Comics on Film: The Pressure is On 'Aquaman'

Comics on Film: The Pressure is On 'Aquaman'

May 29, 2018

Justice League

As we've discussed a lot over the past couple of years, the state of DC Comics on film is in a bit of a precarious position. Sure, the way that the characters have been exploited on film recently isn't nearly as bad as when Joel Schumacher ran Batman into the ground in 1997, or Superman's cheaply embarrassing turn at the hands of Cannon Films in 1987, but most of the characters – and their respective movies – aren't where they could or should be.

This column was one of the few refuges of positivity concerning last year's Justice League, a sentiment we stand by, because it took a step with the characters in a right direction. The move was a bit of a lopsided mess owing to the drama and production difficulties that inundated it behind the scenes, but it was likely better than it had any right to be. On top of that, Justice League's score at Rotten Tomatoes managed to handily outdo the scores of both Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad.
 
Now that the 2018 summer movie season has arrived, we're just about a full year removed from the single biggest critical and commercial hit that the DC Extended Universe has enjoyed: Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman. This summer at the movies includes no DC characters at all, so the next time we'll be able to take a trip to the DC Comics Universe on film will be this coming December, as we prepare to dive into the seas with their king.
 
 
Aquaman: The Pressure's On
 
 
Directed by James Wan (SawThe Conjuring, Furious 7), Aquaman features a screenplay co-written by Wan and DC Entertainment's President and Chief Creative Officer, Geoff Johns. Jason Momoa reprises his role as Arthur Curry/Orin/Aquaman from Batman v Superman and Justice League, and he's joined by a returning Amber Heard as Mera, Willem Dafoe as the Atlantean Nuidis Vulko, and Patrick Wilson as the villainous Ocean Master. It's easy to see that after the critical and commercial stumble of Justice League, all of the collective eyes of the movie-going public are on the adventure of the Sea King to potentially lift the movies of DC Comics back into a critical sweet spot.
 
It's a unique position for Aquaman to be in. One of the larger problems that the character has often had to overcome for the past couple of decades is a wide perception of him that paints him as weak, ineffectual, and even comedic. Whether it's in Robot Chicken or Family Guy sketches that try and illustrate his shortcomings, down to just describing his abilities to people who don't know much about him, Aquaman has often been in a position where he's had to justify his existence to people, even other comic book fans.
 
So, it's interesting that so many eyes are on December's Aquaman film to bring WB's DC-based superhero films back to the kind of creative prominence enjoyed by Wonder Woman, but there are likely not many reasons we need to be too afraid for how this movie's going to come out.
 
 
Why Aquaman Could Very Easily Deliver
 
 
The first, most obvious strength that the forthcoming movie has is its director. James Wan shot to public prominence first for innovating the juggernaut horror franchise Saw, then made waves again when he created the first chapter in the now-popular series of The Conjuring films. On top of that, he's proven his action chops beyond a shadow of a doubt through his work on Furious 7, and he also has proven writing chops, co-developing his stories with many of his collaborators.
 
When it comes to the writing, Geoff Johns' name being attached to the screenplay is extremely encouraging, since Johns was one of the pivotal comics writers at DC to lead Aquaman to a new level of popularity and acclaim. First hinting at the full potential of a Johns-written Aquaman in Blackest Night and Brightest Day, Johns and artist Ivan Reis took the reins of a new ongoing Aquaman comic book title from 2011-13.
 
For the first six months that Johns was on the Aquaman title, it outsold every single Marvel Comics release for that entire period. The stories were new and engaging, and also a bit self-referential in the way that they "bear-hugged" the public perception about the hero to both get some laughs, and also prove them totally wrong. Jason Momoa's casting also contributes to the potential of the Aquaman film, since he was certainly one of the more engaging heroes in Justice League, with enough apparent latitude being given to him to make the hero his own.
 
As of right now, December seems pretty far off. Still, with this cast and creative team, and the unseen potential for the kind of superhero story that Aquaman can most certainly provide that we've never seen before in the superhero movie genre, that seems like enough reason to start up the hype train right now.
 
Aquaman hits theaters everywhere on December 21.

Chris Clow is a comics expert/former retailer, and pop culture critic/commentator. He hosts two podcasts: Discovery Debrief: A Star Trek Podcast and Comics on Consoles. Find his column "Comics on Film" weekly at Movies.com, and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.

Categories: Comics, Features, Editorials, Geek
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