ByNicolas Walli, writer at
Cinemaphile and Comic book fan, lover of the 1960s and 1970s, theoretical filmmaker.
Nicolas Walli

So let's talk about Namor. Previously, we had a rather one-sided conversation about the Hulk. Now let's talk about another misunderstood Marvel mute(ant), Namor.

To give those of you some brief history (It will be more in depth later on), Namor, the Sub-Mariner, was not only Marvel's first Mutant, but also their first super hero, super character, over all. Invented by William Blake Everett in 1939, Namor first appeared in Motion Picture Funnies Weekly #1. With him, the entire Earth-616 was introduced.

So, about Namor, in the comics. Namor McKenzie was born to a human father and an Atlantean mother, thus being a mutant due to his mixed parentage. As a result Namor is the only Caucasian Atlantean, as all others are blue. This provides a fun genetics lesson: Apparently, despite the latter being a darker color, Caucasian skin is a dominate trait over blue. So, Namor is the Prince/King of Atlantis, IE, he is its monarch. Atlantis is still that secret underwater civilization, however, Marvel adds something to it. Atlantis is repeatedly fucked up by humans, and that really pisses Namor off, being that he is supposed to protect his people. Namor was born before the 1940s, and is technically not the first mutant, as Apocalypse was born in ancient Egypt, despite being created later, so basically just complicated Ret-conning. By the way, I seriously recommend clicking that link. Back to Namor's history, Namor fought in World War II against the Nazis with Captain America, the original Human Torch (It's complicated), and their various sidekicks. Namor, being Atlantean, has lived into the modern age as a physically-prime adult. Now however, he is still angry at humans and gets blurred between hero and villain, depending on which super team you ask.

So what's the deal with Namor? He sounds like an interesting character: Angry at humans, but he still protects them, fought Nazis with Captain America, and he's ruthlessly efficiently fighting monarch. Sounds like it would make some kind of money, right? Nope. Despite the fact that studios love making money, it hasn't happened. So now that we have a Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has been entirely, intricately connected, featuring faithful depictions of the minutia to every character, it seems odd that we haven't even tried Marvel's first. Here's why.

Conceptually Impaired

The first time there was water in a swimsuit issue
The first time there was water in a swimsuit issue

First of all, ignore all the BS and Snake Oil I was selling you. Look at him. I mean, come on, George Michael, it's a dude in a speedo. Don't give me the cop-out new (as of 1970something) suit he has; there is a perfectly good reason he is wearing it; he lives under the fricking water. That being said, yes, it could be pulled off, and even badass, but that's only one obstacle in the way of Namor's reign. The idea of a monarch who has utter contempt and loathing for most of humanity wouldn't sell well with the kiddies, much less their parents.

"Mommy, why does Namor hate me?"

"I don't know sweetie, probably because our society has destroyed everything he holds dear."

"I wanna see Iron Man instead."

Additionally, Namor's a brutal, depressing Bad Ass Mofo. He's never happy or funny and he fights like a killer. You know, really the only way to do a Namor movie that isn't watered-down is to make 300 (2006) in the ocean, which Marvel probably doesn't want to do. The thing about Namor is he isn't really a clear hero. He's a Thinking Man's hero, blurring right and wrong in the vain of Nolan. That doesn't quite work for Marvel right now. Although Iron Man and Captain America, and even a humanoid tree have humanizing issues, it's not at the same level. At the end of the day, movie, or comic book, most of those characters sitcom back into their comfort zone, (Despite noticeable change in characteristics, opinions and personalities throughout films). Namor changes at a higher level at the end, or maybe he stays the same, and you have to change around him. If they were to do Sub-Mariner films, there would be a difficult, but clearly apparent internal change for the character between films that might be just too much. That being said, there are more crazy reasons Namor can't really work in the end.

Plot Problems

I don't want to talk about it, Monica
I don't want to talk about it, Monica

What story could they possibly do for a Namor movie? He might be Marvel's first hero, but that doesn't mean he could hold his own movie. See next section. Namor just doesn't really have any interesting stories to tell, despite having seventy six years of them. He doesn't have any Extremis or Winter Soldier or Civil War or Venom Saga stories to tell, and he certainly doesn't have the origins of Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, or Spider-Man, at least not that could fill a two hour movie (See that later, too).

