Namor Surpasses Aquaman Comparisons in ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ | CNN

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Publisher’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 establishing himself as one of those seductive yet bizarre characters that can polarize audiences: The ocean-dwelling deity uses conch shells like smartphones and has feathered wings in his hands. ankles

But as Mexican actor Tenoch Huerta Mejía portrays him in this haunting follow-up to 2018’s “Black Panther,” Namor also has considerable gravitas as the amphibious leader of an underwater tribe, and he deserves more than the inevitable comparisons he’ll 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 precedes Marvel with almost all of their characters inheriting 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 the ultimate irony that Namor only appears in the Marvel Cinematic Universe now, as he’s one of the few Marvel Comics characters to have come 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 to the realm of underwater superheroes, releasing “Aquaman” in 2018 and introducing the character played by Jason Momoa in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” two years earlier. Plus, “Aquaman” remains one of DC’s biggest hits: The movie has grossed more than $335 million during its lifetime, according to Box Office Mojo, with a sequel on the way next year.

Marvel and “Wakanda Forever” director Ryan Coogler therefore, they had their work cut out for them to make sure Namor and his world created a wow factor, while also departing far enough from what had been done before, namely in “Aquaman.” And to the credit of the new film, it appears that much, if not all, of the sequences showing the underwater kingdom of Talokan, with citizens playing flooded ball games and hanging around on the banks, use real underwater photography and scuba divers, instead. instead of CGI.

On Mejía, who bills himself as “featured” in “Wakanda Forever,” despite more than 70 credits in Mexican cinema spanning 15 years, as well as last year’s “The Forever Purge” – Marvel fortunately it has found its own dynamic anchor to 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 Momoa’s quirky, tongue-in-cheek nature of the aquatic superhero.

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” also had the daunting task of presenting Namor’s origins in a way that deviated from those seen in “Aquaman” and of making a film that is not intended to operate solely as an origin story.

Both Namor and Aquaman claim mythical Atlantis as their point of origin in their respective comics, and DC already used Atlantis as the setting for “Aquaman” four years ago, so there was a great opportunity to change things up when it came to Namor’s backstory in “Wakanda Forever.” The change occurs through Talokan, Namor’s home kingdom, which is inspired by Mesoamerican mythology, indigenous to Central and South America. Switching to this setting based on the Mayans and Aztecs allows the film to explore stories of colonization that are much more rooted in reality, similar to how the original “Black Panther” also touched on Africa’s historical struggle with the colonizers.

It could be said that Namor’s most notable departure from comics source comes in a reveal made in the movie: the aquatic super being appears to be the result of a tribal ritual using a mystical herb, much like how the Black Panther manifests. (Aquaman, meanwhile, draws his superpowers from one of the parents of royal Atlantean heritage.) But then, the film goes even further: on the eve of Phase V of the MCU’s grandmaster’s plan, Namor pronounces in no uncertain terms that he is “a mutant,” a clear siren song of things to come, with the X- Mutant Men, who previously inhabited a separate 20th Century Fox franchise, soon to be incorporated into the MCU.

But before that happens, and thanks to Mejia’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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