MoviesThe Quest to Make Aquaman Cool Continues
James Wan says Aquaman is kind of like Wolverine. We have some thoughts about that.
In the grand arc of history, one thing has always held true: Aquaman is not cool. Everyone knows this, especially the people responsible for making Aquaman stories. They have tried, many times, to make him cool, and their efforts have all been in vain. He was not cool when, in the '90s, they cut off his hand and made him a bearded badass. He remained uncool even after Vinnie Chase turned him into a blockbuster action hero, and also in that one video game where he was an over-empowered pain in the ass. Aquaman, unfortunately for him, will always be that goofy dude from Superfriends who talked to fish.
Sure, choosing Jason Momoa, Khal Drogo himself, might finally be the one thing that sticks after years of trying across various media. Look at that Justice League footage from Comic-Con: If that movie has any clear goals whatsoever, the biggest is "making Aquaman cool." The movie could totally suck, and if people walk out of it saying yeah but Aquaman kicked so much ass, Justice League will probably be a success.
And naturally, James Wan is very much on board with the badassification of Aquaman, telling Slashfilm that "he's kind of the Wolverine" of the DC Universe, that he's "the outsider who gets pulled into this world and he kind of doesn’t want to belong and he was doing his own thing."
While I totally get what you're saying with this whole outsider thing, Mr. Wan, I say thee nay. Aquaman is no Wolverine. That is some revisionist bullshit. Wolverine is a perpetually angry and very short bear that was taught the samurai code and begrudgingly carries a strong sense of duty and honor as a result, pretending to be bristly and gruff but never actually following through on his threats to abandon the school full of children he somehow feels responsible for. Wolverine was conceived to be annoyingly badass, the sort of thing a ten-year-old would dream up during recess ("He's got like, a metal skeleton and he can heal from anything and like, his hands have knives coming out of them") only to somehow become empathetic after decades of exposure.
Aquaman, as we have established, is mostly a joke. Perhaps it's because he has no particular personality trait that has penetrated the wider pop cultural conversation; we really don't know what the guy's like. He's the king of Atlantis, okay. But so was King Triton in The Little Mermaid (alright, he's the king of Atlantica), and that guy was regal. Aquaman wears a yellow and green scaly jumpsuit and waits for dolphins to show up. Compare that to Marvel's version of Aquaman, Namor the Sub-Mariner. Here is a guy that looks even goofier than Aquaman—the guy wears a green speedo and has wings on his feet—but he's awesome, mostly because he's a giant prick who thinks he can dunk on just about every other superhero in the Marvel Universe, except the Invisible Woman, whom he hits on like every other year.
Here are the facts: Aquaman is bad, but Jason Momoa and James Wan are good. And lowered expectations can be a powerful tool. But guys, stop showing us how hard you're working to turn Urkel into Stefan. It'll kill the magic. Unless, of course, the Aquaman movie is just a gender-reversed She's All That, underwater, with superheroes.