Ryan Coogler Knew He Wanted To Use Namor In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever For A Really Long Time

News that writer/director Ryan Coogler was officially signed on to make Black Panther 2 was announced in October 2018 – about eight months after the release of his landmark first Marvel Studios movie – but that’s not the date when he first started imagining what the sequel could be. Instead, that part of the creative process began when he was still bringing Black Panther to life, and it was actually back then that he first started to ask about the possibility of introducing Namor The Submariner to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

For a long time, Namor was not available to be used by the blockbuster franchise due to rights issues, but since those rights have reverted back to Marvel, fans of the comics have been awaiting his arrival on the big screen. According to Marvel Studios producer Nate Moore, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was the first time that the character’s utilization in a project was “seriously considered,” and he adds that Ryan Coogler first started discussing possibilities during post-production on Black Panther. Moore recently told me,

I actually think this is the first time we seriously considered it, and it was something that Ryan had pitched in post on the first movie. 'Hey, if we get to do a sequel...' Which was an if, 'I would love to tackle Namor because he's such a compelling character.' Ryan is a fan of publishing and Namor, and in publishing Atlantis and Wakanda have had such great conflicts in the past. He was really interested in exploring that in a potential sequel. But I can't say that I remember another property before this where that was a real consideration.

As noted, Black Panther and Namor have significant history together in the comics, and they are characters who are well-matched for stories. Both of them have the distinction of being kings of their respective nations, but they have differing – and sometimes opposing – philosophies when it comes to international diplomacy. In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Namor (played by Tenoch Huerta) is the ruler of Talocan instead of Atlantis from the comics, and the film begins with Wakanda in mourning after the passing of King T’Challa, but the larger spirit of the classic conflict in the blockbuster is the same.

Speaking with Ryan Coogler after my interview with Nate Moore during the Los Angeles press day for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, I asked about the evolution of Namor’s role in his vision for the sequel. He explained that there were a lot of ideas that were thrown around for the character’s depiction, but there was always a consistent core that defined his relationship with people on land. Said the filmmaker,

We went through a lot of iterations of Namor, but they always had that at the core – the idea that he feels like it's only a matter of time before he comes in conflict with the other people that inhabit the planet. And like any wise leader or general, or anybody... he knows that that your chances of victory improve if you can throw the first punch, so to speak. So that's where he is, like Namor in the comics, he's very pragmatic, you know? And also that has a distaste for people from that part of the world.

The characterization was juxtaposed with the history of Wakanda, and Ryan Coogler was influenced to create the story with a key contrast in mind. Thanks to their abundance of Vibranium, the people of Wakanda have always been protected from colonizers and have been able to keep them at a distance. Without giving too much away before Black Panther: Wakanda Forever arrives in theaters, Namor’s people were driven from their home, and are willing to go to extreme lengths to protect what they have built in Talocan. Coogler explained,

When we settled on this idea of the underwater empire being influenced by the culture of the classic Mayan civilizations of the Yucatan, when we made that decision, we realized that like, okay, these were people who had a very specific history when it came to other people from far away and what happened to them. And how does that influence their views, you know? Whereas Wakanda's history with the other people, they've been less affected, and that contrast I thought would be an interesting place to start.

Continuing, Ryan Coogler added that Namor’s story is one that is impacted by trauma. The world has left him feeling vulnerable in the past, and he’s never been able to escape it. That’s something that the Wakandans haven’t experienced:

It was less about who's down to a preemptive strike or not, and more about that – more about this idea of proven vulnerability, you know what I mean? When things have happened to you in the past, you kind of never stop feeling vulnerable. And I think that's the key difference that the film is talking about here.

Like its predecessor, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a film that features intelligent commentary about the world, and it’s delivered through the emotions of and dynamics between the complex characters. Tenoch Huerta’s Namor is very much at the center of it all, and you register that Ryan Coogler has put a tremendous amount of thought into his MCU debut.

Also starring Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Angela Bassett, Winston Duke, Dominique Thorne, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever arrives in theaters on November 11. Check out our Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline feature and Marvel Movie Rankings for a refresher on the franchise canon, and learn about what else is on the way from the franchise with our Upcoming Marvel Movies and Upcoming Marvel TV guides.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.