Namor: Marvel’s watertight efforts to make him different from Aquaman

Editor’s note: The following contains minor spoilers about “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”


In “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” the water enemy known as Namor wastes no time establishing himself as one of those mischievous yet strange characters that can polarize audiences: the ocean-dwelling deity uses conch shells as smartphones and has feathered wings. ankles.

But as portrayed by Mexican actor Tenoch Huerta Mejía in this 2018 remake of “Black Panther,” Namor also commands great weight as the amphibious leader of an underwater tribe, and he deserves it more than just the inevitable comparisons he gets to 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 almost all of its legacy characters in the pages of the comic books that made them famous: Superman (1938) came long before Iron Man (1963), Batman (1939) before Moon Knight (1975), Wonder Woman (1941) before Captain Marvel (1968), and so on. This is the true irony that Namor is only appearing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe now, as he is one of the few Marvel Comics characters that came first.

Also known as the Sub-Mariner, Namor first appeared in comics in 1939, while DC’s Aquaman debuted in 1941. Of course, on the big screen, the opposite is true.: DC managed to beat Marvel to the punch in the world of underwater superheroes, releasing “Aquaman” in 2018 and introducing the character played by Jason Momoa in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” two years before that. In addition, “Aquaman” remains one of DC’s biggest hits: the film has earned more than $1 billion worldwide over its lifetime, according to Box Office Mojo, with a sequel on the way next year.

Marvel and “Wakanda Forever” director Ryan Coogler so they had their work cut out for them to ensure that Namor and his world create a wow factor, while at the same time providing enough separation from what has been done before, namely in “Aquaman.” And to the new film’s credit, it seems that many if not all of the sequences depicting the underwater kingdom of Talokan – with citizens playing water-filled ball games and hanging around on benches – using real underwater footage and divers, as opposed to CGI.

In Mejía – who is said to be “introduced” in “Wakanda Forever”, despite more than 70 credits in Mexican cinema over 15 years in addition to “The Forever Purge” last year – Marvel luckily he has found his own dynamic anchor to this new underwater world. The presence and menacing fear of the character is reduced only by the vulnerability, even the pain, in his expression, adding another element that is different from the fragile and tongue-in-cheek nature Momoa’s aquatic superhero.

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” also had the daunting task of presenting Namor’s origins in a way that swam clearly from those seen in “Aquaman,” and of making it into a film that isn’t meant to work as an origin story alone.

Both Namor and Aquaman claim the mythical Atlantis as the main location in their comic book source material – and DC used Atlantis as their setting for “Aquaman” four years ago – so there was a good chance to change things up when it came to Namor’s backstory in “Wakanda Forever.” The change comes through Talokan, Namor’s home kingdom, which is inspired by Mesoamerican, Central American and South American mythology. The change to this Mayan- and Aztec-based setting allows the film to explore a history of colonization that is much more rooted in reality, similar to how the original “Black Panther” dealt with a historical struggle. Africa with colonists too.

Arguably, the most notable departure from the Namor comics source comes in a revelation made in the film: the watery surface seems to be the result of a tribal ritual using a mysterious herb, similar to how the Black Panther is revealed. (Aquaman, meanwhile, draws his superpowers from one parent of Atlantic royalty.) But then, the film goes even further – on the eve of Phase V of the MCU’s master plan, Namor vaguely declares that he is a “mutant”, a clarion call of things to come, with the mutant X-Men – who lived there before. franchise from 20th Century Fox – soon to be brought into the MCU fold.

But before that happens, and thanks to Mejía’s breakthrough performance in “Wakanda Forever,” Namor should be able to avoid many more comparisons to other oceanic demigods, and set his own wave in time with coming


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