The movie rights to Namor have long been a point of discussion, and the conversation is still continuing after the character’s debut in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. During Phase 4’s Black Panther sequel, Tenoch Huerta introduced Namor to the live-action MCU for the first time, and the character is set to make more appearances in the MCU’s future. However, much like the movie rights to Bruce Banner, a.k.a. the Hulk, Namor’s distribution rights are caught up between Marvel Studios and Universal Pictures. This makes his future in the franchise unclear, but Marvel Studios will surely want to hang onto the original Marvel Comics antihero.
Namor the Sub-Mariner debuted publicly in Marvel Comics (then known as Timely Comics) in 1939’s Marvel Comics #1, making him one of Marvel’s original characters in publication. Over the years, several failed attempts were made to bring Namor into live-action, most prominently in his own TV series that was in development during the 1950s. Namor was among various major Marvel Comics’ characters whose movie rights were sold to other studios, joining the ranks of the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Spider-Man. This meant that Marvel Studios couldn’t produce a project featuring Namor, though the line has since been blurred.
Who Owns Namor’s Movie Rights: Marvel or Universal?
Namor’s movie rights were sold to Universal Pictures in the 1990s, along with the rights to the Hulk, but in 2014, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige offered an update on Namor when he said that Marvel Studios, and not Universal, owned the rights to Namor. Despite this, Feige also claimed that “entanglements” and “older contracts” prevented them from moving forward on a solo film, putting Namor front and center. This suggested that the problems lie with Namor’s distribution rights, meaning a solo film with Namor couldn’t be produced by Marvel Studios, but the character could have shown up in a supporting capacity in other projects.
MCU’s Namor References & Setup Before Black Panther 2 Explained
While Black Panther: Wakanda Forever wasn’t a solo project for Namor, the character did appear as the film’s primary antagonist, with Marvel Studios sticking to the rules determined by Namor’s movie rights. However, even before Namor’s debut in the MCU, the character and his underwater Kingdom of Talokan (adapted from Marvel Comics’ Atlantis) had been referenced several times in a variety of Marvel Studios projects. A map in Iron Man 2 featured a marker in the Atlantic Ocean, where the mythical city was thought to be situated, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier debuted the Lemurian Star – Lemuria was an underwater continent with connections to Namor in Marvel Comics.
The most noteworthy reference to Namor came during Avengers: Endgame, though its actual connection to the antihero has been disputed. During a meeting of the remaining Avengers, Okoye briefly mentions an underwater earthquake off the coast of West Africa, seemingly where Iron Man 2’s map marker would have been situated. The writers for Avengers: Endgame later debunked this theory, but it stuck in audiences’ minds as a direct reference to Namor and Atlantis. Even so, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever revealed that Namor’s underwater city of Talokan was actually in the Yucatán Peninsula, nowhere near Africa, so perhaps Okoye’s earthquake was just that: an earthquake.
Namor Was The Main Villain Of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
The MCU’s Hulk has had an incredibly fruitful career following his Universal-distributed 2008 solo film, The Incredible Hulk, so there’s no reason why Namor can’t get the same level of appreciation. This kicked off in full during Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, which debuted Namor as the film’s main villain, pitting him against the MCU’s new Black Panther, Shuri, and the forces of Wakanda. Tenoch Huerta’s Namor is brought into the story through the use of vibranium, as it’s revealed that a vibranium meteor also struck the Yucatán Peninsula as it did Wakanda, allowing Namor’s ancestors to evolve into sea-faring beings and leading to the formation of Talokan.
After Riri Williams’ vibranium detector almost uncovers Talokan beneath the waves, Namor seeks to kidnap the young genius and finds himself coming at odds with the Wakandans in the process. This leads to a tragic attack on the African nation and the death of Queen Ramonda, providing Shuri with the motivation to complete her design of the synthetic heart-shaped herb and become the Black Panther, waging war on Namor and the Talokanil. By the end of Wakanda Forever, the two nations have entered into a tentative alliance, though it seems this could break at any moment, a storyline that Marvel Studios will surely explore in the MCU’s future.
MCU’s Namor Changes From The Comics Explained
In Marvel Comics, Namor is the mutant son of a human sea captain and an Atlantean Princess, though this origin story was changed for the MCU version of the character. Atlantis was adapted into Talokan, a nation built on the site of a vibranium meteor crash that had affected the surrounding plant life. Similarly to Wakanda’s heart-shaped herb, an underwater plant gifted Namor’s ancestors with abilities ensuring their survival underwater but making life on the surface impossible. However, Namor’s mutation means that he can breath both in and out of the water and retain his skin color, while other Talokanil turn blue when exposed to oxygen in the air.
Namor’s remarkably long career in Marvel Comics has seen him become affiliated with many other superheroes, including the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the Defenders, and the X-Men. His MCU career has so far only consisted of one project, so his story will need to be developed far more drastically before these connections can be made. Even so, Phase 4 introduced Namor as one of the MCU’s first official mutants, along with Kamala Khan in Ms. Marvel and a variant of Professor X in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which opens the door for some very exciting storylines involving Namor in the MCU’s future.
Can Marvel Use Namor In A Solo Movie?
Namor has always been high on the list of Marvel Comics characters that audiences want to see in the MCU. As an antihero rather than a committed superhero, Namor is a very intriguing addition to the franchise, continuing themes presented throughout Phases 4 and 5 with the debuts of characters such as Moon Knight, the Punisher, and the Thunderbolts. However, Universal Pictures is still an obstacle when it comes to developing a solo film for Namor in the MCU, and it all boils down to the character’s distribution rights.
Since Universal still holds the distribution rights to Namor, there may be no solo MCU film for the character anytime soon. This is akin to Marvel Studios’ Hulk situation. The Hulk is firmly in the MCU, but Marvel Studios can’t make a solo Hulk movie, so the character is limited to supporting roles such as those in The Avengers, Thor: Ragnarok, and She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. In 2018, Marvel Studios described the Namor situation as “complicated,” and yet recent speculation has suggested that the rights to both the Hulk and Namor could soon be reverting to Marvel Studios, which could make solo films for both characters possible.
Can Marvel Use Namor In a Different Movie?
Following his debut as a supporting character in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, many are excited to see Namor show up in future MCU projects, though it’s unclear how regularly this might be. In the early days of the MCU, it was easy to give Bruce Banner the development he needed, even if he was a supporting character in other heroes’ projects, as there weren’t so many heroes for Marvel Studios to focus on. Now though, dozens of main characters inhabit the MCU, all fighting for character developments and major story arcs, so Namor runs the risk of getting lost in the crowd if his movie rights don’t revert to Marvel Studios.
Speaking to Comicbook.com, Avengers: The Kang Dynasty writer Jeff Loveness revealed that he is “excited to write Namor.” While not exactly providing confirmation, this seems to suggest that Namor will appear in Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, Phase 6’s first Avengers crossover event, so audiences can rest assured that the King of Talokan will return to the MCU. Phase 6 seems to be where more mutants will be introduced to the MCU, too, with Deadpool 3 speeding things along, so an MCU future for Namor could see him show up in the MCU’s X-Men films, just as the Hulk did in the Avengers franchise.