Unless you’d told me that James Cameron was really making the movie from Entourage Season 3, I never thought I would be this excited to see an Aquaman movie. The hero has often been the butt of jokes in shows like South Park, Family Guy, Robot Chicken and The Big Bang Theory. I remember Aquaman being the least impressive member of the Justice League when I watched reruns of the Super Friends as a kid.
DC Comics has done few things in recent decades to do the character justice. In that, I include the comics, animated appearances and animated movies, live-action appearances on Smallville, and the ill-fated TV show pilot. Even giving him a beard and long hair in the ’90s to try and make the character look “cool” never made me to want to pick up the comic.
Director James Wan (Saw, Furious 7) just needed to find the right actor with a beard and long hair to make Aquaman look cool. With Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry, I want to see that movie!
That is an epic entrance for the hero.
I also like that the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously — “Permission to come aboard” — without making fun of itself. Much like the upcoming Shazam movie, I’m happy to see DC adopt a lighter tone (and color palette) and inject some fun into their forthcoming features. Of course, the press is also going to have fun wading into nautical terms with this film. I could talk all day about how much I like the Aquaman trailer: the great casting, the on-screen chemistry, the special effects and lighting. But I’d like to take this opportunity to go out on a limb and make some predictions. Potential spoilers… no, make that educated guesses based on research ahead. Let’s dive in:
Aquaman and Mera are searching for the King’s Trident in the desert. The ruins of the Unknown Kingdom is in the desert. Mera uses hydrokinesis to cushion their landing in the desert. Black Manta and his men have been hired to recover the King’s Trident. Black Manta kills Aquaman’s father in his lighthouse. Vulko hired Black Manta’s team for the submarine job and to find the King’s Trident. Ocean Master isn’t the real bad guy. Orm beats Arthur in their duel. Orm’s Atlantis soldiers will stop their battle with The Brine to fight The Trench. Vulko is controlling The Trench with the King’s Trident.
You may think I’m lost at sea with my theories. Adrift, even. But if you only watched the animated Throne of Atlantis movie without reading the comics, you may be able to fathom why I’m singling out Vulko here.
Both the animated and live-action Aquaman movies are loosely based off Geoff Johns’ run in recent comics. If you’ve read my Shazam article, you have an idea as to how I feel about Johns’ re-interpretation of DC characters in the New 52, particularly his treatment of beloved supporting characters.
But even if you’re wet behind the ears with regard to recent DC comics, you really only have to look at the cast list to realize something’s fishy. J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon isn’t the only Spider-Man actor to join the DCEU. The role of Vulko is being played by Willem Dafoe.
And when has Willem Dafoe not played a deep and complex character?
You can decide whether Vulko’s plan is good or bad, but let me lay it out for you: Replace King Orm with Arthur Curry. Vulko isn’t interested in ruling himself, but the adviser to the king. Vulko was friends with Queen Atlanna, Arthur’s mother (played by Nicole Kidman). Vulko may have fallen out of favor under King Orm. In the New 52, Queen Atlanna didn’t have any children with her first husband/King of Atlantis. She had Arthur with the lighthouse keeper (you may know actor Temuera Morrison as Jango Fett from Star Wars: Episode II). Orm is Atlanna’s second child, by her second marriage to the captain of the guards. Hence, both Arthur and Orm have a legitimate claim to the throne.
Arthur and Orm duke it out in the arena underwater. The training montage flashbacks in the trailer are of Vulko teaching Arthur. I predict that Orm beats Arthur. Firstly, because it looks like he has the upper hand in all of the shots. I mean, the guy has way more experience fighting underwater. Secondly, Arthur losing would prompt him to quest for the King’s Trident with Mera in the desert. Part of the Aquaman movie has been compared to Romancing the Stone and to Indiana Jones. Neither Arthur nor Orm wield the King’s Trident in their duel. Arthur has his mom’s trident, which in his possession speaks to his legitimacy as an heir. Orm isn’t wielding the King’s Trident either during the duel or when he rides his mighty tylosaur into battle against The Brine toward the end of the trailer. I’ve compared their tridents to the one held by the King in the flashback.
