Yep, go ahead. Get it all out now. Make all the same jokes Family Guy and Robot Chicken have made a million times before (and better). Now, do yourself a favor and actually read the Aquaman comics by Peter David and Geoff Johns. After that, if you still think Aquaman is lame, I’ll stop giving you a hard time about having bad tastes.
This is a seriously high-profile gig for everybody involved. Aquaman is a founding member of the Justice League and he’s royalty, being the King of Atlantis. He’s a child of two worlds as his father is human and his mother Atlantean. He’s one of DC Comics’ defining heroes and has even been a bit of a threat in his own right.
While it’s not as important to knock this one out of the park as it is, say, Wonder Woman, this one is still a big deal for the studio and there’s a lot riding on it. And we know that Jason Momoa’s shoulders are going to have to lift a lot of that weight as he portrays Arthur Curry (Aquaman’s human name), who else might be there with him and what direction should they take? How much is something like this likely to cost? How big of a hit does it really have to be?
Let’s dive into that now!
Throne of Atlantis
If we’re to assume this movie takes a similar structure to Game of Thrones or the first or second Thor films, its budget might be comparable to those. The biggest challenge, of course, is creating an undersea kingdom that looks believable on screen. Get ready to shell out some cash…and enjoy free puns.
I like to use the Thor films a lot as a point of reference for DC Comics movies. I’m going to do it again. But this time it’s Thor: The Dark World. That film used a lot of different locations and animated them all really well. Asgard and Atlantis share many common traits. While Atlantis needs to be seen, it should probably be used sparsely in order to save a little cash. Keeping the budget around $170-190 million would help the studio out a lot and still allow for some great effects.
Other budgetary concerns will come up when conversations about casting a villain and scheduling a director happen. This movie does need to go for someone experienced in these kind of endeavors on both counts. The question of who the villain should be is a tough one, which is why I think it should stick to a tested formula and use Black Manta.
Now, Manta’s current hatred for Arthur stems from Arthur mistakenly murdering Manta’s father a long time ago because Arthur thought him responsible for his own father’s death. Manta is also a mercenary treasure hunter and one who has crossed paths with Aquaman on numerous occasions. Effects wise, he wouldn’t be that costly to replicate on screen. He has an advanced suit of aquatic armor, but underneath he’s only human. His gadgets, like Batman’s, would be the most expensive thing about him. And this movie should strive to use as many practical effects as possible. Computer generated images get a bit pricey after a while and a ton of money is already likely to be spent on animating Atlantis.
If it works, we’ll likely have a brand new franchise to play with and there is lots of history for this character so it’s ripe for the picking. If it sinks, WB might pull back plans for other already-announced franchises like Green Lantern and/or Cyborg. WB/DC needs hits and if the deeper catalog of heroes can’t make that happen, they’ll go back to the proven formulas from Superman and Batman. Which will be a real shame, especially since so many of these characters can and should be celebrated by a larger audience.
Wait, I thought he just talked to fish…
If this movie is to succeed, it needs a fresh, hard-hitting story that focuses heavily on making Arthur Curry a relatable, if flawed, hero. There are lots and lots of stories out there that could be used for background information, but there are two that need to factor in heavily and both are written by Geoff Johns. (who also happens to be a producer on these films)
Those stories are from the New 52, titled “The Trench” and “The Others.” These stories explore Aquaman’s origin in the context of his current situation, set up much in the same way that Arrow and The Flash tell their stories on TV. There are parallel stories, one in the past and one in the present. It would be a great way to show people that Aquaman is human first and has a hidden past that also ties deeply to his Atlantean heritage. Essentially, it’s an Indiana Jones-like structure with some James Bond elements. And, if adapted properly, it could work as a setup for long-term franchise potential with lots of great supporting characters and future villains. Speaking of which…
Warner Brothers has already locked up one high-profile African American actor in Will Smith to portray Deadshot in Suicide Squad. That’s both brilliant and inspired casting. Now, for Manta, Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, Serenity) would be my top choice. He’s got great acting chops and he’s been great in sci-fi action films before. All around great actor who could bring a lot of depth (pun again) to the role. And if the filmmakers are smart, they won’t kill him off right away but set him up as a future member of the Suicide Squad and continue expanding the larger DC Cinematic Universe canvas.
Choosing a director for this project might be a bit tricky, but Jason Momoa has already weighed in on who he thinks should get the job. While Zack Snyder is certainly going to produce this movie along with Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder and Geoff Johns, the director spot might be too much. He’s got several other movies to worry with including a two-part Justice League film, so this one might have to go to someone else. James Wan (The Conjuring, Furious 7) has supposedly been courted to direct a DC superhero movie for Warner Bros. and the speculation is on Shazam due to Dwayne Johnson being in Furious 7 and signed to play Black Adam. But what if Wan is actually being recruited to take on a higher-profile gig? He’s gotten a lot of praise as a director over the last couple of years and he’s certainly got a knack for story structure. He might be the guy to pull off Aquaman. And since we now know that Wonder Woman has a director and that she was on my short list, Angelina Jolie is freed up to take on another project, so let’s toss her name in the hat, too.
What Aquaman really needs is a strong bit of humanity at its heart and while Jason Momoa has proven to be a real badass on screen so far, let’s hope he can find the true meaning of Arthur Curry so that people will want to root for him over and over again.
The turning of the tide
We’ve got a lot of ground to cover between now and July 2018. We know next to nothing about this movie so far so anything I’ve put in here is pure speculation. But let’s take a look at this moment for what it truly is and could be.
This is an era where Aquaman, the most overly ripped on superhero in history, is getting his own movie and starring a guy you wouldn’t dare walk up to and start ripping on. Unless you really, really wanted to get punched in the face…repeatedly. And it’s being produced by people who have genuine love of the character. I mean, Zack Snyder called up a random radio station in Detroit whose DJ’s were making jokes on the character just to school them in how awesome he actually is in the comics. That’s love folks! And hopefully he got some people interested in checking out the character, too.
It’s hard to say if Warner Brothers has learned anything from some past mistakes. Green Lantern is still fresh in a lot of people’s minds and while I thought Man of Steel did exactly what it needed to, there are those who wanted them some “aww shucks” Richard Donner/Christopher Reeve/Brandon Routh Superman all over again. And then there are people who just hate DC heroes in general and will never give them a chance at all. I’m typically not friends with these people. They suck the joy right out of things.
Let’s hope Warner Bros. can get this one right. It’s a huge gamble to put any kind of blockbuster money behind a character like this, but if they have a vision they feel confident in, let’s see it! I’m ready for Aquaman to have his day. Right now, The Flash is tearing it up on TV, I’m hoping Aquaman can become something similar for DC’s film slate. It’s a long shot, but stranger things have happened.
Opens July 27, 2018. Subject to change, of course
Come back next week for a breakdown of Shazam!