5 Reasons Why Aquaman Could Improve the DCEU
Late Tuesday night, director James Wan shared the first photo from the set of Aquaman, set to release in 2018.
Although he has been the punchline of many jokes for the past several decades, Aquaman has a rare opportunity to defy expectations (I nearly wrote "make a splash." Be thankful I didn't.) and fortify, or even save, the DCEU.
Not Batman. Not Superman. Aquaman.
Before going any further, I think it is entirely possible that Wonder Woman rights the ship. And I hope that is the case.
But now that I've got my eye-grabbing headline out of the way, I think that Aquaman is in prime position to become a breakout hit for DC.
He has several things going for him:
1. James Wan
Wan's track record is nearly spotless as he has spawned hit franchises like Saw, The Conjuring, and Insidious.
He also delivered the most successful Fast and Furious movie with Furious 7 which shows both an ability to handle a high budget blockbuster as well as the adaptability to join a franchise several installments in and not only succeed, but thrive.
This bodes well for the director as he joins the DCEU six films in. Wan is more than capable of portraying Aquaman as the badass he really is.
2. It will be unlike anything else.
With superhero movies, the ocean, not space, is the final frontier. In a genre that's becoming over-saturated, DC has a uniquely compelling hook to get people in attendance.
Despite the character's 76-year history, Aquaman has not made a live-action appearance on the big screen. Likely the chief reason was that it would be too difficult and too expensive to gamble on an unproven character.
Films shot on or underwater have a disastrous history. Steven Spielberg spoke of getting PTSD during the production of Jaws. Waterworld and The Abyss were similarly tumultuous.
Wan himself has said that because of technological limitations, this movie could not have been made five years ago.
"I think a big part of it is because we're finally at the point where we can actually tell these larger than life stories and have the technology to make them work."
CGI has progressed to a point where the fantastical underwater world of Atlantis could be faithfully recreated. The Justice League footage Zack Snyder shared of Atlantis is beautiful and unlike anything we've seen in a superhero film before.
3. Beating Avatar 2 to the punch.
This one is not as obvious, but the two films are somewhat linked together. After Cameron's sequel vacated its planned December 2018 release date, Aquaman quickly snatched the enviable Christmas time slot right up.
According to Cameron, the ocean will be a major component of Avatar 2. To be able to tackle that domain first is surely a small, but still notable advantage.
4. Blank Slate.
Some of the most common grievances I hear about superhero movies are, "Do we really need to see Spider-Man's origin again? or "We all know how Bruce Wayne's parents died. What else?"
Audiences have never seen Aquaman depicted on screen before. This gives Wan an incredible opportunity to leave his unique imprint on this amazing world. And his plans for the film sound incredibly exciting.
Wan showed some concept art that dazzled audiences at CinemaCon depicting massive underwater dogfights between shark-riding wariors, octopi, dragons and palaces. The film looks to have an epic feel to it with Wan himself stating that he is going for a swashbuckling action adventure, "in the spirit of Raiders of the Lost Ark meets Romancing the Stone."
For most of the world, Jason Momoa's Aquaman will be their introduction to the character. In an interview with GQ, Momoa said, "There aren't like four Aquamans before me. I get to set the tone for it." He spoke about his intentions with the character to portray a coming-of-age story for an outsider stuck between two worlds.
First impressions of Momoa seem to be positive based on the reception to the Justice League trailer. He is certainly an interesting choice. I feel like the first objective in casting Momoa was to make people take the character seriously. It looks to be mission accomplished in that regard.
Aside from Momoa, Wan's supporting cast is replete with talent. The amazing Patrick Wilson will be playing Orm. Willem Dafoe is playing Vulko. Amber Heard is playing Mera and Yahya-Abdul-Mateen II will be donning the helmet of Aquaman's nemesis, Black Manta. Nicole Kidman and Temuera Morrison are great choices for Aquaman's parents. And of course: Dolph. Lundgren.
I think the incredible setting and cast of strange, cool characters could do for DC what Guardians of the Galaxy did for Marvel.
5. No production troubles.
File this under the "no news is good news" category.
Many of DC's films have been plagued by problems. Ben Affleck opting not to direct The Batman, The Flash losing Rick Famuyiwa, WB willingly choosing David Goyer to write Green Lantern Corps; the list goes on.
Based on pure silence alone, Aquaman seems to be running like a well-oiled-machine by comparison. This doesn't give any indication to the quality of the film but I take comfort in the fact that we haven't heard anything negative.
With Geoff Johns' guiding hand and James Wan's unique artistic vision, I think it is entirely possible that Aquaman will deliver on the promise to restore optimism to the DCEU and redeem a character long thought of as a joke.