The DCEU is in critical condition, perhaps on a respirator, with Warner Brothers wondering whether it is time to pull the plug and attempt yet another reboot. The choice may become a little clearer when Aquaman hits theaters on December 21, directed by James Wan, with Jason Mamoa taking the lead in his first solo film as King of Atlantis. To this point, the DCEU has had hits and misses, and unfortunately for longtime fans of DC comics, there have been more misses.
The State of the DCEU
Since Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel appeared on the silver screen in 2013, there was a glimmer of hope for the future. While the movie did not fully satisfy and had some controversial moments, Henry Cavill’s Superman was a full-fledged hero. While a bit stoic, and perhaps too alien, Superman was at full strength and provided a strong showing for what audiences could expect from the other DC heroes. Then Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and Suicide Squad (2016) left a bad taste for the audience. Among the many problems included Jared Leto’s Joker, the horrible CGI of Doomsday, the “Martha” scene, and two discombobulated films that were both predictable, and at times, too hard to follow.
2017’s Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins, was a smash-hit that revived the dreams of what the DCEU could deliver. The much anticipated Justice League (2017) did not live up to the hype. Filled with more distracting CGI, poor story lines, and filling in the screen with heroes whose only real backstory were found in BvS in the form of video files found by Bruce Wayne, the film just missed the mark. Needless to say, the DCEU is struggling, and with Ben Affleck leaving his role as the Caped Crusader and a brand new Joker movie with Joaquin Phoenix donning the makeup, the future is bleak. Warner Brothers is hoping to keep the ship afloat by following a multiverse type of cinematic universe, the gamble could leave audiences confused though. This is an afterthought, as unless the next couple upcoming movies pull their weight, the DCEU may slip away into the cold, dark night.
Here Comes The King
It is all up to the King of Atlantis. Aquaman can make or break the DCEU. Set to explore the underwater kingdom, Aquaman will follow the story of the title character being thrust back into taking his rightful place and challenging the war-mongering that has become prevalent in the underwater kingdom. Possibly taking cues from the Throne of Atlantis story arc of DC Comics in which King Orm, played by Patrick Wilson in Aquaman, believes Atlantis is in danger and declares war upon the surface world, threatening to bring the “wrath of the Seven Seas”. King Orm is Aquaman’s half brother, who in his absence, has taken his place as king. The trailer shows Aquaman coming aboard a submarine, which could be similar to the navy warship that during a weapons test, accidentally ends up attacking Atlantis.
This story-line could pack the movie with tense drama, a coming-of-age type arc for Arthur, and huge fight scenes as the war begins. King Orm can be a fractured villain/hero type character that along with the villian Black Manta, played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, can give our hero a real challenge that will be difficult to overcome as he is following his destiny to become King of the Seven Seas. The story can include similar drama to Game of Thrones and Black Panther, both of which deal with the intricacies of the relationships amongst the royal family and in the case of Black Panther, a member of the royal family seeking to attack the outside world.
James Wan, known for his mastery of horror in films like the Saw franchise, The Conjuring, and Inisdious, has the chops to deliver an intricate story and beautiful cinematic moments. All in all, the movie has the potential to rival the success of Wonder Woman. Jason Mamoa is both intimidating physically and has the ability to project a strong leader, a la carte Khal Drogo. If the movie delivers on this tall order, the DCEU may have another strong contender for continuing the cinematic universe. However, if it turns out to be another poor entry that lacks the moments that fans long for, like BvS and Justice League, then Aquaman may just be the stake through the heart for the DCEU. It is yet to be seen, but we will wait with bated breath to see whether the movie can take its rightful place, placing Aquaman as King of Atlantis.
Tell us what you expect from Aquaman, whether the DCEU has a fighting chance against the MCU, and any other thoughts or comments below!