Ryan Coogler Retooled ‘Black Panther’ Ending by Cutting Killmonger’s Big Line, Watching the ‘The Godfather’ for Help

The way the film originally ended was 'problematic for a few reasons' according to co-editor Michael Shawver.
Michael B. Jordan - Erik Killmonger - BLACK PANTHER
Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger in BLACK PANTHER
Julia Horne (SPR)

In less than a week, “Black Panther” could make history by becoming the first superhero movie to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. The Marvel tentpole has received a major campaign from Disney this awards season, and it has been nominated for numerous prizes from the Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice Awards, and Screen Actors Guild Awards. Co-editor Michael Shawver recently spoke to CinemaBlend about perfecting the movie’s ending and revealed a critical Killmonger line that had to be cut.

The original “Black Panther” ending was the scene in which Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa addresses the United Nations and announced Wakanda will be opening up its resources for the world. Prior to that scene was Killmonger’s death, which originally culminated in the villain looking out on Wakanda and telling T’Challa, “It’s beautiful, but what are you going to do for everybody in the world who can’t see this?” This line of dialogue leading into the United Nations scene was “problematic for a few reasons,” according to Shawver.

“We realized that just as a character, for the journey of T’Challa, he can’t get the answer to the movie and what he needs to do from the villain, like straight-up exactly what he needs,” the co-editor said. “And that’s kind of what was happening. Secondly, it was a great performance, and [Michael B. Jordan] brought it, and it was painful to watch because you kind of don’t want this guy to die, but it didn’t fit his character.”

Writer-director Ryan Coogler decided to use reshoots to reshape the end of the movie, moving the United Nations sequence to the middle of the credits so that a new final scene could be crafted. Coogler scrapped Killmonger’s line so that T’Challa could come to this lesson on his own and wrote an ending that served to bring the story to a fulfilling conclusion. First, however, Coogler needed some help.

“One thing that we did was looking at all those Top 10 lists of best endings ever for movies,” Shawver said. “We found in a lot of these videos it was one of two things: it was either the twist ending or it was ‘The Godfather.’ Basically, the first time you meet Michael, he’s with Kay and he’s telling her he’s not like his family. ‘That’s not me, Kay. That’s them.’ The last scene we see him, he’s telling Kay he’s not like his family. But then he walks and the door shuts, and you know everything is different. But it’s the same conversation! And so it’s the circular nature why those kinds of endings feel like closure even though it’s open-ended.”

Using “The Godfather” as his blueprint, Coogler wrote the final scene to mirror his opening. As a result, Coogler brought the film rights back to Oakland, California and the childhood home of Killmonger. The final scene depicts T’Challa and Shuri (Letitia Wright) talking about starting Wakanda outreach programs, and Coogler’s direction is firmly planted in a community that will most benefit from T’Challa’s decision. This scene allowed Coogler to get to the heart of Killmonger’s scrapped line without the villain actually saying it.

Head over to CinemaBlend to read the entire interview with Shawver. “Black Panther” is currently available on VOD and Netflix.

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