One might think that Orm/Ocean Master would send Black Manta to get the trident for him. I bet the audience is led to believe this, but the twist will be that it was actually Vulko who enlisted him. With the King’s Trident, Vulko could control the creatures of The Trench to attack the other kingdoms of Atlantis. This would encourage the other kingdoms to put aside their differences and become united against a common foe. Think of The Battle of Five Armies from The Hobbit and you’ll get my drift. A battle this big begs to be seen on the big screen.
Either way, I’m glad the battle in the movie isn’t against the surface world like in Throne of Atlantis. We’ve already seen that sort of thing before and I’d much rather watch an undersea battle. Plus, after all the amazing Mosasaurus dinosaur scenes in the Jurassic World movies, how cool is it to watch Ocean Master ride something similar into battle?!
Actor Patrick Wilson has worked with director James Wan in The Conjuring and Insidious movies. His portrayal of Ocean Master might be arrogant and power-hungry, but he was raised to be the next ruler of Atlantis. In a way, the Aquaman/Ocean Master situation is similar to the Thor/Loki situation. Neither Aquaman nor Thor really want to become the king. With the Thor movies potentially drawing to an end, this was a perfect time for DC to release a movie with a similar political predicament. In the comics, Aquaman often leaves the regal duties to Mera after they wed. In recent comics, Aquaman even lets Ocean Master rule for a time.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that Ocean Master arranges the deaths of his parents to ascend to the throne. But it looks like the bigger threat might be from The Trench. In the scene where Aquaman and Mera lead the creatures away from the boat with a bundle of flares — Dr. Alan Grant would be proud — you’ll notice that neither hero has the King’s Trident.
As scary as these baddies are, I’m more interested in another of Aquaman’s villains getting his moment in the sun: Black Manta. This stretches all the way back to The Legion of Doom in those Super Friends cartoons I’d watch as a kid. Hopefully, this will be the next villain Lex Luthor recruits in the DCEU. I suspect that this film will set up Black Manta to be the main villain in the next movie, if Aquaman is as successful as we all suspect it will be. A villain with such a recognizable costume has never looked more impressive. Just look at those laser blasts!
I’m glad we didn’t have to wait until Aquaman 2 to see that. If you want to see how interesting a character, how unique his motivations and his complex relationship with his son, I would recommend watching Young Justice. But you’re going to do that anyway, because DC is finally releasing Season 3, right?
I believe that Black Manta and his mercenaries are hired to hijack the submarine and have it attack Atlantis to incite a war. A war with the surface would be a catalyst to unite the kingdoms of the seven seas. I think Aquaman unknowingly foils a large plot and makes an archenemy. Black Manta takes it personally and upgrades his armor with the lasers we see later. When he fails to kill Aquaman, I believe he’ll find and kill Arthur’s dad out of revenge. Why? Actor Michael Beach, who voiced Devil Ray in the Justice League animated series (a placeholder for Black Manta), plays Black Manta’s father in this film. It’s possible that Aquaman unknowingly causes the old man’s death. With this, things become personal between the two and the hero/villain relationship is set up for future films.
And we will get future Aquaman films, because there’s no way this movie doesn’t dominate the box office in December.
Disney has to be kicking themselves for not having a Star Wars movie released that month. I’ll pay to see action/sci-fi on the silver screen, but I’ll wait on Mary Poppins Returns, thank you very much. They also gotta be furious that the director of Furious 7 was the first to show such a beautiful undersea kingdom before they released a live-action Little Mermaid. With Aquaman featuring such a gorgeous redhead in Mera, is a movie with Ariel worth releasing if it treads so much of the same water? And whoever holds the rights to Marvel’s Namor the Submariner have to be livid that DC was first past the post. Bumblebee and Alita: Battle Angel also come out this December, but I think it will be Aquaman that lures audiences to the multiplex. Still, a rising tide lifts all boats… OK, I’ll stop now.
Aquaman comes out December 21st, 2018.