Namor And His Army Are Now Among The Coolest Villains In The Marvel Cinematic Universe

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is an unprecedented success story in filmmaking, a unique experiment in crafting an interconnected universe with dozens of characters and some great stories. But for all its features, the MCU doesn't have a great track record when it comes to its villains. Sure, some are great — like Thanos, the mighty conqueror with some good points that had the internet debating whether he did anything wrong. There's also Zemo, the charismatic mercenary with some rather good taste in music and some good points that had the internet debating whether he did anything wrong. Oh, and who can forget about Killmonger, the charismatic mercenary with some good points that had the internet debating whether he did anything wrong. Other than them — and the "Spider-Man" villains — anytime we had a half-decent villain in the MCU, they died as soon as they were introduced.

That changes with "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever." This is a film that could have gone wrong so many times in so many ways, with the film suffering from delays caused by a pandemic, the death of its main actor, controversies, and more. Against all odds, though, the film tells a beautiful and emotional story about grief, it presents a moving tribute to Chadwick Boseman, explores a poignant story about world powers trying to steal vibranium from Wakanda, all while introducing two major comics characters and an entirely new kingdom. 

With Namor, "Wakanda Forever" pushes not just Latino representation, but specifically Mesoamerican Indigenous representation forward, it successfully reinvents one of the oldest Marvel characters ever by rooting them to the history of Spanish colonization and violence in the Americas. Through Namor and the Talokanil, the MCU has introduced some of its coolest villains yet.

I just think they're neat

When we first meet the Talokanil, they are almost like sirens, luring sailors (or in this case, government employees) to jump ship to their deaths through hypnotizing sounds. Then we see they are incredibly strong warriors, and not even a case of henchmen being stronger than petty humans either. The Talokanil are not Ultron copies, or the chitauri — their entire nation is made up of people who have super strength thanks to the powers of a heart-shaped-herb-like substance that gave them powers, but forced them to live underwater. 

"Wakanda Forever" luckily makes not just Namor into a cool and strong antagonist, but also his lieutenants, like Namora (Mabel Cadena) and Attuma (Alex Livinalli). Even in their relatively short screen time, they put Thanos' Black Order to shame, with their unique designs (the feathers! the hammershark skull!) and their formidable fighting skills — even a Dora Milaje like Okoye barely escapes alive from fighting Attuma.

Of course, the best Marvel villains are not just the ones that look stylish or are strong, but the ones who make you doubt whether to root for them or against them. When it comes to Namor and the Talokanil, it is hard not to root for them since their new origin story trades a divine cataclysm that sends Atlantis to the bottom of the ocean for a poignant story of survival, of escaping colonialism and seeing your home destroyed by those who deem you lesser. This is not just a great change, but it fundamentally changes the role of Namor and his army in the Marvel universe.

An enemy of the surface

You see, where having a villain that lives under the water and wants to destroy the surface for how they treat the planet is interesting yet overdone (and also kind of distant and detached), Namor and the Talokanil's story is more relatable and grounded because of how it connects to Wakanda. Where Killmonger was all about correcting the mistakes of the past, Namor is about preventing the horrors of the future and not letting the past be repeated. 

The thing is, the "Black Panther" movies are not really about villains — they're about antagonists. In both films, the true villain is colonialism (and the U.S. government). Talokan is what would have happened if Killmonger had stayed on the throne, if an angry and hurt king was left in charge of a mighty kingdom. Both have their reasons to do what they do, and both are easy to root for, but where Killmonger quickly traded his vengeance for a desire to gain power for himself, Namor legitimately wants to prevent what happened to his ancestors from happening again, and he is already seeing it happen on Wakanda — with France and the U.S. trying to steal their vibranium. Add in some great production design that marries Mayan aesthetics with futuristic technology like the water bombs, and you have yourself a formidable future antagonist, one who can go up agains the mighty Avengers themselves and you would still find yourself debating whether they're doing anything wrong. 

"Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" is now in theaters.