With the release of the first official promotional image of Jason Momoa this week, Aquaman seems to be the current man of the hour. While Aquaman is far from one of the most popular characters in the DCU, he is a founding member of the original Justice League of America and so deserves his spot in the first wave of the DC Cinematic Universe and the Justice League movie. Aquaman isn't inherently a bad character, and when done right can be very interesting. Aquaman is, unfortunately, more of a character who has been failed by writers and editors time and time again who just didn't know what to do with him. Some writers get him, like Peter David and Geoff Johns, and some don't. With that in mind, here is the cinematic version of Aquaman I would most like to see, and I think would make the character most successful on the movie screen and maybe even broaden his fan base in the comics.
Introduction to the Character
From the picture of Momoa in all of his Aquaman glory, it is quite obvious that they are going for, at least aesthetically, something similar to the Peter David Aquaman of the 90s, which was somewhat of a unique take on the character. I highly doubt that in Batman v Superman or in Justice League we get much of an origin for Aquaman, and that's ok. We don't need to know who he is right out of the gate, and there wouldn't be room to do it justice in either of those movies. Just hit the ground running with this character, show us everything he is capable of and make us want more of that character. DC and Warner Bros are taking a sort of backwards approach to their universe, at least according to what Marvel did when they pioneered the idea of the shared universe, so their strategy needs to be different. Marvel started out with solo movies and built the tension over every movie to the final shooting of their wad that was The Avengers. DC has to do something different, since Justice League is going to introduce most of the characters before any of them get solo films. The BvS and Justice League films need to give you just enough of the characters to tell good stories and to leave you wanting more. Audiences need to fall in love with Aquaman, and leave the theaters after Justice League, Part One anticipating his solo movie. Wanting to know this guy is and where he came from and what is his motivation as all of those questions apply to this universe that Zack Snyder is creating. The first thing they need to do is to create a need in audiences to see that Aquaman movie.
The first solo Aquaman movie needs to take us back to the beginning. This movie needs to answer all of the questions left over at the end of Justice League, Part One, and if the filmmakers do their jobs right, there should be a slew of them. More than for any other character, the Aquaman movie needs to be a prequel to Justice League and BvS. We need to be introduced to Arthur Curry, and he needs to be 180 degrees from the Aquaman we have already seen in the first two movies. We will have already seen the savage, hairy King Orin in two movies, we need to see Arthur Curry in this movie. I would like to go so far as to even have him clean shaven and with short hair when we are first introduced to him. If Orin resembles the Game of Thrones Momoa, which we already know he will, then Arthur Curry needs to resemble the Baywatch Momoa (though, admittedly, quite a bit older):
The Aquaman movie needs to be about the journey from Arthur to Orin, from blue collar human to Atlantean king. In this respect, much how DC's cinematic strategy is the opposite of Marvel's, Aquaman's story needs to be the opposite of Thor's. Thor and Aquaman are very similar characters, both of royal blood and rooted in mythology and from fantastic worlds. Whereas Thor was a warrior king (or prince) who was sent to Earth to learn humility, Aquaman needs to be a humble and regular joe who is taken to Atlantis and has to learn how to be a warrior king. Arthur's humanity should be every bit a part of his story as his Atlantean lineage. The first Aquaman film needs to explore both worlds in a way that BvS and Justice League probably won't, nor should they. Those movies need to be about their ensemble casts, this movie needs to be about Aquaman and his worlds. And Arthur's character arc needs to take him from the regular Joe we meet at the beginning to someone more resembling the Aquaman we would have already seen in the previous films, with lots of badassery along the way.
There is only one villain for this movie: Ocean Master. This movie needs to be about Arthur and his humanity, and how he is torn between two worlds, and for that you need to have Atlantis invade the surface world, and for that you need Ocean Master. And this goes along with having the Aquaman film mirror the first Thor movie, as it will also be about brother vs brother. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the Aquaman just needs to rip off the Thor film, but there are definite similarities to the characters and I think what worked for Thor, who has also not always been one of Marvel's most popular characters, could also work best for Aquaman. Like Thor, Aquaman's origin is one of the most interesting things about the character. It's the story of King Arthur under water, and that is the story audiences need to properly fall in love with the character. This needs to be first and foremost the story of a man embracing his destiny while protecting the world that has been everything he's ever known and loved his entire life. The guys over at Warner Animation who make the DCU animated films knew that Aquaman's story was important enough to save that character for Throne of Atlantis, and while I don't want to see the live action movie just rehash the animated movie, it definitely needs to deal with that origin in a similar way, because that is the story of Aquaman and that is the movie that is going to get everyone really engaged in the character. Seeing the savage Aquaman kicking much ass is going to get the audiences interested, this needs to be the story that gets them hooked on the character.