AQUAMAN: Should a Movie Version Be Game of Thrones Meets Conan?

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.

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By EdGross - 2/13/2013
Written by Vadakin

It's not easy being Aquaman.

aquaman telepathic

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.

aquaman2

King Orin

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.

Alan Ritchson played Arthur Curry/Aquaman on Smallville.

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?

Secret Origins

“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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62 Comments
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ClarkWayne91 - 2/13/2013, 10:45 AM
First!!!! And Aquaman is freaking awesome!!!
ClarkWayne91 - 2/13/2013, 10:45 AM
Damn second!!
PsyGuy - 2/13/2013, 10:47 AM
I'd like to see it... but everyone know's he's basically seen as a joke.

WONDER WOMAN please!
Rothwilder - 2/13/2013, 10:51 AM
Finally. Ed, I say it every article. Please write MORE. Such a refreshing change from the "cut and paste" journalism.

Not that it doesnt have its place.
genesis609 - 2/13/2013, 10:52 AM
namor shits on this guy
thatdylhooper - 2/13/2013, 10:53 AM
hell yea
EdGross - 2/13/2013, 10:53 AM
Hey Rothwilder, the truth is in this case - as I pointed out at the beginning - I didn't write this piece. Vadakin did. I don't want to take credit for another writer's work, but this is definitely a well thought out piece that as a film, if executed, could be fascinating.
thatcoldblackcloud - 2/13/2013, 10:53 AM
Answer to the topics question: YES.

realistically speaking though, WB would just probably screw it up.
GodzillaKart - 2/13/2013, 10:54 AM
I would love to see a badass Aquaman film. I think it has a better chance of being good than Flash.
Mrcool210 - 2/13/2013, 10:54 AM
aquaman is my favourite dc hero, i hate superfriends just for the sole reason that that series made him seem like a joke, and [frick] the people here who think the new 52 made him cool, he's been awesome way before that
MyInnerDork - 2/13/2013, 10:59 AM
No. An Aquaman movie should be an action/comedy. It's the only way to pull off a character like this on the big screen, IMO.
thatdylhooper - 2/13/2013, 10:59 AM
that would be better than thor
thatdylhooper - 2/13/2013, 10:59 AM
no, action/comedy would suck ass
MarkV - 2/13/2013, 11:05 AM
Not ever going to be an Aquaman movie.

It could be cool, don't get me wrong. Throw in some f ucking surfing, a Tsunami, sharks and f ucking giant squids.
comicle199 - 2/13/2013, 11:06 AM
the first aquaman should be all about atlantis no dry land otherwise you lose who he is
i would personally like to see peter jackson give it a go weve seen his work on lotr and know he can work wonders with fantasy worlds and characters so why not give him atlantis
PapaMidnite - 2/13/2013, 11:07 AM
Seaman!!!
Shamo - 2/13/2013, 11:14 AM
an Aquaman movie would flop harder then the GL movie.
RamonSuarez - 2/13/2013, 11:27 AM
Nope, I resent that DC made the character more badass by making more like Namor. The crazy super-strength, the anti-heroism, the rulership over the high seas all all Namor traits.
JatevinM - 2/13/2013, 11:32 AM
I'd love to see an Aquaman movie where Arthur is a complete bad ass with a beard and a trident. He is a king and he has a skillset that is pretty freaking cool if you think about it. All you have to do is get someone like Geoff Johns to write the script hell and maybe even direct it and youd have a great movie.
ToTheManInTheColdSweat - 2/13/2013, 11:41 AM
aquaman is wack as shit... pass
Shamo - 2/13/2013, 11:46 AM
can't wait for Marvel to do a Namor movie though. actually, never mind. they'll kiddify it like they do all their movies and completely ruin it ala Captain America.
Blarcade - 2/13/2013, 11:47 AM
It could be really successful if it's handled the way Thor was. You have a decent split between being in Atlantis and on the surface. Personally, I haven't seen a Game of Thrones (I don't like fantasy that much) but that's how I would like to see it done.
JoeMomma29 - 2/13/2013, 11:53 AM
SageMode - 2/13/2013, 12:04 PM
Aquaman could work on screen with the right people involved. But we all know how that is.............
Vadakin - 2/13/2013, 12:23 PM
Dear Warner Brothers,

Read this article and realise I exist. Then hire me.

