Aquaman: what to expect from the movie

Jason Momoa will debut as Aquaman in Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice. But what do we know about the standalone Aquaman movie?

You may already know that July 2018 will see a DC Entertainment and Warner Bros Aquaman film splash onto our screens (and before that, Jason Momoa will have realised the character in Zack Snyder’s Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice in 2016, and the first Justice League movie the year after). All the evidence we’ve seen suggests that this will be as dark and gritty a screen rendering as The Dark Knight or Man Of Steel, which those who are familiar with the character might see as slightly unbelievable.

Indeed, outside the core fan-base of comic book readers, the character Aquaman doesn’t always have the best reputation. Kids’ animated television series Batman: The Brave And The Bold is one such example, which pins Aquaman as the all-singing, all-silly comic relief to the better known, more respected superheroes.

If you’re wondering why you should care that Aquaman is getting a movie, then, we compiled all the information on the chap to fill you in. Here’s what you should expect from the film…

Who is he?

To understand the character of Aquaman, first you’ve got to accept the existence of Atlantis within the DC universe. This is old news to comic book readers, but will certainly be a significant hurdle in convincing your non-comic-loving friends/family members/other halves to venture out to the cinema with you on that fateful summer day in 2018.

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Indeed, finding something relatable, believable and engaging in an underwater society like Atlantis is surely what has held Aquaman back from the big screen until now. In the modern age, though, where we’ve accepted such weirdness as the alien symbiote of Spider-Man 3, the talking trees and raccoons of Guardians Of The Galaxy and Sir Ben Kingsley as Trevor Slattery, a soggy city underwater is no longer too much of a leap for cinemagoers, just as long as it is handled well.

Aquaman exists within the context of this mystical sunken city, and he (like all great heroes) has several variations on his origin to choose from. Just looking at the main ones, he’s either: the son of an underwater explorer who rediscovered an abandoned Atlantis and taught his boy the tricks to survive there; Arthur Curry, the son of a lighthouse keeper and an outcast Atlantean with amazing abilities from birth; Orin, the abandoned son of a wizard and a queen from Atlantis, who was raised by a lighthouse keeper; Arthur Joseph Curry, a completely different (and comparatively short-lived) chap who had a big sword.

Our best bet as to which version will make it into the movie? That’d be the second option on that list – Aquaman as Arthur Curry, the half-human son of lighthouse keeper Tom Curry and exiled Atlantean Atlanna.

We assume this since DC Comic’s 2011 ‘New 52’ relaunch of the DC universe reinforced this 1950’s ‘Silver Age’ version of events as the main canonical origin. The Silver Age also gave Aquaman an octopus sidekick called Topo, though, which may or may not survive the transition to the big screen. The modern New 52, on the other hand, which is darker and a little more serious than the ages that came before, is surely going to be a sizeable inspiration for this film.

This Arthur (like all of them) has his stints as the King of Atlantis, but he and his partner Mera left the city early on in the run after Aquaman took offence at the damage being done to the oceans. He abdicates his throne and decides full time superhero status is the best way forward. Later, he of course returned to the ocean, but we wouldn’t expect his film to be purely based under the sea. Regardless of whether it’s better down where it’s wetter.

The New 52 version of events – and this is a feature that we particularly like – strongly plays into Aquaman’s slightly naff perception from the wider world outside comic book fandom. In the New 52 universe, the general public think Aquaman is lesser than his fellow heroes, which gives him further motivation to prove himself. This version seems a bit more personable, and could fit better into a cinematic world that he will have to share with a whole lot of heroes, and cinemagoers who might not think much of him yet.

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Aquaman’s powers are fairly consistent, despite the other changeable parts. He tends to boast superhuman strength, super-speedy swimming and reflexes, telepathic control of marine life, the ability to survive underwater or on land, enhanced healing skills and telepathic language knowledge above water as well. We’d expect to see most of these on screen, to be honest.

Who is his nemesis?

As usual, this is a tricky question. Save for Batman versus The Joker, most DC Comics heroes will have a variety of baddies aiming for the spot of archenemy. Aquaman doesn’t exactly have a star-studded rogues gallery, but there’s a few directions that the filmic version could follow.

Back in the day of Aquaman’s inception in 1941, Black Jack was a formidable foe – he was a modern day pirate who sporadically plagued our hero over a 9-year period. However, he was never resurrected after Crisis On Infinite Earths reset the universe back in the mid 1980s, so there’s approximately nil chance of him appearing as a core villain. A name drop or cameo is possible, though. Aquaman’s wartime opponents – primarily Nazi U-boat commanders – are also out of the question cinematically.

The next stage of Aquaman’s career was when the costumed wackos and bizarre concepts started wading in, around about the 1960s. These include (but are certainly not limited to) robotic villains called The Awesome Threesome, smuggler Victor Bragg who became The Human Flying Fish, voodoo sorcerers with seaweed hair and the gimmicky Fisherman who actually used fishing rods as his main weapon.

Around this time, though, a few more powerful and legitimate villains finally began appearing for Aquaman. Principle of these is Orm Marius, aka Ocean Master, aka Aquaman’s evil half-brother. In his original version, Ocean Master was fully human (they shared a father), and grew jealous of his superhero brother. He used cutting edge technology to manufacture natural-looking disasters and hold the world at ransom.

