For a mutant whose name comes from the Spanish phrase for “without love,” Namor (Tenoch Huerta) has inspired a considerable amount of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” fans to believe he’s in love with the movie’s de facto protagonist, Shuri (Letitia Wright). What’s perhaps more surprising is that those fans wouldn’t be entirely wrong. According to the film’s editor, “Wakanda Forever” once had a storyline in which Namor and Shuri did, in fact, share explicit romantic chemistry.
It’s not too far-fetched a theory if you think about it. In the film, Namor not only gifts Shuri with his mother’s bracelet — a family heirloom — but implores her to burn the world with him. Viewers also watch as Shuri marvels at Namor’s homeworld, Talokan, and begins to admire Namor’s way of life. Later, when the two inevitably clash on the battlefield, they’re evenly matched — right up until the moment when Shuri’s respect for Namor and his people compels her to spare his life. Throughout it all, there’s a subtle, undefinable chemistry between the two characters. So why shouldn’t the two shack up and have a Black Panther hybrid baby, à la King T’Challa and Nakia?
The answer, apparently, is simple: Time.
Filmmakers noticed Shuri and Namor’s chemistry early on
According to Michael P. Shawver — the film editor who worked on “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” — the flick originally clocked in at over four and a half hours. But early on in the editing process, Shawver and director Ryan Coogler began to notice that Shuri (Letitia Wright) and Namor (Tenoch Huerta) shared a certain subtext in all their interactions. Thus, the filmmakers had to decide whether to incorporate Shuri and Namor’s chemistry into the movie’s cocktail of subplots.
“There were takes where there was some connection there,” Shawver told Newsweek. “And at one point in an early cut we discussed like, ‘Hey, do we leave it there? Do we just put it out there? Let’s just add some complexity to the relationship.'”
In the film, Shuri attempts to juggle the grief she has for her brother, King T’Challa (the late Chadwick Boseman), with the conflicted attitudes she has towards her newfound role as queen of Wakanda. However, it’s because of that latter internal struggle that Shawver and Coogler ultimately decided to excise any romantic subplots involving Shuri.
Shawver explained to Newsweek that it didn’t feel right to include a scene in which Shuri flirted with Namor, as it would undermine her character’s journey toward becoming a diplomatic leader. Instead, Shawver revealed, “What we ultimately focused on was Namor’s line where he says ‘only the most damaged people can be truly great leaders,’ and that’s planting the seed of the shared trauma that [Shuri] realizes at the end [of the film].”
Namor is now more of a big brother for Shuri
Ultimately, the movie’s editor Michael P. Shawver felt that it was the right decision to focus on Shuri and Namor’s shared leadership qualities rather than on their potential romantic connection. He explained that both of the characters have to grapple with deep-seated emotional pain while attempting to rule their respective nations. For this reason, Namor took on a more fraternal role towards Shuri in the movie.
“[Namor] sort of became [a] big brother,” Shawver explained, “because of the similarity she saw when she saw their world and hearing the story.” He also remarked that there is “obviously a shared cultural trauma between his people and her people.” Shawver then added that “what she lost at the beginning he started to fill that void, and that felt the most genuine to the characters”.
Still, Shawver revealed that he and Coogler may actually sympathize with Shuri-Namor shippers deep down. “They relate,” he said, “and I think that anytime we can relate to somebody there can be undertones of that kind of thing, you know what I mean?”