Namor is not the real villain of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has been in theaters for about two weeks now where it has won the box office and won over fans and critics alike as the follow up to 2016’s Black Panther not only concludes Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but also continues the Black Panther franchise. An important part of both aspects of the film is the introduction of Namor (Tenoch Huerta), the leader of Talokan, an undersea nation that happens to have Vibranium like Wakanda. In the film, Namor is positioned as a threat to Wakanda and more broadly the rest of the world, but while many label Namor as the “bad guy” of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, that’s an inaccurate assessment. Although Namor is a real adversary, the real villain is not the leader of the Talokan at all. It is colonialism and the Western world’s desire to wield power and control in the name of resources.

The idea that the Black Panther franchise would take on the idea that the Western world is the problem shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. The foundations for this had already been laid Black Panther. Instead of revealing itself to the world as an advanced and powerful nation, Wakanda had long remained hidden and instead presented itself as a poor, peasant nation with no interesting resources. The reason for this? The outside world—the largely white Western world—would try to take those resources for themselves, doing to Wakanda what nations have done to other African nations for centuries. It’s only when Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) forces T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) to face the harsh truth about his own father and how Wakanda failed the African people to maintain their own safety that things change and Wakanda makes itself known. to the world. It’s an optimistic moment, but one that Black Panther: Wakanda Forever quickly reveals wasn’t the reward T’Challa had hoped for.

In Wakanda forever, in the wake of T’Challa’s death, the western world decides they want access to Vibranium for themselves and essentially diplomatically bully Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) into “sharing”, but when she stands strong, the rest decide of the world they’ll just take it. The French try to steal it and are thwarted by the Dora Milaje while the United States tries a different tactic: they go hunting it in the ocean.

While on the face of it there is nothing wrong with seeking out precious resources, the fact that the U.S. is seeking Vibranium covertly and in places other than its own country and shores is indicative of this notion that it doesn’t matter who is the source. to, or the harm done in taking it. If a “mighty” nation wants it, they’ll take it. The US seeking and attempting to drill for Vibranium in the Atlantic Ocean is just one contemporary example of a pattern that has played out repeatedly throughout history when it comes to Indigenous peoples and if you don’t quite understand how that is related , the film later makes it even clearer when Namor Shuri (Letitia Wright) tells his story and we see the history of the Talokan people on screen: the Spaniards came to Mesoamerica centuries ago, enslaved the Maya, confiscated their resources and brought disease and suffering while ill-treating the people they entered the land.

For Namor, when the actions of the US in the Atlantic are echoes of a story he has seen before that prompts Namor and the Talokanil to act, which brings Namor to Ramonda and Shuri. He blames them for making the western world Vibranium hungry and endangering his people, and he wants them to restore, in a way, what they started by handing over the scientist who created the machine that brought the government to Talokan’s door led. While this certainly makes Namor an antagonistic relationship with Wakanda and one could reasonably argue that there could have been a more diplomatic approach between Talokan and Wakanda as both nations feel the pressure of the western world and it is clear in the movie that Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne) wasn’t exactly in control of what she designed, Namor merely responding to a situation the western world has forced upon him. He didn’t kindle the fire, so to speak, but he also doesn’t want it to spread and burn his people.

In a way, this is something that we even see Wakanda recognize late in the movie. During the final battle between Shuri and Namor, Shuri realizes that both she and Namor – and by extension Wakanda and Talokan – are on the same path. They are both victims of the western world, both historically and in this Vibranium race. It is what prompts her to offer an alliance and allows Namor to accept it. The two nations need each other so that they can stand side by side to face what will surely be renewed attempts by the Western world – especially the United States – to acquire Vibranium by any means necessary. And we know that’s because of a line Valentina de Fontaine (says Julia Louis-Dreyfus to Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) when she tells him she dreams of the US having access to Vibranium like Wakanda does. The search for Vibranium is the new colonization in the MCU, and it puts two non-white nations in grave danger.

To be clear, Namor is still largely responsible for his own actions and choices. The fact that he’s not the real villain doesn’t absolve him from his actions. Ramonda’s death is still a difficult and shocking event and one that is hard for fans to accept without portraying Namor in a negative light – but those choices and actions don’t make Namor a villain. It makes him an adversary at worst and an anti-hero at best. His actions are not to do evil for evil’s sake, but to respond to real threats to the safety of his people. If the west had not been the aggressors in this scenario, Talokan would have remained hidden. What will be especially interesting in the MCU going forward is how other movies choose to go about it. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever paves the way Lightning strikes – I’ve written here about how that movie could bring the team into conflict with Namor at Valentina’s behest – but only time will tell if the MCU is brave enough to advance a story that holds up a mirror to the too-often told stories that the west as the heroes and everyone else as villains, especially when Wakanda forever makes it clear that sometimes the opposite is more the truth.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is in theaters now.

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