Later on, mystical weapons came into play when Ocean Master sold his soul for a magic trident. In those probably influential New 52 comics we keep mentioning, Orm is still Arthur’s half brother, but is now purely Atlantean. In fact, Orm is the King of Atlantis when the story kicks off and Arthur is only revealed later to be the rightful crown-wearer.

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Also a contender for cinematic villainy is Black Manta, a formidable villain with a chip on his shoulder because Aquaman failed to save him in his hour of maritime need (he was imprisoned on a ship and forced to work as a slave). In lieu of a rescue from Aquaman, Black Mantra (real name David) killed his captors and set off to conquer both the oceans and their unhelping representative Aquaman. He originally had a wet suit that fired deadly rays, but he was later transformed into an actual Manta/human hybrid, and then back again.

If we had to pick a villain for the film, we’d choose one of those two… and maybe chuck in King Shark for a laugh. Beyond that, and perhaps ripe for far-flung sequels, things get a bit wackier. Giant sentient jellyfish and an alien dragon called Tiamat later joined the ranks of Aquaman’s enemies. Should the Aquaman movie hit big, this even-more-far-fetched source material could help expand his cinematic personality a little way down the road.

What are his most iconic stories?

Good question. Now that we’ve established that Ocean Master and Black Manta are arguably the most eligible evildoers to star alongside Jason Momoa’s Aquaman, what exactly will they be fighting over in the new film?

Let’s start with Black Manta’s comic book antics. After a stint of generic villainy, he took a step into the big leagues of bad guy-ness with a story that hit Aquaman on a very personal level. We’re talking about Aquaman: Death Of A Prince, which – if rejigged a bit – could be an ideal source material for a dark Aquaman film.

In fact, we’d go as far as to say that Death of A Prince is the only Black Manta-centred story that would really pack the necessary doom and gloom for a tonally grim Aquaman film. It picks up with Aquaman as he is dethroned and banished after a conspiracy involving an evil shark. Black Manta soon devises a truly deadly and personal battle scenario where Aquaman is forced to either fight and kill his sidekick (Aqualad, of course), or let his young infant son (Aquababy, naturally) die of suffocation.

This being one of the most controversial Aquaman stories, no happy solution was found and Aquababy died. Finally, Black Manta had vengeance on Aquaman for not saving him years prior, and it was remembered as a fairly grizzly Aquaman comic. It effectively brought about the collapse Aquaman’s marriage too. Aquaman, enraged, nearly killed Black Manta as a result.

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A lot of other stuff goes on in the comic which would need to be stripped down or streamlined – involving Ocean Master, Batman, mercenaries and Aquaman’s parents – but the core action of a personal attack on Aquaman’s family could make for interesting viewing. It’s not the only contender for film adaptation, though.

The New 52’s Throne Of Atlantis definitely has screen potential too. It sees Aquaman (who has at this point severed ties with the underwater realm) caught between both worlds as conflict breaks out. It begins with a US Military missile smashing up Atlantis. From there, via a retaliation strike in the form of the tidal wave hitting the East Seaboard of America, all-out war breaks loose between Aquaman’s new and old homes.

What unfolds next is a shady plot involving former Atlantean political advisor Vulko, Aquaman’s half-brother Orm (AKA the rebooted version of the Ocean Master and the current King of Atlantis), as well as an ancient powerful sceptre that offers extra power.

It’s a twisty narrative, which ties together lots of characters (including a supporting role for Black Manta), and finds a viable reason for the surface world and Atlantis to both be involved in the action. For Aquaman to work, the film would need a strong plot, engaging supporting characters and vital links to the more relatable world of dry land. Throne Of Atlantis offers all of this and more.

What will the film be about, then?

For what it’s worth (which might not be much), our prime guess for the most influential story on the new Aquaman movie would be Throne Of Atlantis, as we were just discussing. Given that Jason Momoa would have already appeared in Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice and Justice League: Part One, there’s little chance that we will be seeing a straight-up origin story in the summer of 2018. Flashbacks or dialogue are where we expect to learn more about his past.

Indeed, it’s also certainly possible that the movie will start with Arthur Curry based in the non-watery world, having already appeared in two films up to that point (assuming that Atlantis doesn’t play too much of a role in Batman v Superman or the first Justice League film). Surely Aquaman’s own film is the right time to fully explore what’s going on in Atlantis and show us what Atlantean villainy looks like.

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Vulko, Ocean Master, Black Manta and an all-out war between Atlantis and our society would certainly offer that, as well as leaving a door propped open for cameos and guest appearances from more-established DC heroes by basing a lot of the action in our dryer world. If Man Of Steel is anything to go by, Throne Of Atlantis would also fit the modus operandi of the DC cinematic universe, where large scale destruction and whopping special effects budgets go hand in hand with angry superheroes.

Given our modern love for shared universes and spin-offs, we half expect to see Aquaman’s shadier non-Justice League team-up group The Others teased at some point during the Aquaman movie too.

Of course, we could be wrong about all this, but there’s one thing we can be fairly sure off – don’t expect anything too bright, colourful or silly. If that poster of Jason Momoa is any indication, his Aquaman will be every bit as serious and stern as Henry Cavill’s Superman. He looks ready for a big battle, too, not a scrap with The Human Flying Fish.

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