Namor doesn't really have any major villains, or even that many supporting characters. Sure he has, Lady Dorma, Betty Dean, and Andromena (Pimp much?) but where are the villains? And I'm sure you're saying, "But they're Marvel, they can make a good film out of everything." Unfortunately, this is not true; they haven't had any bad films, but that doesn't stop them forever. Imagine a Victorian-era period piece, or a Howard the Duck movie. Neither would work. So Namor does have two villains; Attuma and Tyrak. But the problem with Namor's supporting characters, like another comic book king of Atlantis, is they are two-dimensional. There just isn't much depth to Attuma or Dorma.

The next problem with Namor is action. Namor doesn't have the explosive action for a Marvel movie. Iron Man 2 (2010) had two guys in metal battle suits fighting robots in explosive glory. Thor (2011) had a god with an explosive hammer fighting a magical robot. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) was a war movie. Even Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) had all sorts of explosive action. Now Namor doesn't need to end in explosions, well, yes it does. Unless he's blowing up an oil rig (which would be a cool scene, but a lame movie), Namor won't be blowing much up. And only one man can make explosions out of something as explosion-less as a Victorian-era drama... Michael Bay. And Michael Bay can't direct a Marvel film. I think there's some kind of federal ban on it.

So really, Namor doesn't have much in the way of two-hour box offixe plot. To reiterate, Namor's origin is basically one of the guys on Ernest Shackleton's crew hooks up with an Atlantean and then the ending of Knocked Up (2007). That's it. His origin is his birth. Most people wouldn't pay to see that.

P.S. Remember Waterworld (1995)?

A Legal History: Namor's Terrible Lawyers

Namor's lawyers seriously screwed him over
Namor's lawyers seriously screwed him over

So as you've read this article, I'm sure you've been thinking: "So Marvel owns Namor['s film rights], right?"

Wrong! But also, Right. It;s really confusing, but I will delve into it to the best of my ability.

As I said I mentioned in a previous article, and as many of you are now aware, a bankrupt Marvel had to sell out its children to work in the industrial era. When the sickly Marvel got healthy again, [most] of the kids came home and mom and pop did the work. Not really, but that's the analogy that I'm using. So as Spider-Man was sold to Sony, Hulk was sold to Universal, as was Namor. This brings me to...

That stinker, Namor
That stinker, Namor

Universal couldn't possibly make a Namor movie. The only way anyone can make a working Namor movie is to feature other heroes. The fact of Namor is he, despite hating people, is a bit of a team player. His work with other heroes is essential to his character. Namor first worked with the Invaders in World War II to hunt and Nazis. As I said earlier, the team consists of Captain America and the original Human Torch. And there's problem number one. Problem number two: Namor is a member of the non-team team the Defenders. That team consists of Hulk, who is shared between Marvel and Universal, so I suppose it could work, Dr. Strange, who belongs to Marvel, and Silver Surfer, who belongs to Fox. On both of these teams, Namor was considered a super hero. However, another team, the Fantastic Four, consider him a villain. Whenever Namor sees Invisible Woman, his speedo gets... harder to wear. So what would any reasonable guy do when they see the woman they like is taken? Kidnap her, of course, like a Guido. And guess who gets pissed off by that? The Fantastic Four. They by the way, are Fox-owned. Namor also has an allegiance to the X-Men, being the first modern mutant. Guess who owns them? Fox.

That's only half of Namor's legal grief. The standard Marvel film rights contract *seems to me* to arrange that the character belongs to the studio within ten years of the first film of that franchise and within five years of the last sequel. I'm only deducing this, based on patterns I've seen in the Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and Daredevil films. Namor, however, like his Universal buddy and fellow Defender the Hulk, seems to have an odd, altered contract. Legally, we're not really sure what's going on. Is Namor at Marvel? Is he at Universal? Has anyone tried to make a movie?

Maestro Feige has stated that the film rights for Namor are in a complicated situation. It seems that Marvel [maybe] has him back, but they still are not allowed to use him. Meanwhile, Universal can't use him either but still has some sort of stake in him. So it's incredibly unclear who exactly owns him, although it seems to be leaning towards Marvel, and it's even less clear if anyone can use him and when. So Namor it seems is in a stickier mess than, fittingly, the BP oil spill.

And apparently, yes, someone has tried to make a movie. Quite a few someones.

