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

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


In “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” the aquatic adversary known as Namor wastes no time in establishing himself as one of those alluring yet strange characters that can polarize audiences: the ocean-dwelling deity uses shells of it snails like smartphones and has feathered wings. ankles

But as played by Mexican actor Tenoch Huerta Mejía in this haunting follow-up to 2018’s “Black Panther,” Namor also has considerable gravitas as the amphibious leader of an underwater tribe and deserves more than the inevitable comparisons he’ll receive with its 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 characters inherited from the pages of the comics 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), etc. It is the ultimate irony that Namor is only appearing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe now, as he is 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.: DC managed to beat Marvel 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 earlier. What’s more, “Aquaman” remains one of DC’s biggest hits — the film has earned more than $335 million over its lifetime, according to Box Office Mojo — with a sequel on the way next year.

Ryan Coogler, director of Marvel and “Wakanda Forever”. therefore, they were given the job to ensure that Namor and his world created a wow factor, while also diverging enough from what had been done before, namely in ‘Aquaman’. And to the new film’s credit, it appears that many, if not all, of the sequences showing the underwater kingdom of Talokan, with citizens playing waterlogged ball games and wading through shoals, use underwater photography real and divers, as opposed to CGI.

In Mejía, who is reported to be “introduced” in “Wakanda Forever,” despite more than 70 credits in Mexican cinema over 15 years, as well as last year’s “The Forever Purge,” Marvel Fortunately, he has found his own dynamic anchor in this new underwater world. The character’s menacing presence and intimidation is only tempered by the vulnerability, even torture, in his expression, adding another element that differs from the quirky, tongue-in-cheek 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 of making it into a movie not meant to function as just 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 already used Atlantis as the setting for “Aquaman” four years ago, so there was a ripe opportunity to shake things up when it came to Namor’s backstory in “Wakanda Forever.” Change comes via Talokan, Namor’s home kingdom, which is inspired by Mesoamerican, Central Indian, and South American mythology. The shift to this Mayan-Aztec-based setting allows the film to explore stories of colonization that are much more grounded in reality, similar to how the original “Black Panther” also touched on Africa’s historical struggle with colonizers .

Certainly, Namor’s most notable departure from the comics origin comes in a revelation made in the film: the aquatic superbeing appears to be the result of a tribal ritual using a mystical herb, as manifested by the Black Panther. (Aquaman, meanwhile, gets his superpowers from one of the fathers of the royal Atlantean heritage.), the film goes even further: on the eve of Phase V of the MCU’s master plan, Namor pronounces in no uncertain terms that he is “a mutant,” a clear siren call of things to come, with the mutant X-Men, formerly inhabiting a separate franchise from 20th Century Fox, which will soon join the MCU fold.

But before that happens, and thanks to Mejía’s nuanced performance in “Wakanda Forever,” Namor should be able to avoid many more comparisons to other ocean demigods and ride his own wave into the future.

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