Tenoch Huerta, who plays Namor the Sub-Mariner in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, teases that the film will humanize his character. Wakanda Forever is the direct sequel to Marvel’s 2018 film Black Panther, which starred Chadwick Boseman in the title role. After Boseman’s death in August 2020, the sequel was re-worked to replace Boseman’s Black Panther with a female iteration of the hero instead. Wakanda Forever will premiere in theaters on November 11.
Huerta was revealed to be playing Namor, the film’s antagonist, at San Diego Comic-Con earlier this year, where he briefly appeared in the Wakanda Forever trailer. Since then, there has been fervent debate about Namor’s introduction to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as the character plays a major role in the comics. In the film, Namor is the king of Talokan, an underwater civilization akin to Atlantis. Namor takes an interest in Wakanda after King T’Challa opens Wakanda’s borders to the world, and a recent clip from Wakanda Forever shows Namor confronting T’Challa’s mother, Ramonda. Huerta confirmed that, as in the comics, the film’s Namor is also a mutant – which could be an important stepping stone to introducing the X-Men into the MCU.
At a Wakanda Forever press event that Screen Rant attended, Huerta explained that the film will seek to humanize Namor. Huerta said that while Namor is trying to destroy something very beloved and dear, it was important to both him and director Ryan Coogler that the audience understand why Namor is doing the things he does. He went on to say that Namor is a perfect counterpart to the new Black Panther, as they are both reacting to grief and threat in different ways. Read Huerta’s full comment below:
« It is tricky when you have a character like this, because you’re the antagonist. You are gonna destroy something that is valuable, not just in the story—but the people outside. A lot of people feel identification with Wakanda. I include myself in Wakanda, and the narrative and the representation and everything. Now I have to play the bad guy who destroys, or tries to destroy, that legacy. But at the same time, I think Ryan and the script found a way to make it human; to justify why people do that kind of thing. It doesn’t mean that it’s okay or not, that it’s right or not, but it explains. Maybe it’s not an excuse, but it’s a reason. It’s an explanation why things happen, and why people choose different reactions in front of their grief or madness or whatever; the threats in life. And that’s beautiful, because it’s human.
« We have these two characters taking different decisions with the grief and the threat. They share the same wound, historically, [in] the representation of their cultures. But at the same time as individuals, they share that wound, and how they solve the problem is about their personality and their own history. That’s beautiful; that balance in a superhero movie, where you have this balance and these layers, is fantastic. It doesn’t happen too much, and it’s enjoyable. »
How Black Panther & Namor Are Similar
Similarly to the villain of the first Black Panther film, Erik Killmonger, Wakanda Forever wants to make its antagonist’s motivations understood by the audience. Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan, went down in MCU history for being one of the first major antagonists to garner sympathy, as Killmonger’s motives and rage were well-justified. Killmonger and T’Challa were two people who were willing to do anything to protect their people, and had two different viewpoints on how to achieve that goal. With Wakanda Forever, Namor seems to be stepping into that role of sympathetic antagonist, continuing Black Panther’s legacy of having complex villains.
Judging by Huerta’s vague but enlightening comments, Namor will also be grieving the death of a loved one and that grief will drive his decision to attack Wakanda, creating a parallel with the Wakandans who are also grieving over the loss of T’Challa. It also creates a similarity between the new Black Panther and Namor as they will both be reacting to loss. It’s not too different from dynamic between T’Challa’s Black Panther and Killmonger, continuing the trend of Black Panther villains sharing the hero’s motivation but acting on it in more villainous ways. Namor appearing in Wakanda Forever may also mean bigger things for the MCU as a whole, and there are already theories about what other MCU films Namor could eventually appear in. It’s likely Huerta’s performance in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is only be the very start of Namor’s story in the MCU.