressively deep and nuanced, possessed of reasons for his actions that are understandably human and not simply amorphously “evil”.

While this doesn’t make the things he does any less egregious – knowing why someone does something helps you to understand and come to terms with them more fully; it doesn’t make them all right – it does mean that you are far more invested in a story where the villain of the piece forces the hero to confront some of his own fallibility.

It makes for a brilliantly-clever piece of cinematic storytelling and as Michael Tucker explains in another of his well-researched and flawlessly-executed video essays known as Lessons from the Screenplay, the creation of “an empathetic villain … with a relatable perspective [has the capacity to] teach the protagonist the lesson they need to learn.”

It’s a reminder about why we don’t just need spectacle, we need substance, something that Black Panther has in crowd-pleasing abundance.


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