Following a year of hit-or-miss Marvel content and a gradual return to theaters, Marvel’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever debuted this month. The sequel shattered the North American box office record for November with a whopping $180 million and raked in $330 million opening weekend worldwide.
The film serves to honor the late Chadwick Boseman, who tragically passed before production began, while introducing beloved Marvel characters such as Namor and Riri “Ironheart” Williams.
Warning – Spoilers below for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Talokan: Mesoamerican Atlantis
Namor the Submariner first appeared on page in 1939 in the publisher’s debut: Marvel Comics #1. As the first Marvel character ever written, MCU fans have awaited the “when” of Namor’s debut more than the “if”.
Finally on the big screen, Namor retained many of his iconic symbols such as the green compression shorts and winged feet, but Disney did make one major change to his characterization. Likely in an effort to avoid confusion with the other comic book King of Atlantis, Namor is known to his people as Kukulcan – the Mesoamerican winged serpent god.
As the ageless mutant king of Talokan, it is revealed that Namor rules over a civilization that controls the world’s second Vibranium deposit deep underwater off the coast of Michoacán, Mexico. This places Talokan in direct opposition to Wakanda as their goals of interaction with the world outside their borders differ.
Pokatok: The Mesoamerican Ballgame
During the film, Shuri, the Princess of Wakanda, tours the undersea utopia in an effort to mend the rift between the nations. In a beautiful underwater sequence, Shuri sees that Talokan is not much different from Wakanda. One shot, in particular, caught our eye during this sequence as Shuri swims above a group of Talokoans playing an interesting game.
Very visible front and center was a group swimming around hitting a ball through a hoop stuck into a wall. While I am sure the game plays a little differently in the three dimensions of underwater motion, there was Pok-A-Tok! Otherwise known as the Mesoamerican ballgame, this sport is the namesake of our organization and an important part of sports history.
The History of Pokatok
The game is widely known as one of, if not the first team ball sport and dates back thousands of years to South American civilizations such as the Ancient Maya. Played as an important part of rituals, Pok-A-Tok was played on a specialized court in a city’s religious district.
Two teams would hit a hard rubber ball through the elevated hoop, without using their hands. While I imagine this is an easier task underwater where you can swim up to the hoop, it was still a very impressive sight in Black Panther. Real-world games could last days due to the difficulty of this task, and when played as a ritual the ending would involve the sacrifice of one team.
Pok-A-Tok is a very important part of the history of the region, and its inclusion in modern media is something we love to see as we strive to drive innovation in sport while honoring the past.