Of all the legions of heroes making their way to the silver screen, one of the most glaring omissions has been Marvel’s first superhero, Namor the Sub-Mariner. The guy who’s often mistakenly disregarded as an Aquaman rip-off has never made his way onto the battlefield with the Avengers, thanks in large part, to a swamp of murky, interlocking rights to the character.
Then, at the end of June, Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada mentioned Namor on Kevin Smith’s Fat Man on Batman podcast, saying that to his knowledge, the rights to the Sub-Mariner were safely at home at Marvel Studios, saying “It’s not at Fox, it’s not at Sony…” Of course, those studios aren’t the problem. For the last several years, the rights to Namor have been at Universal Pictures, a studio that hasn’t distributed a tentpole comic book movie since 2008’s The Incredible Hulk.
The full details as to who owns Namor are still vague, so it’s possible that the character is still in flux. However, even if Universal still has some stake in the character, that may actually be for the best. In the wake of the partnership between Sony and Marvel to bring Spider-Man to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, getting Namor onto the big screen through a similar deal would be a big boon for comic book fans.
Aquaman vs. the Sub-Mariner
Let’s start here, with DC’s fish-controlling boy scout getting all of the attention (in spite of the fact that Namor preceded Aquaman by two full years). In the last several decades, where Marvel has eschewed a solo book for Namor, Aquaman has become one of those core DC characters who’s been reinvented every few years in order to keep his stories fresh. The obvious similarities between the two characters — they share everything from powers to home towns — has seen them compared to each other time and again. Yet, there is one key character-defining difference between the heroes.
Aquaman is a total boy scout and Namor is a cranky asshole. And the latter, it’s arguable, will be more fun to watch on screen.
Sure, in recent years, DC has gone to some lengths to make its Atlantean king less of a black and white do-gooder, but the effect has been something similar to Zack Snyder’s take on Superman in Man of Steel (read: dull). Just because the hero broods for a bit or hesitates before saving the day doesn’t change the fact that they’re good people who do the right thing all the time. You can weave in all the muted tones and long, dark hair you want, but you’ve still got an infallibly moral character who’s utterly, sadly predictable. Only now, the damn story is twice as long because they have to “come to terms with their responsibility” before they can be the hero the audience knows they’re going to be.
Anyway, Namor doesn’t have that issue, because Namor doesn’t care about humanity. The Sub-Mariner is a half-Atlantean king solely looking out for his people and his people alone. And he will reign down havoc on the surface world without a second thought if it means preserving even one life in his domain. He’s not a peaceful hippie; he’s the warrior king of his own expansive, aquatic nation. That’s the kind of zealous, wrathful philosophy that makes for some really engaging drama.
It’d Be Easy to Do
Yet another reason to entice producers somewhere to bring Namor to cinematic life: it’d be extremely easy to weave the Sub-Mariner into the overarching plot of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not only has the aquatic hero been an active member of the Avengers, but he’s also gone toe-to-toe a slew of current Marvel film stars like the Black Panther and the Incredible Hulk (okay, it was Red Hulk, but it still counts).
In fact, in recent comic events Namor devastated Black Panther’s home nation of Wakanda. A similar attack would be an excellent entry point for the Sub-Mariner, something that would echo his initial comic book appearance while providing yet another complication for Captain America and the gang. Namor would make for a formidable on-and-off-again ally, and his explosive temper would inject a delightful, new chaotic neutral into the MCU’s proceedings.
Universal Already Knows How to Make a Namor Movie
There are two pretty major reasons for Namor’s rights to still be in the custody of Universal Pictures, provided they can get along with Marvel like Sony has. The first reason is simple: if the rights are at Universal, the studio could have Namor participate in Marvel’s group films (à la Spidey in Civil War), but still produce their own slate of Sub-Mariner solo movies independent of Marvel’s phases. That would mean more superhero flicks for those of us who enjoy them.
The second reason is just personal preference, honestly. As the studio behind the increasingly successful Fast and Furious franchise, Universal Pictures has proven that it knows how to handle a good action film. From there, it would be a small jump to translate that knowledge into a quality Sub-Mariner movie.
Producing a film with the same diverse cast and aggressive, yet sun-soaked, attitude would seem a pretty simple recipe to replicate, especially with the Marvel bump implied in releasing a new superhero film. (Also, I secretly want Justin Lin to be the one tapped to direct Namor: The Movie.)
All the marketing is built in
Namor kicks serious amounts of ass. He’s a brutal anti-hero with a spirit all his own and an attitude to match. A fierce warrior and one-of-a-kind character, he’d be a fine addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He’s completely different from his DC counterpart in execution and persona, so there’s little worry of dramatic overlap, and with the right creative mind at the helm, there’s plenty of potential for a studio to make the character a tentpole figure.
That formula would be perfect for Universal Pictures, which has proven that it can make solid action films with broad international appeal anchored by heroes who operate for purely personal (and largely violent) reasons. That’s absolutely the right way to handle a Namor movie, and help one of comic’s oldest figures get in the game.