After the death of T'Chaka, his son T'Challa must allow for challengers to engage in ritual combat before he can claim the throne for himself - representatives from the four main tribes (and occasionally an appearance from the Jabari tribe) and members of the royal family can all opt to enter the ring. Only M'Baku (of the Jabari) does, and he's soundly defeated - and with no other challengers, T'Challa is crowned king of Wakanda.
...until Erik "Killmonger" Stevens (aka N'Jadaka) shows up and challenges T'Challa for the throne, that is. The weird thing here is that the time for challenges has already expired - Wakanda is no longer in transition, T'Challa is firmly established as the king. The implication is that Killmonger - as a member of the royal family - seemingly has the right to challenge the king for the right to rule whenever he feels like it. Which means...he could have challenged T'Chaka.
The ritual combat idea seems to make sense when the king is extremely jacked, youthful Chadwick Boseman (well, sorta - he's actually 41! And wow, he looks better at 41 than I ever have or ever will in my life) - but when you're elderly and a bit heavier, as T'Chaka was before his death, your odds of surviving seem...pretty terrible. Why didn't Killmonger challenge him for the throne then? Not only would it have been the easiest fight of his life, but T'Chaka is the one Killmonger ACTUALLY has a beef with - he killed his father and was the one responsible for Wakanda's continued isolation in the modern world.
And don't say he was waiting for the transition/challenge time, because he specifically MISSES that window, and just shows up after T'Challa's already on the throne - and no one seems to think it's that weird of a thing to ask. Just saying that - even though Killmonger was an extremely skilled fighter - he would've been better off challenging an old guy past his prime than Chadwick Boseman.
As far as I can tell, Killmonger's plan can be broken down into four parts:
It's that first part that's confusing me - all he has to do with Klaue is kill him. There's no actual point or thing to be gained in working out an elaborate Vibranium heist with him or having him make a deal in South Korea. Really, from the moment he met Klaue, he should have just killed him then and there, flown to Wakanda, and delivered Andy Serkis' corpse to the first Wakandan he could find. By engaging in a complicated heist with Klaue, he nearly allowed T'Challa to have Klaue for himself, or be the one responsible for killing him.
Not that I didn't appreciate having Andy Serkis around a bit longer (and that legit great South Korea chase sequence), but I think Killmonger probably coulda been a bit more efficient with his scheming.
The only people in Wakanda allowed to ingest the heart-shaped herb are those who have been given the mantle of the Black Panther - which means, prior to T'Challa and Killmonger's battle for the throne, the only person who had ingested it in decades was T'Chaka. And yet, they're still growing dozens and dozens of them. My question is - for who?
While I understand tradition, they've got a bunch of super soldier serum flowers down there, and it could be a real benefit to allow the Dora Milaje to all get superpower'd up too. Black Panther can still be the only one with the vibranium suit, but having Okoye and her compatriots able to tap into super-strength and instincts might not be the worst idea.
Alternately, if they're INSISTENT on only allowing the Black Panther to have the herb, why not find a way to store what they have? As Killmonger showed, that stuff seems to burn REAL easy, and once it's all burned up...there's just none left? It doesn't seem to grow anywhere else - what if the garden had been lit ablaze on accident? Would T'Challa have no way to regain his Panther abilities? You'd think Shuri could figure out a pretty effective storage method, which would come in real handy right about now - since I'm pretty sure the movie ends with there being NO heart-shaped herb left whatsoever, meaning whoever follows T'Challa as Black Panther had better hope they're ALREADY super strong, agile, and connected with the afterlife plane.
Well, I guess that's not really my question, because the answer is "obviously they have the internet." It's Wakanda - the most technologically-advanced nation on Earth. Hell, they probably have some hyper-advanced version of the internet we don't even know about, with REALLY stellar adblock programs. But the underlying idea of the internet - no matter how advanced - makes the premise of Wakanda having internet access...questionable.
The internet is built on the idea of open access to communication and information across the globe, especially in the realm of social media - which is the one very internet-specific reference made in the film: Shuri's "WHAT ARE THOOOOOSE?" line. It's a funny bit, but what does it MEAN? Was Shuri on Vine? Does Shuri post two year old memes?
Wakanda's whole deal is predicated on the fact that NO ONE really knows the truth about Wakanda, and literally the entire populace is in on the con. They also have access to unimaginable technology - and it's all but certain they can get onto the internet. But does that mean no one is posting anything about their lives? No one's posting selfies, or long Medium posts, or posting Wakanda-specific memes on Facebook? Introduce social media to an entire population, it seems a little unlikely that literally no one would ever post anything about their actual lives. And yet Wakanda must have figured out some balance - since the secrets of their technological marvels appear to have not been leaked whatsoever.
Maybe the compromise is that they have to be two years behind on meme culture.
When Ryan Coogler casts Michael B. Jordan as a villain, you know it's gonna be good - but GOOD LORD, Killmonger was something entirely new. Not only is he one of the most sympathetic villains in pretty much any movie ever, I'm half-convinced he might've been the hero of the film.
