Editor’s note: The following contains minor spoilers for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”.
In “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” the aquatic adversary known as Namor soon establishes himself as one of those alluring yet bizarre characters who can polarize an audience: the ocean deity wields conches as smartphones and has feathered wings on her ankles.
But as portrayed by Mexican actor Tenoch Huerta Mejía in this brooding sequel to 2018’s “Black Panther,” Namor also commands considerable gravity as the amphibious leader of an underwater tribe, and deserves more than the inevitable comparisons that he will receive with his DC counterpart. , Aquaman. (CNN, DC Films and Warner Bros., which produced “Aquaman,” are part of the same parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery.)
Historically, DC predates Marvel with nearly all of its legacy characters in the pages of the comics that made them famous: Superman (1938) came long before Iron Man (1963), Batman (1939) came before Moon Knight (1975), Wonder Woman (1941) before Captain Marvel (1968), etc. It’s the ultimate irony that Namor is only now appearing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as he’s one of the few Marvel Comics characters to have arrived first.
Also known as the Sub-Mariner, Namor first appeared in the comics in 1939, while DC’s Aquaman debuted in 1941. Of course, on the big screen, the opposite is true. is right.: DC managed to beat Marvel to the punch in the underwater superhero realm, releasing “Aquaman” in 2018 and introducing the character played by Jason Momoa in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” two years prior. What’s more, “Aquaman” remains one of DC’s biggest hits: The movie grossed over $1 billion worldwide in its lifetime, according to Box Office Mojo, with a sequel on the way later this year. next.
Marvel and ‘Wakanda Forever’ director Ryan Coogler therefore had their work cut out for them to ensure that Namor and his world created a wow factor, while deviating enough from what had been done before, namely in “Aquaman”. And to the new film’s credit, it seems that most if not all of the footage showing the underwater kingdom of Talokan – with citizens playing waterlogged ball games and hanging out on benches – uses underwater photography. real marine and divers, as opposed to CGI.
In Mejía – who is billed as being ‘introduced’ in ‘Wakanda Forever’, despite having more than 70 credits in Mexican cinema spanning 15 years as well as last year’s ‘The Forever Purge’ – Marvel fortunately found its own dynamic anchor in this new underwater world. The menacing presence and intimidation of the character is only tempered by the vulnerability, even torture, in his expression, adding yet another element that differs from the quirky and ironic nature of Momoa’s aquatic superhero.
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” also had the daunting task of presenting Namor’s origins in a way that departed from those seen in “Aquaman”, and to do so in a film not intended to function solely as an origin story.
Both Namor and Aquaman claim the mythical Atlantis as their points of origin in their respective comic book source material – and DC previously used Atlantis as the setting for “Aquaman” four years ago – so there was a golden opportunity to turn things around when it came to Namor’s backstory in “Wakanda Forever.” Change comes through Talokan, Namor’s home kingdom, which is inspired by Mesoamerican mythology, native to Central and South America. The move to this Mayan and Aztec setting allows the film to explore much more grounded stories of colonization, in the same way that the original “Black Panther” also tackled Africa’s historic struggle with colonizers. .
Arguably, most notable departure from Namor’s comics origin comes in a reveal made in the movie: the aquatic superbing seems to be the result of a tribal ritual using a mystical herb, much like how the black panther manifests. (Aquaman, meanwhile, derives his superpowers from a relative of Atlantean royal heritage.) But then, the film goes one step further – on the eve of Phase V of the MCU’s grandmaster plan, Namor speaks in no uncertain terms that he is “a mutant”, a clear siren call of things to come, with the mutant X- Men – previously inhabiting a separate franchise from 20th Century Fox – soon to be incorporated into the MCU.
But before that happens, and thanks to Mejía’s nuanced performance in “Wakanda Forever,” Namor should be able to avoid plenty more comparisons with other ocean demigods and ride his own wave. towards the future.