Namor floats past Aquaman comparisons in 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever' |  CNN

Namor floats past Aquaman comparisons in ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ | CNN

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 charming yet strange characters that can polarize audiences: an ocean-dwelling deity who uses shells as smartphones and has feathered wings on his wings. ankles.

But as portrayed by Mexican actor Tenoch Huerta Mejía in this brooding sequel to 2018’s “Black Panther,” Namor also commands considerable gravitas as the amphibious leader of an undersea tribe and deserves more than the inevitable comparisons to his DC counterpart. , Aquaman. (CNN, DC Films and Warner Bros., which produced “Aquaman,” are all part of the same parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery.)

Historically, DC predates Marvel with nearly all of its older characters in 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) and so on. It’s a perfect irony that Namor is only now appearing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as he is one of the few Marvel Comics characters that came first.

Namor, also known as the Sub-Mariner, first appeared in comics in 1939, while DC’s Aquaman debuted in 1941. Of course, the opposite is true on the big screen: DC managed to beat Marvel in the realm of underwater superheroes when it released “Aquaman” in 2018 and introduced the character played by Jason Momoa in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” two years before that. What’s more, “Aquaman” remains one of DC’s biggest hits: the film grossed more than $335 million in its run, according to Box Office Mojo, and a sequel is on the way next year.

Marvel and “Wakanda Forever” director Ryan Coogler therefore, they 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, most, if not all, of the sequences showing the underwater kingdom of Talokan — with citizens playing waterlogged ball games and hanging out on benches — appear to use real underwater photography and divers, as opposed to CGI.

In Mejía — who is listed as “introduced” in “Wakanda Forever,” despite more than 70 titles in the Mexican film over 15 years, as well as last year’s “The Forever Purge” — Marvel luckily he found his own dynamic anchor to this new underwater world. The character’s menacing presence and intimidation is tempered only by the vulnerability, even torture, in his expression, which adds yet another element that differs from the quirky and cocky nature of Momo’s aquatic superhero.

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” also had the difficult task of presenting Namor’s origins in a way that deviated from those seen in “Aquaman” and making it a movie that doesn’t just work as an origin story.

Both Namor and Aquaman claim the mythical Atlantis as their starting point in their comic book source material — and DC already used Atlantis as the setting for “Aquaman” four years ago — so When it came to Namor’s story in “Wakanda Forever,” there was a ripe opportunity to change things up. Change comes through Talokan, Namor’s home kingdom, which is inspired by Mesoamerican, indigenous Central American, and South American mythology. Switching to this Mayan and Aztec setting allows the film to explore a history of colonization that is much more grounded in reality, much as the original “Black Panther” also touched on Africa’s historical struggle with colonizers.

Probably, the most notable departure from Namor’s comics origin comes in the revelation made in the film: the aquatic super being appears to be the result of a tribal ritual using a mystical herb, similar to how Black Panther manifests. (Aquaman, meanwhile, derives his superpowers from one parent of royal Atlantean heritage.) But then, the film goes even further – on the eve of Phase V of the MCU’s master plan, Namor no doubt utters that he is a “mutant”, a clear siren call for things to come, with the mutant X-Men – formerly a standalone 20th Century Fox franchise – soon to be incorporated into the MCU fold .

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

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