When it was announced that Black Panther would be bringing in Winston Due to play the villain M’Baku, aka Man-Ape, a few Marvel fans raised their eyebrows. M’Baku is a great villain for sure, but the name “man-ape” has a few negative connotations. Fans were wondering how the character would appear in the movie, and Duke spoke to Den of Geek about leaving out the “man-ape” and making the character a three-dimensional human being.
“Yeah, those elements are still there and I think it’s a really great testament to the creative team, that they have taken this character, this leader of the White Gorilla Cult, and elevated him to having a lot more agency and integrity. They gave him more responsibility because now he bears the burden of shouldering the welfare of an entire tribe, an entire community, and that’s really powerful. That’s put him in a place of not being ego driven, but being driven more by having to do a great job for his people and those are his attachments.”
M’Baku in the movie is the leader of the White Gorilla tribe who separate themselves from the rest of Wakandian society. M’Baku has a lot of love and pride in his culture and refuses to back down to anyone.
“His culture and heritage, and what it means to him, that comes through because they pray to a different god. They’re not part of this proper Wakandan society. They have their own thing and they’re proud of that. So they come in and they announce themselves like a gorilla. They don’t sneak around. M’Baku says what he means and he means what he says, and you’re going to listen.”
Between his demeanor and appearance, it’s easy to see why everyone stands up and listens when M’Baku is in the room. Duke manages to command every scene he’s in, even when going against every other member of the cast. Duke says that M’Baku doesn’t hold back, but that doesn’t make him one dimensional.
“He’s a truth teller. He takes a lot of joy from calling out what other people might be thinking so I feel like he has a lot of great introspection because he knows they think that he’s savage. He knows they think that he is just this big, intimidating guy, but at the same time he’s vegetarian.”
Just like most people in leadership positions, he’s putting on an act and knows how people perceive him. He’s a strategist and uses it to his advantage. It’s easier to manipulate people when you know how they perceive you.
“All those things really told me that this guy’s deeply introspective and this guy’s deeply aware of himself, and how people perceive him. And he has agency because of that. He can use that and wield that to his advantage. You know what I mean? And I think that’s what’s really brilliant about this M’Baku, is he’s a thinking M’Baku. He’s a thinking, acting M’Baku who has fun and can find joy in all kinds of situations. He has tactics. So he knows how to intimidate. He knows how to make an appearance and use his size and stature, but he’s not what you think. That’s what I wanted to bring across, that he’s contemplative.”
The part that M’Baku plays in the movie is varying levels of spoilers, but fans of the character are likely going to be happy with the adaptation Duke brings to the screen.
Summary: T’Challa, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king.
Black Panther, directed Ryan Coogler, stars Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, and Martin Freeman. It will be released on February 16th.