Written By Cadeem Lalor
Recently, author Seth Grahame-Smith stepped down from directing The Flash and there is now a rumour that James Wan (The Conjuring) may step down from Aquaman. This rumour, from Birth.Death.Movies claims that Wan is now having second thoughts about directing Aquaman. Numerous rumours surround any films release, especially DC’s, since there was also the debunked rumour that Suicide Squad is doing re-shoots to add more humour due to all the criticism BatmanvSuperman received for its tone. This rumour has attracted a lot of attention for those who already believe the DC cinematic universe is doomed to fail, and those that think Aquaman is too poor a character to receive his own film.
Aquaman has a reputation as a character who is powerless outside of water, which many attribute to the Superfriends tv show, which emphasized his ability to communicate with marine life and downplayed his other abilities. Since then, much ridicule has followed. Although many comic book fans may know that Aquaman is a character with super strength and bulletproof skin, much of the general public still thinks of him as a poor addition to the Justice League and a terrible character.
Be Self- Referential
James Wan: “As we all know Aquaman is somewhat the butt of the joke in the superhero world. There’s something cool about that. I love the idea of being the underdog, coming in with a take on this underdog character and completely blowing people’s expectations away.”
Hopefully the rumor about Wan leaving turns out to be false, because this line captures one of the biggest requirements for the film. Aquaman’s reputation is well known and while the movie should try to correct that reputation, it should not avoid the reputation. The New 52 comics are somewhat divisive in terms of their fan reception, but one of the elements that gets the most praise is the fact that Aquaman’s reputation is acknowledged in his fictional world. Policemen are embarrassed to be upstaged by him and even criminals will taunt him asking how it feels to be a “nobody’s favourite super-hero“. The film needs to incorporate these elements for the feature itself, as well as the marketing. The general public will watch any marketing through a biased lens but these jokes can disarm the negative comments, re-appropriating negativity and turning it into humour and intrigue.
Show Aquaman getting ridiculed or taunted, and then show bullets bounce off his skin as he eliminates his enemies.
One of my first articles for ComiCommand made it clear that I despise the critique that DC films are too dark, and that Marvel’s “fun” tone is the main thing that makes them better. Many of Marvel’s films are great, but the light-heartedness and family-oriented humour can sometimes be a weak link. When handled well, it alleviates tension. When handled poorly we get characters like Darcy in the Thor films. With over five years of box-office dominance, Marvel has now created a dynasty that people are arguably biased towards. All the critiques directed to BatmanvSuperman simply due to its darkness is the biggest proof of that. Meanwhile, Daredevil and Jessica Jones are rarely chastised simply for their dark tones. BvS had issues, its tone was not one of them in my opinion. James Wan has emphasized that Aquaman will be “fun” in interviews and I hope that the creative team does not feel pressured to make the story lighter simply to avoid criticism for being too “dark”. When humour is added only due to this concern it is likely to come across as unnatural and poorly written.
Display of Powers
This is the most obvious thing that the film must handle, so I won’t linger on it for too long. Although the solo film would likely take place underwater, there should be a portion of it that demonstrates Aquaman’s utility on land. Since Aquaman is half-human and a man of two worlds, it should be easy to craft a land-based portion of the story that is natural and fits with the film’s narrative. Aquaman should display super strength and his bulletproof skin, but these powers should also be balanced with his more unique ones, in order to paint a picture of a truly distinctive power set that adds to the character’s memorability.
The film should also not shy from showing Aquaman commanding marine life. Even this aspect of Aquaman’s reputation has a negative image. Many people may think of fish or dolphins when they hear that Aquman can speak to animals, they may not think of more threatening wildlife, such as sharks or the wide range of mythical creatures Aquaman can command in the comics and related media.
Aquaman is one of my favourite superheroes, and it is his reputation that endeared me to him. Along with his amazing backstory and his status as a ruler of an underwater kingdom, the Aquaman mythos has rich imagery and story that lends itself to spectacle, as well as character development. If the film is handled well, the people who had the worst perception of Aquaman before seeing it could walk out of it being his biggest fans.