AQUAMAN: Should a Movie Version Be Game of Thrones Meets Conan?
Written by Vadakin
With all the rumblings about a Justice League movie, there are many wondering if DC/WB would be better off going with solo films first. If Aquaman was to be one of them, should the approach be "Game of Thrones Meets Conan?" That's among the premises raised by the writer Vadakin in this excerpt.
It's not easy being Aquaman.
For decades, he's been on the receiving end of innumerable jokes stemming from his co-starring role in the "classic" Super Friends series, and seemingly for good reason: On the surface, he is silly. He talks to fish and is only effective in the water, making him potentially useless in a Justice League film that takes place on dry land or in outer space.
But while the perception may be that he's the freaky fish guy, anyone who has read his comic book exploits over the past twenty years or seen him in episodes of Superman: The Animated Series or Justice League, knows better. In fact, they view him as something of a badass. His deep-water physiology makes him super strong, just as it was once suggested that Krypton's dense gravity made Superman strong on Earth. And while talking to fish might seem lame, he's actually doing more than talking to the creatures of the sea: he's commanding them. Aquaman is quite literally the king of the oceans and with seventy percent of the Earth's surface falling under his domain, every great white shark, every squid and every blue whale bends to his will. Even then, people might suggest that he's still lame, but he also happens to command the largest, most advanced navy on the planet.
So how do you take all of that and turn it into an effective movie? How do you make it exciting and compelling? How do you attract the audience to watch a movie about a guy swimming the oceans, destroying oil rigs like a one-man Greenpeace? Simple answer – you don't. You don't make a traditional superhero movie. You don't make an environmentalism movie. You make a fantasy war movie.
Two fantasy properties come to mind when I think of how to make Aquaman. The first is A Song of Ice and Fire, AKA Game of Thrones. The second is Conan the Barbarian. Imagine Conan the Barbarian, sitting on the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms, but deep under the ocean. That's Aquaman. Imagine enemies and so-called friends, working to undermine him, planting the seeds that will lead to war, all for the singular purpose of overthrowing him. Because no matter how just and loyal a king he is, he comes from the world above. His blood may be Atlantean, but his heart beats for those on the surface, the people who poison the oceans with their pollutants. Aquaman the pretender. Aquaman the traitor. Present Aquaman, not as a superhero, but as a king trying desperately to keep a fragile peace between land and sea even as his enemies close in around him.
A traditional superhero movie would see Aquaman as a super-powered lifeguard and there is room for some traditional heroics in telling the origins of the character. But in order to make a movie about the character and give him an effective role in future Justice League movies, he needs to be a lot more than a blonde David Hasselhoff.
While it's all well and good talking about an underwater war movie with political thriller elements, it's another thing to go about doing it. So the question arises, how do you construct such a movie?
“But at a later time there occurred portentous earthquakes and floods, and one grievous day and night befell them, when the whole body of your warriors was swallowed up by the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner was swallowed up by the sea and vanished.” - Plato.
The earliest accounts of the Atlantis myth come from Plato, who speaks of an ancient island to the west of the Pillars Of Heracles, that was home to a war-faring people whose island was swallowed up by the sea. The comics tell a different story, whereby the origins of Atlantis and the creation of water-breathers is extraterrestrial in origin. With most other comic book properties, the comic book origins would be sacrosanct. But in this case, I'm going to suggest something else: Embrace the myth.
Instead of being genetically modified by aliens, let the Atlanteans be victims of a curse placed on them by the god Poseidon. Whatever form the wider DC Film Universe takes, we know that aliens will exist in that world thanks to Superman. But we also know that the ancient gods will exist thanks to Wonder Woman (and they'd better. None of this magic is Asgardian science stuff, thanks). By linking Wonder Woman's origins to Aquaman's, you provide a means for Aquaman to exist in the same world without overwhelming the Justice League with aliens. I will talk about this more in the future when I write Wonder Woman and Justice League articles, but the fact that the heroes are all different with unique origins that on the surface don't blend, will prove to be a strength for Justice League in the same way that doing the opposite was a strength for The Avengers.
But going back to Plato's myth for the basic origin doesn't mean abandoning the comics. The important material surrounding Aquaman himself remains intact. He's still raised by a lighthouse keeper, his blonde hair is still seen as a curse by some, he is still the rightful ruler of Atlantis. The day he discovers he can breathe underwater should be one of the most powerful moments in the film.
Aquaman is quite literally a fish out of water story. His tale of a man living an ordinary existence only to discover some great destiny or important heritage is straight out of Joseph Campbell's mono-myth idea. In fact, it's a cliché. From King Arthur to Anakin Skywalker, Neo to Harry Potter, it's a concept that has been around for a long time and the reason for that is simple – it works. It's no different here and a film about how young Arthur Curry goes on a journey to become the king of a mythical kingdom could be a movie unto itself.
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