'Black Panther' Editor Reveals Shocking T'Challa and Killmonger Easter Egg
The visual similarities were more frequent and deliberate than we realized.
The tension between T’Challa and Killmonger represents the core conflict of Black Panther (stability vs. change, monarchy vs. revolution), but as these two titans fight for leadership of Wakanda, the film is telling us a different story entirely: T’Challa and Killmonger aren’t really that different.
In a recent conversation about Black Panther’s Golden Globe nomination, Marvel film editor Debbie Berman — who also worked on Spider-Man: Homecoming, and the upcoming Captain Marvel — tells Inverse how the film was crafted to subtly draw comparisons between T’Challa and Killmonger.
That decision even influences “the way we introduce the characters,” Berman says, adding that in both cases the camera is “on their backs” when we first see them.
“We meet T’Challa pushing in as he’s seated in a chair, watching the news about his father,” Berman says. “That was all stuff we picked up in additional photography.”
In layman’s terms, that means at some point after filming for the movie had presumably finished, Marvel shot even more footage so we could see T’Challa from behind mourning his father’s death. Even with his face obscured, there’s no question that we’re looking at the Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther.
Meanwhile, when we first meet Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger, he’s also shot from behind as he inspects a collection of African artifacts.
“Killmonger, you meet him on his back in the museum,” Berman says. “It was something we were very aware of in the editing process.”
For Marvel fans, this might be a fun Easter egg, but it’s also a perfect illustration of the message at the core of Black Panther. Right from the beginning, the movie makes it clear that T’Challa and Killmonger aren’t the clear-cut hero and villain we’re used to seeing in superhero movies. They’re not really that different at all.
Even the opening fairytale sequence about the origins of Wakanda furthers this idea. We initially assume the story is being told to a young T’Challa until we learn it’s actually N’Jobu talking to his son Erik, the child that becomes Killmonger.
Throughout the film, Black Panther continues to drive home the connections between T-Challa and Killmonger. Even in the final battle, the accent colors of their respective Black Panther armors — T’Challa’s purple and Killmonger’s gold — are two colors that best represent royalty, offering yet another visual parallel.
It’s no secret that T’Challa and Killmonger are meant to be two sides of the same vibranium coin. T’Challa sees himself in Killmonger and recognizes that with a different upbringing he might be the one calling for revolution and war.
Writing and acting play a big role in getting that message across, but it’s the editing that purposefully paints it into nearly every frame from the moment we meet our hero and villain to the final time they clash.
Related video: Check out this short documentary video on Afrofuturism and its role in sci-fi stories like Black Panther.