The first "attempt" to make a [Namor] film was that of Philip Kaufman (Co-writer of The Outlaw Josey Whales (1976) and [Indiana Jones and the] Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), with Sam Hamm, who wrote Batman (1989) pegged to write. This was 1997. The next attempt was insane. Saban, yes the Saban behind Power Rangers, became a "producing partner" (Whatever that means) with Marvel, hiring Randall Frakes (Co-wrote The Terminator (1984) and Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)) to write. Just imagine that. The people who made Power Rangers were going to make Namor.

Now imagine its one dude, underwater, in a speedo.

After that train-wreck failed, good old designated driver Universal hauled its drunk friend home and took in Namor in 2001. They then recruited Road to Perdition (2002)-scribe David Self to draft a script for 2003/2004. Due to complications, the film's developing halted, until Christopher Columbus came in to direct in 2004. The film was then scheduled for 2007 release, until Columbus, aware of the possible damage to his career, only left a year later in 2005. After Columbus quit, Universal hired Jonathan Mostow, the director of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2001) to replace him. That didn't work either and the idea of a movie fizzled away.

After a number of false claims by Marvel's Joe Quesada and Hollywood Reporter's Borys Kit that Namor had not gone back to Marvel, Kevin Feige stated that the character no longer is in the hands of Universal [or Legendary pictures] but due to complex legal contracts, the character can't be used by anyone for a while.

To make things short, nobody gets to make a Namor movie any time soon. However, that shouldn't stop us from what he could do.

What he could do


Here's what I think. As I've said before, Namor's origin is basically one of the guys on Ernest Shackleton's crew (yes really) hooks up with an Atlantean and then the ending of Knocked Up (2007). Clearly, Namor doesn't warrant his own, full, two hour thirty minute movie. So what could he do? Perhaps a three-one and a half-episode T.V. season, like Sherlock (2010-?). I think it would work to have three episodes in place of a movie, and perhaps another "season" could be ordered as a sequel. I think this works perfectly for the mini-plot I have divised, which I will now elaborate. Remember Namor blowing up an oil rig, as I said earlier? good.

So the idea is this: Namor grows up to be king of Atlantis. As a young man, he sees the harm humanity does to itself (World War II). Somewhat headstrong, he wants to help the humans and fights the forces of HYDRA with Captain America and the Human Torch. After their alliance ends (on a high note) Namor returns to Atlantis. It is now the 1950s. With no warning, in a wave move of fear McCarthyism, The U.S. army send a ship to destroy Atlantis, and it succeeds. The enraged Namor emerges and attacks New York City on his own. As his rampage ensues, the Human Torch android is sent to stop him. The two fight, tragically; old friends and now enemies. Namor destroys the Android and S.H.I.E.L.D. forces arrive and surround him, and he surrenders. After his arrest, he is taken to Howard Stark at S.H.I.E.L.D.'s base and he interrogates him. Howard is in disbelief at what his former ally had attempted to do. He is then taken to a holding cell in the newly-created Fridge. After sixty-some long years, Namor , now bearded, is freed in prison break (as seen in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013-)). The still loathsome Namor walks away from the situation, even as he sees innocent people brutally killed and harmed. He returns to Atlantis to rebuild it anew.

But here, he finds a new man-made problem. The Humans have polluted his oceans, killing his people like cancer in the air. Namor is furious. He attempts to investigate this cause on the land. Along the way, he is compelled to complete acts of both heroism and villainy in shades of gray. He soon learns that an oil rig, owned by the Roxxon corporation. Namor's impulse is to destroy it immediately, but he slows down, and he knows the weight behind the choice he makes. If he destroys it, millions of gallons of oil will destroy part of the ocean, and the corporation will likely build another. If he doesn't destroy it, his people will slowly be poisoned and the company will not be damaged. In the end, Namor decides he must destroy it. There, he encounters Captain Barracuda, hired out as muscle. They fight and in the end Namor blows the rig up. Maybe the villain gets away. I don't know, he's a pirate.

So there isn't as much action, really more thought, but I think that works for Namor.

The second "season" would possibly involve Attuma, Tiger Shark, and rebuilding Atlantis, as well as coming to terms with Humans.

On a Bonus Note, One Actor has Expressed Interest...

Eastwood. Where one might think Batman, or even Thor, the Man With No Name was a fan of Namor as a child. I don't think he has any interest in doing it, and that's for the better, but you have to feel that with the lean built and the mean squint, and the fact that he taught swimming at an army base, that he bears a bit of a resemblance.

Thanks for reading, share any thoughts below.


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