I know you’re crazy excited to finally see Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and feel like you’re prepared for anything, but there’s probably one more question you need answered: Who the hell is Namor?
The film’s trailers and TV ads have set up the character, played by Tenoch Huerta, as the story’s antagonist, but I’m not convinced. So if you haven’t been following along in the comic books since Namor, the Sub-Mariner debuted in 1939, here’s what you need to know before Black Panther: Wakanda Forever hits theaters Nov. 11.
In Avengers: Endgame there’s a small throwaway moment where Danai Gurira’s Okoye tells Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha she’s worried about some underwater tremors they’ve detected. Nat brushes it off as an earthquake, and though Okoye isn’t quite convinced, she has more important things to worry about, so she moves on. Comic book fans instantly knew that meant Atlantis, and its leader Namor, were being introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since DC had already established its own Atlantis in Aquaman, Marvel went in a completely different direction. So first and foremost, in the MCU it is known as Talokan, so that’s what I’ll be calling it. Secondly, like the franchise did with Wakanda, the sequel is set to highlight the culture of the underwater kingdom.
Throughout his various comic book runs there are some things that never change about Namor. He’s an arrogant jerk, whose tendency to jump to conclusions often leads him into unnecessary confrontations. He’s fought both against and with the Fantastic Four, X-Men and Avengers, so he’s not really loyal to anyone outside of his kingdom. He’s close to his cousin Namora, played by Mabel Cadena, so he understands Shuri’s relationship with her late brother, T’Challa.
Perhaps the most infuriating thing about Namor is how often his love life influences his actions. He falls in love at the drop of a hat, then allows his heartbreak to lead him into bad decisions. On the other side of the coin, he’s easily manipulated by evil women who use his power and passion for their own ends. This is something that likely won’t be addressed in Wakanda Forever, but if Namor sticks around, I hope someone brings it up at some point.
Namor’s long-standing feud with Talokan warrior Attuma (played by Alex Livinalli) is one of the storylines we could see presented differently in the film. If this were a Namor movie, the duo would likely get a story similar to T’Challa and Killmonger. However, in a story with multiple plots needing attention, that could be something producers save for a later project.
In terms of powers, Namor is a mutant, which is an element the MCU is just starting to explore. So while he’s still expected to be a mutant in the movie, I don’t think it will go too deep into DNA and genetics. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige is probably saving that for the X-Men’s introduction. He has super speed, agility, healing, and strength, having defeated both Luke Cage and She-Hulk in fights. As half human, half Talokan, he can survive underwater and he has the ability to fly. Whether or not the warrior will have all these powers in Wakanda Forever is anyone’s guess, but we have already seen him fly in the trailer, so that’s definitely happening.
As I previously mentioned, Namor’s only true loyalty lies with his people. However, when he’s not being ruled by his emotions, he’s a smart king and can recognize the importance of having certain surface world heroes as powerful allies. Do I think he’s the villain of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever? No. But then again, I haven’t seen the movie yet, so I’m just guessing and speculating based on my lifelong obsession with comic books, superheroes and villains.
By now, it’s pretty clear that the MCU doesn’t do direct page-to-screen adaptations of its heroes. The movies take bits and pieces from a character’s story, modernizes those elements and fits it all into the individual film and overall arc. Now that we’re 30 movies deep in the MCU, we sort of know what to expect when it comes to character introductions. But we also know Ryan Coogler is not about to make his movie feel like anyone else’s. With that in mind, we can expect Namor to keep his arrogance and loyalty, but like he did with T’Challa, Killmonger and M’Baku, the director will likely also humanize him in a very authentic way, giving the character new depth and making him feel fresh.