In Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, we’re introduced to a fearsome new villain named Namor. Played by Mexican actor Tenoch Huerta, Namor hails from an undersea society, whose life is defined by subjugation and colonialism. At one point, he explains the origins of his name: If age Means love, it is outcast (A mutant) are starving. no love. Namur. He is loveless, lonely. He is also a lender. Because Marvel Studios doesn’t actually control the character.
The situation around Namor dates back to the pre-Marvel Studios/pre-Disney era of making films of Marvel Comics characters, before the studio streamlined and controlled intellectual property. Before Marvel Studios made Iron Man as their own movie, the company was in the habit of licensing or selling the rights to characters to other studios — the X-Men went to Fox, Spider-Man went to Sony, etc. And Namor is one of those characters that is still being controlled by another studio.
Not that Namor won’t return to the MCU, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” producer Nate Moore confirmed to TheWrap: “He could return” — but Disney won’t be able to make a standalone movie about the character.
So what’s the deal?
Well, Namor’s situation is similar to Marvel Studios’ deal with Universal for the Hulk. Neither can star in their own movie because Universal Pictures has the rights to both characters. It cannot appear alone in marketing materials, unless it is part of a poster series. We spoke to “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” producer Moore about the situation and he admitted that Namor “borrowed” like the Hulk.
“It affects us more honestly, not so much talking outside of school, but more in how we market the movie than it does in how it’s used in the movie,” Moore said. “There weren’t things we couldn’t do from a character perspective for him, which is good because obviously we took a lot of inspiration from the source material, but we also made some big changes to really anchor him in that world in the fact that publishing never really worked out, I’d argue particularly well.” big “.
Moore went on to praise co-writer/director Ryan Coogler’s opinion of the material and how the remake was unaffected by legal action. “I’ve read every Namor comic ever written and love it, but the world of Atlantis is a little vaguely drawn. It’s kind of Roman maybe. And so Ryan is such a detail-oriented filmmaker that he wanted to root in something that felt as tangible and real as Fuel Wakanda hopefully for people. And I think there was nothing on the business side anyway to stop us from doing that, which is great,” Moore said.
Namor’s first appearance was in Marvel Comics #1 in October 1939. Also known as the Sub-Mariner, he is an underwater villain (part of the lost city of Atlantis), who later reforms and becomes a hero. (The character in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” certainly seems, by the film’s end, to be on the path to redemption.) Morally ambiguous, Namor oscillates between hero and villain depending on the needs of the story or any giant Marvel crossover event at the time.
In the late 1990s, when Marvel was facing Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the company created Marvel Studios, then run by Chairman/CEO Stan Lee and President Avi Arad. A contemporary Variety report from the time said that Marvel “dispersed most of its heroes into studios across town” by licensing the use of its characters to various studios for a fee.
Fox was developing “Fantastic Four” with a script written by Chris Columbus and directing by Pete Segal (“Tommy Boy”), planning a “Silver Surfer” standalone film (directed by Australian director Jeffrey Wright) and had already closed on Bryan Singer on “X-Men”; Universal had The Rocketeer director Joe Johnston to direct “The Incredible Hulk” and was working on “Luke Cage” with John Singleton (what could it have been?!); the report also mentions the “Venom” movie written by David Goyer at New Line Cinema, along with Doctor Strange. (Elsewhere, Nicolas Cage was still hoping to play Iron Man.)
At this point, Marvel Studios has attached, of all people, Philip Kaufman, who directed “The Right Stuff” and worked on “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” to the movie “Namor: The Sub-Mariner.” In 1997, no studio committed. But Marvel was desperate. By 1999 and six months out of bankruptcy, Sam Hamm, best known for his script of Tim Burton’s “Batman” (which ushered in the current era of superhero cinema) had signed on to write the screenplay for “Namor” (at this point Kaufman was still directly attached). In 2001, The Hollywood Reporter indicated that Universal Studios had acquired the rights to “The Sub-Mariner” movie. THR said that “the project, which aims to be a major franchise for the studio, is expected to be brought to the book soon.”
In 2002, Entertainment Weekly reported that Universal had hired David Self to write a Namor movie and that it would hit theaters in 2004. Later that year, Marvel Studios officially announced that a Namor movie was coming. Their next project would be together after Ang Lee’s “Hulk” in summer 2003. In December 2004, Chris Columbus (There Again!) was officially attached to produce and direct, working from Self’s script. By 2005, Columbus was already gone. The following year, Jonathan Mostow was hired, who directed “Breakdown” and “U-571,” and in 2009 told Collider that development was progressing.
Of course, by 2009 the Marvel Studios machine was buzzing, starting with the independently produced Iron Man movie in 2008.
When asked about the character Namor in 2013, Marvel Studios president (and chief architect) Kevin Feige said Universal still owned the rights, and therefore he wouldn’t appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since then, there has been much confusion, with conflicting reports as to who exactly owns the character (or aspects of the character). On the eve of the Disney/Fox merger in 2018, Feige admitted confusion about Namor: “I think there’s a way maybe to find out but it’s already there — it’s just not as clear or obvious as the majority of the other characters.” A few months later, Feige said there was a way for the character to appear in the MCU. (Distribution rights remain to Universal).
This kind of complex wargame is nothing new to Marvel Studios; Universal’s control of the Hulk means that no standalone Hulk movie or series can be developed at Marvel though his stature has only grown in the years since Mark Ruffalo began playing the character in 2012’s The Avengers. on the Hulk and released within the MCU continuity – 2008’s “The Incredible Hulk” with Edward Norton – distributed by Universal.)
Not that Disney didn’t play well; The company allowed characters from “Unbreakable” to be used in a pair of Universal films – “Split” and “Glass”. And in 2005, NBCUniversal traded sportscaster Al Michaels (who wanted to jump out of Disney-owned ESPN’s “Monday Night Football”) for Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a character created by Walt Disney before Mickey Mouse but that Universal had control of.
So yeah, you’ll see Namor in action again, as the partnership between Universal and Marvel Studios continues… quietly.
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