Sincerely,
Vadakin.
NorseGod - 2/13/2013, 12:25 PM
Aquaman was never in the Superman animated series.
Vadakin - 2/13/2013, 12:29 PM
Thanks for all the comments, whether positive or negative. It's always good to get feedback as I ponder whether I'm insane, a genius, some combination of both or just full of shit.

This article is actually part of a series I'm writing for Voices From Krypton, where I examine the first seven heroes of the Justice League and explore ways to make a film based on each character work.

Aquaman in particular is one that isn't the easiest to pull off. "Gay fish dude" jokes aside, it's a difficult property to adapt. My approach is to imagine Conan The Barbarian on the Iron Throne. I don't think a traditional superhero movie will appeal to wide audiences so focusing on Arthur as king of Atlantis instead of Aquaman - underwater superhero, feels right to me.
Vadakin - 2/13/2013, 12:34 PM
@Ashleytdkr I don't think the Marvel approach will work. With Marvel, only Thor was larger than life. But the Justice League has two aliens in Superman and Martian Manhunter, a space cop, a woman with the power of gods and an Atlantean king.

For Justice League, it's their differences that will make it work. They are gods in the service of mortals. If Marvel is Shakespeare, DC is Homer. The Justice League is The Iliad.
Vadakin - 2/13/2013, 12:35 PM
@Norsegod Yes he was, pre-beard if I remember correctly.
NorseGod - 2/13/2013, 12:36 PM
If I were to make this movie, think Waterworld meets The Dog whisperer. ;)
NorseGod - 2/13/2013, 12:41 PM
@vadakin, Well look at that! I completely forgot about that episode. I like his bearded look much better.
JonasWepeel - 2/13/2013, 12:43 PM
Treat it serious...go all Abyss on it...
JonasWepeel - 2/13/2013, 12:50 PM
I second what Kamen said. Vehemently.
randomality85 - 2/13/2013, 12:54 PM
Sounds like someone read my post on reddit where I said exactly this a few days ago... especially that part where I said don't make a superhero movie, make a dark fantasy movie...

http://www.reddit.com/r/superman/comments/188lzu/which_superheroes_should_be_in_the_justice_league/c8crboy?context=3
Jollem - 2/13/2013, 1:11 PM
i'd love to see an aquaman movie. there's so much good stuff to work with
MarkV - 2/13/2013, 1:12 PM
Yeah, don't try to compare Flash to Aquaman, that's a fight you're not going to win (Flash FACT).

The sense of speed, the visceral thrill of moving through time and space at god like speed, that's cooler than talking to fish.
Optimus83 - 2/13/2013, 1:13 PM


good concepts: Game of Thrones vs. Conan the Barbarian. ...¡¡¡Cool!!!, I like it
superotherside - 2/13/2013, 1:18 PM
I'd love an Aquaman movie.
EdgyOutsider - 2/13/2013, 1:26 PM
@KnightofSteel: Both Namor and Aquaman suck ass.

@thatdylhooper: Thor was and stil is a great superhero movie. I don't see all the hate for it. Thor: The Dark World is going to be even better. Anyone who thinks otherwise would be kidding themselves.
Vadakin - 2/13/2013, 1:42 PM
@randomality85 Ha, the article was published on Voices From Krypton last week and I have an article here from a year ago where I laid out a possible origin story plot.

But yeah, a serious fantasy war movie. Basically King Conan underwater and once you've done that first film and Justice League, it opens up. If the first film is Conan meets GoT, a second, in my mind, could be Saving Private Ryan with an invasion of (or from) the surface.
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