Generalizing and judging books by their covers are things I absolutely abhor. However, I'm going to do both with Aquaman because some bets are just too easy to make. In an effort to compete with Marvel Studios, the DC Extended Universe has been pumping out films since 2013. Man of Steel (2013), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), Suicide Squad (2016), Wonder Woman (2017), and Justice League (2017) have all debuted to lackluster applause by critics and audiences both (with the exception of Wonder Woman). Why would Aquaman be any different?
Aquaman expectations are tempered by its unimpressive DC pedigree, but it was already facing an uphill battle. Compared to his superhero brethren, Arthur Curry aka Aquaman has always been the redheaded stepchild. Kids love Batman and Superman, not the guy who can talk to jellyfish. Perhaps that's why DC and Warner Brothers essentially scrapped the original Aquaman design in favor of a more modern version that would play to star Jason Momoa's strengths and tattoos. Arthur Curry does not have tattoos.
Eschewing original comic book costume design is rarely a good idea, but DC has been trying to modernize Aquaman for a long time. He originally debuted in the '40s and was a founding Justice League member during the Silver Age.
However, fans didn't take to Aquaman like they did the other DC heroes, and his reputation was made more laughable by the animated series Super Friends in the '70s and '80s where he was only useful on water missions. Aquaman went through several comic book iterations during the Modern Age. He was written more seriously and his role as King of Atlantis became a chief focus. He wore a new purple suit and then started showing up shirtless a lot. Fans didn't respond.
That brings us to the here and now: Jason Momoa as Curry. Popular thanks to a memorable stint on Game of Thrones, and the object of women's affections everywhere, Momoa made sense for the role of Aquaman for one reason: He looks good with his shirt off. Far from being a coveted acting talent, Momoa's IMDb page is strictly action movies. And he's never made a good one. Do you think Aquaman is going to break that streak?
Momoa aside, let's examine what we know about Aquaman so far. The official synopsis tells us:
Arthur Curry, the heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, must step forward to lead his people against his brother, Orm, who seeks to unite the seven kingdoms against the surface world
Aquaman has appeared in two DC movies already, (briefly in) Batman v Superman and Justice League. So far, he's only been relegated to slow motion flexing and, bafflingly, comedic relief. That won't end with Aquaman. Look for little else besides flexing and the trailer has already provided us with a number of tone deaf jokes: "Redheads! Gotta love 'em!" Momoa isn't going to impress anyone with his chops.
Momoa might even have the acting ability to be a star, but he hasn't shown it so far. That's a reflection on him, but also on the films he makes. He doesn't seem concerned about script quality. Aquaman is written by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall, the guys behind Wrath of the Titans, the Conjuring sequels, and Gangster Squad, one of the worst films of 2013. There's no reason to think the Aquaman script will be good, never mind exceptional.
It's also scary to imagine how Aquaman's powers will materialize onscreen. We've seen glimpses of them in Justice League, but the full arsenal may be realized in the new film. That's probably not a good thing. Aquaman has always been ridiculed in the comic community for wielding his impractical trident as well as for his ability to communicate with fish. What's he gonna do, pulverize his enemies with bubbles? Seriously, there will, in all accounts, be some cool displays of superpowers in the new movie, but with little tether to the source material. The animals of the sea are going to be used like an army instead of some version of a comic book deus ex machina.
As per the trailer, Aquaman will weaponize sharks and a giant monster fish that looks like it escaped from Jurassic World. The wholesome adventures of comic book Aquaman are a thing of the past. Don't expect to see ocean soldiers riding seahorses exclaiming "Great gastropods!" anytime soon. This new Aquaman has SWAG and there's no room for the original character with all these tattoos and cool guy jokes.
Directed by James Wan, Aquaman will likely be on the same level of quality as his other films. Wan is the filmmaker behind the Saw, Insidious, and Conjuring franchises. His star has risen thanks to the horror genre where writing almost always takes a backseat to spectacle. Wan knows how to make special effects-driven movies and should handle the big battle scenes well (which is likely all Warner Brothers cares about). So, if you're only concerned with seeing fish battles and Jason Momoa's nipples, then Aquaman is all you. The rest of us will be hunting down films with at least a chance at greatness.
Even the poster is silly! Where's Nemo?