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Who Is The Villain In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever?

"Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" is an upcoming sequel to one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's most successful ventures. That's not pandering, either — as of May 16, 2022, Business Insider noted that the box office for the original "Black Panther" is the sixth most lucrative film in the entire catalog, beaten out only by the four "Avengers" team-up titles and "Spider-Man: No Way Home." That alone merits the burgeoning anticipation for Ryan Coogler's latest work, which Screen Rant speculates will be far greater than what current projections from Cinelytics seem to indicate, and yet a confident indicator of quality is only but one of the many reasons as to why "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" finds itself in the midst of curious consumers. 

There's a question that lies at the heart of this film: who will claim the Black Panther title? The original star, Chadwick Boseman, passed away in 2020, thus leaving the ongoing project without a leading man. Coogler, for his part, crafted this pain into the fabric of the sequel, something viewers immediately understood after witnessing the trailer. Granted, the mystery surrounding the next Black Panther seems to be already solved, as most signs point to Shuri (Letitia Wright) inheriting the mantle. This, then, leaves us to ponder the next mystery that the trailer provides ... who is the villain? At first glance, it seems obvious, but there are just enough bread crumbs to allow for doubt. Here's what we know. 

Namor the Sub-Mariner, king of Atlantis

As trailers, articles, and promotional material have shared time and time again, "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" will heavily feature Namor (Tenoch Huerta). Often referred to as the Sub-Mariner in the comics, Namor is the reigning king of Atlantis, the underwater capital, from which he protects all the denizens of the sea. While his ethnic and cultural makeup is different in the Marvel Cinematic Universe than in the comics (a comic-accurate-Namor is just Spock in a speedo), he is confirmed to retain his mutant genetics, which will make him the latest connection to the "X-Men" franchise in the MCU. Otherwise, his character seems to remain the same — he's a dutiful king to his people, and he unilaterally loathes the human race. To be fair, they frequently poison his oceans and eat his people ... his anger is mostly justified. 

As noted by Sideshow, in the comics, there is a history of unease between the two hidden civilizations of Atlantis and Wakanda, and the trailers clearly show Wakanda succumbing to an Atlantean flood. With that in mind, there's no room to doubt that Namor will play an antagonistic role in "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," but is he the true villain? Well, considering everything that the creative team has expressed so far, it's unlikely. In an interview with Empire (shared by The Direct), Huerta said, "Latin-Americans are always the bad guys in Hollywood movies. And now we are the heroes – or an anti-hero, in this instance..." Further, fans of the comics will note that Namor is rarely the primary problem in any given story. His actions, which are often, admittedly, violent, are reactionary at best. In other words, he only strikes when struck, and the movie apparently acknowledges this.

Other theories...

Let's assume that Namor is only a secondary antagonist and that he's genuinely doing what he believes is right for his people. There are a couple of prevailing theories that would fill the gap left by Namor's absence as a malevolent force, and the easiest one to believe is that the true villain of "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" is Attuma (Alex Livinalli). Unlike Namor, Attuma is a full-blooded Atlantean (the king of Atlantis is half human). He's also the victim of great tragedy and pain, having been enslaved throughout his adolescence by a barbaric warlord. Eventually, Attuma got his due justice ... but it didn't sate the problems stirring in his own heart. After becoming a warlord in his own right, Attuma's most infamous bid for power included an attempt to flood the human world. See why it would make sense for him to be the primary antagonist now?

As things currently stand, no one else fits quite so perfectly with the available information. It's almost definitely Attuma. That hasn't stopped theorists (like the ones over at Den of Geek) from implying that the true villain is everyone from CIA operative Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) to the head of the Wakandan International Outreach Centre, Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o). Given that the trailers depict what appears to be an oil rig loaded with heavily armed American soldiers, it might not be a stretch to consider Ross an antagonist, even if he would be a begrudging one. Still, it just doesn't quite make sense, especially considering how Marvel and the Department of Defense have an ongoing agreement as to how to portray the U.S. Military (via Repustar). Ryan Coogler might have free reign to fashion a powerful story, but it's unlikely his reigns are THAT free.