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Whatever Happened To The 2006 Namor Movie?

Filmgoers are getting their first look at Namor thanks to "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever." The film sees Talokan's king come to the surface for an unforgettable battle. His presence has been rumored for some time now — with fans celebrating his first appearance in the trailer and promotional materials.

The character is far from a newcomer to the world of Marvel though; his first appearance occurs decades before his cinematic debut. 1939's "Marvel Comics #1" is credited as the introduction to Namor. Much like "Wakanda Forever," his story sees him challenging surface dwellers (via The New York Times).

It would take over 80 years for Namor to find a place in the MCU, something itself only coming about with 2008's Iron Man. His introduction is winning praise — partly due to the outstanding performance of Tenoch Huerta; the acclaim also opens the door for more appearances from the Sub-Mariner. Calls for a solo film are already being seen across social media, but those asking might be surprised to learn that possibility actually goes back to the early '00s.

The Namor film almost became a reality in the early '00s

A Namor film was first proposed as part of a 2001 plan to bring Marvel to theaters. While it might seem ridiculous now, the comics giant was not always a box office draw. The '90s would see Marvel taking a backseat to rival DC at theaters. Failed attempts at bringing their characters to the big screen would lead to strange incarnations of famous figures — including 1994's cult classic "Fantastic Four" (via Den of Geek).

A new century meant those in leadership were intent on giving cinematic dominance another try. Marvel Studios executives at the time, Avi Arad and Kevin Misher, saw a way forward with selected characters. One of their earliest pursuits involved setting up Namor with a studio; the most surprising detail may be how the studio in question was Universal. As the studio was not exactly known as a powerhouse in the superhero genre, the deal could have represented a major step into the genre. At the time, Arad envisioned Namor as a top priority. He told The Hollywood Reporter that the character could lead "one of Marvel's biggest franchises because it deals with a world that has not yet been explored in film – the undersea – and that is absolutely the next frontier" (via IGN)

The potential Namor film couldn't get past development

Plans would ultimately be scrapped but that was not a dealbreaker for Universal and Marvel. They made yet another attempt at getting the project past development hell. This time, the film would be targeted for a 2006 release date and would be written and helmed by Jonathan Mostow; the writer-director is best known for his work on "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" and "Surrogates." Critics found it to be a potentially problematic fit for the project (via Murphy's Multiverse).

For Mostow, it was merely a case of crafting the best script for the project. His comments during that period hinted at Universal keeping the rights as they continued developing this solo outing. Keeping Namor with the studio also meant Marvel couldn't go forward with alternative routes. It became a tedious situation for all involved.

While they worked with the Namor character, Universal also released Ang Lee's "Hulk." The 2003 film was to be a step toward the studio building a major franchise. Its director alone represented a pivotal get, coming off an Academy Awards nomination for "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." Instead, it turned out to be a disappointment at the box office and failed to win over critics (via Digital Spy). Still, the thought of making a project with Namor would stay in the mind of another important Marvel figure.

Kevin Feige never gave up on introducing Namor to the MCU

Kevin Feige began working with Marvel Studios in 2000. While Avi Arad remained the company's head, Feige was putting his knowledge of Marvel's expansive universe to good use. Namor remained an important project for him — even as it continually stayed tied up in imperfect scripts and rights issues.

He confirmed the long-running dedication to a Namor project while attending the "Black Panther Wakanda Forever" premiere. "Namor, as the Marvel fans know, is one of, if not the original [Marvel characters] – the Human Torch, right, almost at the same time – and so forever, it's been on our lists," Feige said.

The interview offered insight into how close it all came to happening. For Feige, the combination of time and idea never gelled. "I remember, you know, 18 years ago putting together – I think we even commissioned a script 18 years ago. And the timing was never right and the idea was never right," he added.

That failure would also open the door for Ryan Coogler to become a part of the conversation. Feige revealed that Coogler was intent on adding Namor to the popular "Black Panther" franchise. The director came to prominence with his acclaimed feature film debut "Fruitvale Station." That dedication to character study would continue into Coogler's work with Marvel. His take on the character changes Namor from Atlantian to Talocanian, which is something that Feige embraced.