To fully appreciate Killmonger as a character, you really need to take a long, hard look at the history of slavery, of colonization, of exploitation of the entirety of Africa, and the institutionalized racism against those of African descent in America and elsewhere, because it is devastating in the sheer scope of the misery and pain wrought upon millions and millions of people. Killmonger is pure, raw vengeance for that - the fury of centuries of injustice, all poured into one person. He grew up as a poor black kid with no father on the streets of Oakland in the early 90s - he knew everything there was to know about the continued ugly reality of racism in America and throughout the rest of the world. But the difference was - he knew it didn't have to be this way. That there was a country IN AFRICA that was CONTROLLED BY AFRICANS that knew about the suffering and wrongs visited upon others in the world...and they did nothing. They stayed isolated, they kept their wealth and technology to themselves, and they sat idly by while black men and women were enslaved, killed, mistreated, and exploited.
He's pissed off - and he's right to be. Wakanda could have changed things - and they decided to sit back in comfort instead.
That's not to say encouraging armed revolution is necessarily a good guy thing to do (starting a new cycle of bloodshed will likely only lead to more bloodshed - not peace, not understanding, and not justice), but offering technology and weaponry to some of the most oppressed people in the world makes a lot of sense, given what Killmonger has seen and learned throughout his life. The only thing that stops him from being a true good guy is that he sees the world as a zero sum game - for those of African-descent to have better lives, their oppressors' lives must be made worse. He can't (or won't) picture a world where Wakandan tech makes everyone's lives better - because he wants to see those who benefited from the suffering of his ancestors to pay the price.
Even with this in mind, Killmonger's journey sounds a lot more like a hero than a villain. His royal father is killed by his uncle when he's young, he's stuck exiled from his homeland, and he returns there once he's grown older to claim the throne from who he views as a terrible king. That's the plot of The Lion King - SIMBA'S plot. THE GOOD GUY'S PLOT.
Contrast him with T'Challa - who grew up in a life of luxury and privilege, who never knew any sort of pain or suffering or loss until adulthood, who inherited not only a throne, but superpowers as well. T'Challa was handed everything in life, and still remained on the fence about sharing his country's wealth and knowledge with the rest of the world.
Thinking about what Killmonger did to get there - he did everything right. He didn't try to take over Wakanda by force or subterfuge - he brought justice to a terrorist who had attacked Wakanda, then he issued a formal challenge and won the crown, fair 'n square. And his speeches to T'Challa clearly resonate - it's really Killmonger that convinces T'Challa to make Wakanda known to the world and share its technology with everyone. That's the mark of a great villain - when even the hero has to shrug and say "Well, they've got a point."
For real, though - has any villain had a line as devastating as Killmonger's dying words? "Bury me in the ocean. With my ancestors who jumped from the ships...they knew it was better to die than live in bondage."
The MCU has upped their villain game SIGNIFICANTLY from the days of Mean Mask Elf.
Well, we know the SPECIFIC answer to this is "Ike Perlmutter is a racist and a sexist and said movies about women or black people wouldn't be successful, so it took until Kevin Feige was able to get Marvel Studios shifted to being overseen by Disney's CEO to allow him the autonomy to make the MCU the way he wanted to," but I'm talking a bit more broadly - this is a film that deals with REAL ISSUES in a fascinating way, that features a black majority cast awash in African culture, that features a black director, screenwriter, and other major creatives, and a film that unabashedly has a ton of awesome roles for men AND women. Seriously, Shuri and Okoye pretty much steal every scene they're in.
And don't give me that weak Ben Shapiro "WHAT ABOUT BLADE?" bullshit. No one's arguing this is the first superhero film with a black lead - this is something much more than that. Blade still had a majority white cast, was written and directed by white guys, and really didn't deal with race in much of a significant way. There has never been a blockbuster quite like this - one filled with black characters, brought to the screen by black creatives, and in a way that talked about race and African heritage in a realistic and empowering way. It simply has never happened - until now.
And audiences are responding - Black Panther's early box office numbers are building in such a way that it looks like it's going to outgross Age of Ultron's opening weekend. Yes - a previously barely-known B-list character's solo film debut is going to beat AN AVENGERS SEQUEL. It'll be in the top 5 opening weekends of ALL-TIME...for a debut solo movie. You know what's the previous record holder for debut solo movie? Deadpool, at $132m - $60m less than what Black Panther is bringing in.
The success of Black Panther shouldn't come as a surprise to people - you get unbelievably talented individuals like Ryan Coogler, Michael B. Jordan, Chadwick Boseman, Angela Bassett, Andy Serkis, Letitia Wright, etc. all united by a singular vision, in a movie that features badass characters for people who don't typically see themselves represented on-screen in these numbers, using a fresh aesthetic and a willingness to confront massive real world issues that are almost never discussed in big budget films like this, and you'll get something special. Something that will stand out and make people take notice.
Also, it's just a goddamn good movie. The characters, the worldbuilding, the story - hell, one of my favorite characters was M'Baku. M'BAKU! THEY MADE MAN-APE INTO ONE OF THE MOST COMPELLING CHARACTERS IN THE MOVIE! HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?!
Marvel, lock down Ryan Coogler for Black Panther 2: War With Atlantis right now (also....make it about war with Atlantis, 'cuz I wanna see Black Panther throw down with Namor ASAP).