'Aquaman': How DC can rectify its 'Justice League' mistakes by copying 'Wonder Woman'
Will Jason Momoa's demi-God of the sea, Aquaman, be the one to pull the DC cinematic universe from the rut it has been stuck in since ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice'?
With ‘Aquaman’ all set to release on December 21, one can’t help but wonder if Jason Momoa’s demi-God of the sea will be the one to pull the DC cinematic universe from the rut it has been stuck in since ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ and provide some modicum of competition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
From the looks of it, the upcoming movie has already beaten some records set by Marvel’s 'Infinity War' and has the potential to break more records in the months to come.
DC and Marvel fans have always been fiercely competitive, not unlike ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Star Trek’ fans, butting heads over their favorite superheroes time and again. However, even hardcore DC fans cannot deny that ever since both brands went cinematic, Marvel has been kicking DC’s rear end in terms of popularity, which in turn translates to box office collections.
Barring ‘Wonder Woman,’ all DC movies in the new phase, adoringly called the "Extended Universe,” has been faced with underwhelming responses and most of that is thanks to the franchise’s impatience in setting up the characters, instead of jumping the gun to merely compete with Marvel.
While Marvel's decades-long plan for their universe, incorporating stand-alone movies, inter-team relationships and backstories leading to the collective ‘Avengers’ movies came up trumps, DC move to jump the gun with first ‘Suicide Squad’ and then ‘Justice League’ came a cropper.
The failure of ‘Suicide Squad’ is the perfect example of DC’s lack of planning and the complete lack of awareness regarding their millennial viewership. The moviegoers – and let us be honest, most superhero fans of today aren’t OG and lack any comic book knowledge – were expected to root for a bunch of criminals who were forced to work together because of death threats. Later, they were asked to believe that these criminals, and in certain cases lunatics, had even a chance of a change of heart toward the end of the film.
Many in the audience did not understand Deadshot’s motives – except for the irregularly mentioned daughter, Harley Quinn’s obsession with The Joker – except for a nanosecond of backstory, and let us not even get into Boomerang’s issues. Why would anyone want to see a bunch of criminals – who have no believable redeeming qualities - play superheroes for over 2 hours?
'Justice League' failed for the same reasons, except they were all good guys. Why are we rooting for The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg, when we know nothing about them? Not to mention, the unnecessary confusion created due to duplication of characters in the TV and movie universes. Most DC fans had fallen in love with Grant Gustin as The Flash, and as much as we love Ezra Miller, it is disorienting to see Barry Allen be played by a different Caucasian man. The same goes for Deadshot in 'Suicide Squad'.
When it comes to romance, unfortunately, the most famous one for DC is that of the Joker and Harley Quinn. As much as their toxic relationship is justified by their individual insanities, there is no denying that Joker is abusive- mentally and physically. When opposed to that, Marvel has some of the most empowering representations of romance on screen – be it Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, Vision and Scarlett Witch as dysfunctional as they are, even Dr. Banner and Black Widow set a better example of a happy couple that Joker and Quinn. To an average, woke millennial, this stuff is important.
'Wonder Woman' stands in stark contrast to everything else DC has done in recent years, and most of that is thanks to Patty Jenkins, who used her position of power to ensure she got it all right.
She created a beautiful backstory for Gal Gadot’s Diana, where we see the rigorous training she receives in Themyscira from the Amazonian warriors. We see that she is driven by the unadulterated need to do the right thing. She is as naïve as she is smart and as loyal as she is brave. More importantly, she represents hope – not just as a superhero, but also as a woman. She represents the diversity that the world has been desperately begging for.
To this end, we believe 'Aquaman' can be successful too. As a man of color, Momoa is the visual proof of increasing diversity in Hollywood – specifically in big budget movies. The backstory of the Atlantis native, if told convincingly by James Wan, could mean not only a huge fan base for the standalone, but also for any upcoming superhero team-ups.
The trailer suggests that Arthur has a lot of baggage, all of which we will get to explore before his all-encompassing fight with Ocean Master in the end. This indicates a positive outcome for the movie in terms of backstory, at least. The spectacular cast including Amber Heard, Willem Dafeo, Patrick Wilson and Nicole Kidman also promises a good outcome.
It remains to be seen if ‘Aquaman,’ come December 21, will follow ‘Wonder Woman’s suit and shake up the box office, leading Warner Brothers to reconsider the currently looming future of the DC extended universe, or if it will repeat the horrendous performances of ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’, ‘Suicide Squad’ and ‘Justice League.'
However, we are still rooting for Aquaman to be the second-in-command to DC’s savior Wonder Woman.