At Righteous Indignation or Acts of Wrath…
The epic continuation of Marvel’s Black Panther saga, Wakanda Forever, premiered in theaters nationwide in the fall of 2022. According to CNN, the film impressed with a 180 million dollar opening in the North American market. But the people amassed for more than the pleasure of sitting for a sequel to a blockbuster. This cinematic bauble was also a befitting memorial for the late Chadwick Boseman, the persona and embodiment of T’challa, the Black Panther. As a story, it was a celebration emphasizing the themes of triumph, nobility, and legacy told through the lens of a struggle between people led by leaders with starkly different ideologies.
While little was released of the plot beforehand, it was rumored early on that an interesting antagonist would rise. However, this one would find his home within the confines of Wakanda but within the vastness of the sea. They called him Namor, a perceived villain of sorts. But instead, he was imbued with a tortured soul. As it was his plight, protecting his people became his passion. But it was the pain of his people that fueled his bitterness. He existed to save his people regardless of the bill that would come due. He would take on the world if he must. Namor’s burden was heavy as the torch of his ancestors, the keeper of their treasures. Tragedy and pain often make one indignant. Some could say Namor’s heart was cold and as immovable as an unshaven iceberg. Or perhaps it was as hard and black as an obsidian stone. But while no one denies what Namor became, one wonders if his ideologies, motives, and mission were justified. Did Namor have a right to his drive to take on the world despite the cost?
Wakanda Forever presents Namor as the king of the Talakonil people, a civilization of ancient times, a culture that draws parallels to Atlantis, and rightly so. According to The Ringer in the film, Talokan is a stand-in for the underwater kingdom of Atlantis. Ringer notes, “Namor’s underwater kingdom of Talokan, replaces Atlantis’s Greco-Roman roots with those of ancient Mayan civilizations.” However, The Talokan are undersea dwellers, much like the people of Atlantis. But they were not always so.
Namor’s history is soaked in blood and pain. Namor’s birth highlights the deep-seated fear of a people fighting for their existence. As the Ringer notes, “Namor’s mother was a member of a tribe trying to flee their colonist oppressors. To establish a new home in the deep, each man, woman, and child drank a special herb that gave them the power to breathe underwater. Namor’s mother was pregnant when she drank the herb, and thus Namor became the first baby born underwater.” However, he was born much unlike the others, with unique appendages for a special newborn. But Namor was not always his name. His name is instead a marker of the pain of his legacy. Upon the death of his mother, he returns to give her a burial in her native land. But what he finds sets wrath in his heart. Time states, “When Namor returns, he finds that Spanish colonizers have enslaved the indigenous people. So, he burns down their settlements. One Spanish colonizer calls him a demon, “the boy without love.”
Namor, “A God.”
Namor’s strength and valiant spirit are not the only ones that set him apart in his leadership position. His stark differences give him a distinctiveness propelling him to a place of veneration on par with a god. He is referred to as “Kukulan,” which translates as a feathered serpent god. And as a supreme leader, he holds the future of his people in his hands. The threat to his people looms larger due to the revelations of Wakanda and its valuable resources to the world. As a result, Namor finds a sense of urgency to act. His strategic preparations are of paramount importance. He must protect his people from the impending threat at all costs.
If one focuses on the ideology of colonization and the pillage of nations for their valuable resources, one understands the gravity of what Namor faces. A grandiose threat naturally elicits strong responses, ranging from fear to anger. The painful history of Namor’s people supports his need for alarm, caution, and ideologies that ultimately justify his strategic stance.
Moreover, to act as a fierce protector is within his nature, as this is an integral part of his written characterization. Namor is not written as the noble do-gooder as some other more noble characters. In fact, Namor has been aptly defined as one of the first anti-heroes. This means he walks a precarious line. He performs in a gray area, one can not pin a descriptor of good or bad to his character. But as the Ringer confirms, “He doesn’t see himself as a villain because, in his eyes, what he is doing he’s doing to protect a people who have already made it through a tragic history,” and who could disparage such?
A Different Perspective
While one can conclude that Namor is justified in his anger, one can argue that his folly lies in his unbridled wrath. Anger is a valid reaction to mistreatment and tragedy. However, wrath is the explosive emotion that follows anger, often driving one to act irrationally. Namor’s willingness to enact revenge at any cost is unjustifiable, evidenced by his desire to thrust Wakanda into a conflict, simultaneously threatening its people. This is borderline insane. How ineffable is a mission to take on the entire world, battling known and unknown foes? This reeks of egomania and over-emotionalism, undoubtedly caused by a rot set into his soul. His rationality has been permanently defiled. Coogler clarifies this point in a pivotal momentary exchange between Namor and Shuri. In an act of pretense, Namor offers Shuri an impossible choice for her and her people. Namor offers Shuri and Wakanda the choice to stand with him as allies in his war to take down the world. Or Shuri can choose that Wakanda suffers the wrath of the Talokan. As EW notes, “The film version of the Wakanda/Talokan conflict has a more tragic resonance as two oppressed peoples war with each other instead of finding common ground.” Sadly, such a tragedy could have been stemmed by more sensible means or more strategic rationale not hinged on irrationality and poisoned rage.
Final Assessments of Namor’s Justification
Although Ryan Coogler’s version of Namor differs in many aspects from the original Namor, he is the same at the core. Ringer notes, “Namor’s true allegiance has always been to Atlantis.” And even in the comics, Namor’s rivalry with T’challa and Wakanda was of note.
Given who Namor is and what drives him, it is reasonable to conclude that his anger is grounded in rationality. However, the lengths he will go to exercise his wrath are without proper justification. For those who have yet to see Wakanda Forever and desire to make their own assessment, the feature is currently streaming on the Disney+ platform.
Wakanda Forever (2022) Official Marvel Trailer
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