“Man of Steel” disappointed. “Batman v. Superman” bombed in a spectacular fashion. “Suicide Squad” bombed. “Wonder Woman” was genuinely good. And “Justice League” was just ok.
And now we have “Aquaman.” Oh, Aquaman. “My man!” as Jason Momoa’s bafoonish testosterone-induced version of the character would say.
But you’re not my man. You’re no one’s man. You’re Jason Momoa playing an overcompensation of a traditionally mild-mannered joke of a character, stuck in between Zack Snyder’s dark and gloomy ugly-CGI “Man of Steel” Universe, and Joss Whedon’s over-corrected “Justice League” Universe. Momoa’s portrayal of the character is one of identity crisis, and the only sample of his character we saw was in a poorly-written by-the-numbers movie that didn’t know what it wanted to be. I hate to say it, but Momoa’s impact as Aquaman was as noticeable as any of the disposable “Suicide Squad” characters, and I would have you know that I mean that in the nicest way possible (“Suicide Squad” is a guilty pleasure of mine); that’s to say, he didn’t offend, like the god-awful Jared Leto Joker we got in that film, but he didn’t make an impact, either.
Jason Momoa is a good actor. His portrayal of Khal Drogo in “Game of Thrones” is downright iconic, and given the right role, he can be a formidable presence on screen.
But given the right role.
In truth, it’s hard to predict an actor’s performance in a future film based off of a supporting role played as that character in another movie, but there’s a reason why minor characters like “Aquaman” are rarely given their own standalone films. I think back to the “Scorpion King” films, which, while dumb fun, were doomed to be nothing but dumb fun because there wasn’t really much to go off of in terms of character for the Scorpion King. I think of “Solo,” which told a story that didn’t need to happen.
And while “Aquaman” benefits from decades of storytelling and experimentation with its character, DC has proven that it is only willing to greenlight the most fan-recognized arcs in the comics, so don’t expect a proper arc involving Aqualad, expect a lot of Black Manta, and it looks like there’s some generic storyline about Aquaman assuming the throne/fighting for the throne that we’ve already seen done effectively in Marvel’s “Thor.” In fact, the similarities between the two franchises are remarkable; you have an outcast beefhead who is supposed to inherit the throne only to face contestion from a usurper, all the while there’s some villain-of-the-week to fight, and of course you have the fantastical CGI-city that Marvel realized nobody cared about in the third “Thor” movie, so they destroyed it. Aquaman is going to learn some lesson about being responsible and he’s going to earn his place as king, and knowing DC, they will probably try to cram in 5 more movie trailers if they can.
I’m not expecting a Patty Jenkins-level effort from the guy who produced “Insidious: The Last Key,” but who knows? James Wan might surprise me.
But the cards are certainly stacked against this movie. It has a shared universe nobody cares about, with a characters whose debut failed to have a lasting impact on its audience, and the fact that “Aquaman” has seven writers attached to it isn’t a good sign. Momoa and Wan have made some great and not so great work in the past, so I still think that “Aquaman” has a fighting chance to stay above water, but it’s going to have to do a lot more than be just ok to earn back it’s $160 million budget and well as its at least $100 million advertising budget.
If “Aquaman” fails, it could mean the end of the Worlds of DC, a rebrand that, by the way, isn’t fooling anyone.
Except for “Wonder Woman.” I think that’s a franchise that they can milk for about a bajillion sequels. Make a good “Batman.” People are always in the mood for those. Everyone else, forget it.
Well, I guess we’ll always have “Shazam.” Because people were asking for a “Shazam” movie.