It’s been a rough couple of years for Warner Brothers and DC Comics when it comes to their expanded series of films. Their quest to catch up with the amazing world-building of Marvel has sometimes smacked of desperation (Justice League) and at other times has just been, well, lacklustre in comparison.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the trailblazer for the newly-formed collective, was a huge disappointment for many, as was Suicide Squad later that same year. And the less said about Justice League the better, to be honest. The fallout hasn’t been pretty, taking with it a reported Man of Steel sequel, Ben Affleck’s Batman standalone film (still coming, but now with Matt Reeves at the helm), a Suicide Squad sequel, The Flash film and more.
Wonder Woman, however, emerged as a shining beacon and with $821.8 million gross, there pulsed a glimmer of light. Both studios are hoping that Aquaman, the first full-length film featuring Arthur Curry ever seen on the big screen, will perform similar miracles and help repair some more of the damage. Here’s how The Man from Under The Sea can swim in and help rescue the Worlds of DC.
The Momoa Factor
We have seen glimpses of what the character can do in Justice League but like Cyborg and The Flash, he was somewhat sidelined as the others took centre stage. Crucially, though, he left us wanting more. Momoa imbues his Arthur Curry with his own natural charm and charisma, and it’s hugely infectious. He’s also funny – and if the script blesses us with a tad more character development, then there’s every reason that Momoa and his bulging, well-oiled muscles-on-muscles can dazzle – meaning the film, like Wonder Woman, could be an unexpected delight.
The Support Crew On Deck Aren’t Bad, Either…
Aquaman’s cast is perhaps a little less high-profile than, say, BvS but it’s impressive. Momoa anchors the film, of course, but surrounding him is a pool of talent. One of the most intriguing and exciting additions is Nicole Kidman as Arthur Curry/Aquaman’s mother, Queen Atlanna. This marks Kidman’s second stint in the comic-book world after playing Dr. Chase Meridian in 1995’s Batman Forever. Temuera Morrison (Once Were Warriors), meanwhile, plays Arthur’s human father.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, for we also have Willem Dafoe as Nuidis Vulko, Aquaman’s mentor and Lucius Fox-esque science advisor; and Amber Heard as Mera, Aquaman’s love interest and daughter of King Nereus — who himself is played by Creed II’s Dolph Lundgren. The film’s big bads are played by Patrick Wilson as half-brother Orm (Wilson is a frequent collaborator of director James Wan), who wages war against the above-surface world, while Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (The Greatest Showman) plays fan-favourite Black Manta. And breathe.
James Wan & The Quest For Studio Trust
The DC Extended Universe — aka Worlds of DC — is in a real mess. We said that, right? Despite audience trepidation based on the film franchise’s patchy success, Aquaman could well be the film to turn it around. It arguably has more in common with Wonder Woman, the universe’s biggest success, than it does with its other films, and that’s a strong signal that it could land.
Similar to Wonder Woman helmer Patty Jenkins, director James Wan has been left to make the film the way he wants, or so it seems. This hasn’t always been the case with these kinds of endeavours, and it’s becoming clear that this is how DC’s movies should be made going forward. Look at the waves Todd Phillips’ Joker is already creating just from set photos and tiny snippets of footage. Just as Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins did back in 2005. Placing trust in a director and allowing that talent to realise his or her ideas is the best thing the studio can do right now. In Wan’s case, he’s a brilliant storyteller, able to juggle thrills, spills and characters superbly, and if he’s able to continue down this path, the rewards could be plentiful.
Worlds Less Travelled
In the DC Extended Universe, and DC films in general, we have rarely ventured outside of Gotham City or Metropolis over the years. Last year’s Wonder Woman, however, took us to some unexplored territory. Themyscira, and even London and Belgium, provided some new backdrops, with the hidden Amazonian island showcasing some of the most vivid and imaginative visuals we’ve yet seen in the Worlds of DC.
Aquaman will explore some worlds we have only ever seen on the pages of the comic books. If you’ve seen the trailer, you will know just how beautiful the film looks, with the world of Atlantis absolutely stunning washed in beautiful blues and greens. The world that James Wan, cinematographer Don Burgess (The Conjuring 2) and their teams have produced looks incredible and marks a welcome change to the grim, monochromatic shades of Zack Snyder’s DCEU films.
Another superhero origin story. Yawn. There’s been loads of them in recent years, with reboots of origin stories to boot. But if there’s one thing in their favour, audiences do like a “first”. Especially, when it comes to comic-book movies, the big-screen debut of a character we haven’t seen before. And with James Wan at the helm, Aquaman is looking set to make the big splash we’re hoping for.
Aquaman hits screens in Australia on December 13, the UK on December 14 and the US on December 21.