NO SPOILERS for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever because I haven’t actually seen the movie yet. Everything discussed here comes from the film’s official teaser and official trailer as well as Tenoch Huerta’s interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live!.
Okay, so ever since the teaser trailer for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever dropped, I have been obsessed with Namor the Sub-Mariner. Who’s that? This guy:
I mean, how could I not? He’s a very handsome dude who has pointy ears and ankle-wings, wears Casino Royale-esque green swim trunks and a bunch of jewelry, and radiates the intensity of a thousand burning suns. What’s not to like?
What I really like about him, though, is that he just seems so highly specific.
What do I mean by “highly specific?” Well, I mean that you can’t mix him up with another MCU hero or villain*. He’s played by an Indigenous Mexican actor (Tenoch Huerta) and he has two piercings plus a ton of other jewelry. He also has two physical characteristics that we often associate with humanoid fantasy characters: pointy ears, which we often associate with elves (both the Tolkien and Christmas kinds); and ankle-wings, which go back to the messenger god Hermes/Mercury in Greek and Roman mythologies.
All of these physical characteristics combine to create a visually intriguing character who stands out against many other prominent male MCU protagonists and antagonists. After all, most of them are white or Black and wear no jewelry and have no piercings or tattoos*. Namor doesn’t have tattoos, but his DCEU counterpart, Aquaman, does. And both of them are merpeople (half-merman, half-human, technically). It’s also worth noting that things like piercings and tattoos weren’t really part of mainstream U.S. culture until about the past 30 years, piercings occurred in Meso-American cultures (which is what Namor’s realm of Talocan is based on in Wakanda Forever). Meanwhile, tattoos often have significant meanings in Polynesian cultures, and Aquaman is portrayed as half-Polynesian. So the presence of these forms of expression on these characters helps associate them with other cultures to widen the films’ representation and present a form of attractive masculinity that’s different from Captain America and Superman.
*Note: Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth do have multiple tattoos, but I guess the MCU’s makeup artists always covered them up. That’s why people were confused to find out that Chris Evans has multiple chest tattoos when they saw his People‘s Sexiest Man Alive photoshoot pictures.
We also haven’t seen characters from Earth with features like pointy ears or ankle-wings yet. If someone has fantasy-esque features like that, they’re usually on Asgard or in space with the Guardians of the Galaxy. So these features show that Namor is from a part of MCU’s Earth that we haven’t seen before, and I immediately want to know more about it.
Of course, even though I’ve only seen the character in trailers, I’m attracted to more about Namor than just his appearance. Why? Well, the man has swagger. What do I mean? Look at these photos*:
*Ignore the one where he’s a newborn infant with winged ankles; that’s not relevant, but I don’t know how to remove it.
He just radiates this intensity in every frame he’s in, and he does not care what anyone thinks about him. Don’t like his ankle-wings? He doesn’t care. Don’t like that he only wears tiny trunks and jewelry? That’s doesn’t bother him at all. Don’t like his decision to have his army of merpeople flood Wakanda’s capital city while he sprints through the air, acting as their air support? He doesn’t care that you don’t approve. Namor is a leader who knows exactly what he wants to do and he’s going to follow through on that vision, even if that makes him the antagonist in someone else’s story.
And that’s the thing about Namor: he’s the antagonist of Wakanda Forever, but he doesn’t seem to be a hopelessly irredeemable villain. I found a featurette about him via Facebook, and in that, the creators and cast say that he believes he is doing what he believes he’s right. Also, based on the clip of Namor shown during Tenoch Huerta’s interview with Jimmy Kimmel, it seems like Namor is envious of Wakanda’s status as a utopia. He says something about how his mother talked about a place where people never had to leave. Alongside that, we also see a clip of him in the teaser trailer watching his home burn while he’s still a child. So I think Namor has some issues surrounding displacement that fuel his anger towards Wakanda. I think he’ll be a sympathetic villain, like Erik Killmonger before him.
On top of all that I’ve gleaned from the clips and behind-the-scenes stuff, I started looking into the Marvel Comics version of Namor. He’s not as colorful as the MCU’s version: he’s an arrogant white dude who randomly flips between being a hero and a villain just because he feels like it while also romancing lots of woman (including Sue Storm/Invisible Woman from the Fantastic Four). And the comics’ Namor has this really deep widow’s peak that’s reminiscent of a young Christopher Lee. And Namor’s only friends in the comics are Bucky Barnes and Doctor Doom. Kevin Feige, I need you to make those friendships happen in live-action. Namor and Bucky better be playing Mario Kart together by the end of Phase 6!
Overall, both in the MCU and the comics, Namor just seems delightfully wacky and intense and just really fun. And that’s why I’m excited to see him in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, even if he is the antagonist.
Oh, and I was just informed that the comics’ version of Namor the Sub-Mariner was the late, great game show host Alex Trebek’s favorite superhero. And Namor is making his live-action debut right around the second anniversary of Trebek’s death. That probably means nothing in the grand scheme of things, but it means a lot to me.
Of course, I’m basing my entire crush on a handful of clips in trailers plus a featurette and an interview. Once I actually see this film, I may have to backtrack everything I’ve said, but I hope I don’t have to.