Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
Today we review Just Mercy, a dramatic and powerful film based on a book of the same name about a real-life story of justice, redemption, and supervillains. Coming right on the heels of Black Panther 2: 21 Bridges, this latest Marvel Cinematic Universe installment stars Michael B. Jordan as N’Jadaka/Erik Killmonger, Brie Larson as Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon/Electro, and Tim Blake Nelson as Dr. Samuel Sterns/The Leader.
The story follows Erik Killmonger sometime before the events of Black Panther (2018). Born and raised in America despite his Wakandan heritage, Killmonger is currently working as a lawyer in the deep South. Although we later see his passion for fighting oppression go to villainous extremes in Black Panther, this film finds him walking a nobler path, fighting for racial equality within the legal system and working tirelessly to challenge wrongful convictions. With the help of Captain Marvel, another advocate for justice and equality, Killmonger starts a small law firm aimed at tackling rampant injustice and making a difference in the South. It’s a small marvel that Danvers was even on Earth to help at the time!
Enter Max Dillon, a.k.a. Electro, a small-time villain who gained electrical powers in a freak accident at Oscorp labs. Dillon, an African American man, is now on death row in Alabama for allegedly murdering a white woman. However, despite striking up some minor trouble in the critically acclaimed Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014), Electro was never a killer and did not commit the crime he is accused of. Rather, he has been convicted based on the elaborately falsified testimony of Samuel Sterns, a.k.a. the Leader, a white man (or a green man?) in prison for illegal genetic experiments as seen in the fan-favorite Incredible Hulk (2008). Electro’s family is Shocked by his conviction and begins putting up Resistance, which Sparks a whole movement to see justice done.
Soon, Killmonger gets a hold of Electro’s case and begins to argue in the courts for his rightful release. His journey leads him not only to challenge a corrupt and biased legal system, but also to uncover an entire criminal conspiracy masterminded by the Leader. Indeed, the framing of Electro is merely one small facet of the Leader’s grand villainous scheme, foreshadowing the Leader’s role as the major overarching antagonist of Marvel’s Phase 4. Like many devious villains, it seems like Nelson’s character just wants to Watch Men suffer!
Just Mercy is a deeply moving tale that humanizes a few of Marvel’s villains and offers a sobering look into relevant social issues and our real-life legal system. It gains points for strong cast performances, and it’s worlds better than Fantastic 4 (2015), the last Marvel movie to feature both Jordan and Nelson. But it misses the opportunity to introduce superhero lawyer She-Hulk (a longtime enemy of the Leader) or to include an appearance from another Nelson, with Nelson and Murdock, Attorneys at Law. #SaveDaredevil
Go see Just Mercy in theaters today!