DC had a tremendous amount of goodwill heading into Justice League, thanks to the success of Wonder Woman. But unfortunately, Justice League is disappointing critics, currently holding a 37% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Average moviegoers also don’t seem to be too hot on it, although many feel it’s at least a step in the right direction.
The next DC film is Aquaman, which doesn’t come out for another 13 months. But there’s already reason to believe that this movie will be a lot different than Justice League, especially in its approach to the title character.
Here’s what we know about Aquaman and how it will likely be different than Justice League.
1. Jason Momoa says Arthur Curry will be full-on Aquaman in it
In a recent Q&A, Jason Momoa warned fans that they might not be totally satisfied with Aquaman in Justice League. After all, Arthur Curry hasn’t fully become Aquaman yet. He’s a bit of a grump in the movie and seems reluctant to help anyone.
Momoa explained: “So this one, I don’t really think that he is Aquaman. He’s Arthur Curry. But he hasn’t donned the trident yet. And it’s coming. Just stick with it. For people who are like, ‘That’s not my Aquaman!’ — just wait a little bit longer.”
In Batman v. Superman, we’re introduced to Diana Prince in full-on Wonder Woman mode. Then, her solo film shows where she came from. On the other hand, Momoa says that with Aquaman, he really doesn’t become the hero we know and love until his solo film.
2. It will get into the complexities of Aquaman
We don’t get a chance to learn that much about Aquaman in Justice League. Indeed, we don’t learn that much about any of the characters.
But it sounds like the solo film will dive deep into Aquaman’s backstory and into what makes him who he is.
I want people to know that in a year, you’re going to understand where he came from, what happened to his mother, what happened to his father, and how he was treated in this world and how he didn’t know how to use his powers, and sometimes he saved people and sometimes he lost people, and his human side didn’t know how to cope during those things.
He would cover up those things. So he’s hiding behind a lot of – there’s a lot of layers to this guy, and I think once we do get to the solo film, you’re going to see the man who’s going to take responsibility and help the world and become king eventually.
3. It’s directed by James Wan, who’s great with character-driven narratives
So far, three out of the five DC universe films have been directed by Zack Snyder. His films typically whiffed on the characters, providing plenty of Jesus allegories, but not giving us a lot of time to explore Superman in an emotionally resonant way other than having him mope around a lot. Even in Justice League, the characters don’t really have room to grow much, and all seem to be just going through the motions.
But Aquaman is in the hands of a highly-talented director, James Wan, who tends to get characters right. This is the guy who launched his career off of Saw, a film that is largely just two people sitting in a room talking. He’s also the man who built a whole Conjuring universe off of thrilling sequences, but also relatable people in Ed and Lorraine Warren. He even took time in the second film to have Ed Warren sing a song to comfort the kids, a brilliant character beat that would be cut out of most other films.
Wan’s first foray outside of the horror genre was Furious 7, the most emotionally-resonant Fast and Furious film so far, which dealt with the death of Paul Walker and made a lot of viewers cry.
Aquaman is therefore in the hands of a director who tends to produce movies with better characters than Snyder — which should give DC fans reason to be optimistic.
4. Aquaman will actually use a trident in it
In Justice League, Aquaman doesn’t actually use a trident. What he uses is a quindent, since it has five prongs.
However, Momoa says that this is because the trident is being saved for the solo film. “Well, it’s a quindent, but we don’t call it that in the movie, and when you watch Aquaman, you’re gonna see him go for the trident, so everyone’s gotta stay tuned for a hot minute,” Momoa told CNET.
In Justice League, Aquaman just borrows a quindent from Mera. But apparently, in Aquaman, he gets a trident that is all his own. “Well, yeah, he’s not the king yet,” Momoa said. “He looks to Mera and he’s like, ‘I need to borrow something, I need you to do me a favor,’ so that’s what he gets, when she gives him the equipment.”
5. It likely won’t have many connections to the other movies
So far, the most successful DC universe movie has been Wonder Woman. Part of what was praised about that movie was that it was completely its own story and didn’t get bogged down in setting up future films. This was in contrast to Batman v. Superman, which had an entire scene where a character essentially shows the audience previews for DC’s upcoming movies.
It sounds like Aquaman will be more like Wonder Woman and less like Batman v. Superman. DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson told Vulture earlier this year that they hope to de-emphasize the “cinematic universe” idea going forward.
Our intention, certainly, moving forward is using the continuity to help make sure nothing is diverging in a way that doesn’t make sense, but there’s no insistence upon an overall story line or interconnectivity in that universe. Some of the movies do connect the characters together, like Justice League. But, like with Aquaman, our goal is not to connect Aquaman to every movie. Moving forward, you’ll see the DC movie universe being a universe, but one that comes from the heart of the filmmaker who’s creating them.
6. The characters won’t speak in air bubbles
In Justice League, we only get a brief glimpse at the underwater world. Outside of a five-minute sequence, we never really get to see Aquaman in this environment. However, as you might expect, the Aquaman movie will take place almost entirely underwater.
But those underwater sequences will look a lot different. In Justice League, the characters create air bubbles underwater so that they can communicate. That won’t be the case in Aquaman, James Wan recently confirmed on Twitter.
️♀️ Fret not, no “air bubbles for dialogue” in my underwater world. https://t.co/rRbWp2Ejfd
— James Wan (@creepypuppet) November 21, 2017
7. The characters won’t speak in the air bubbles
One of the most prominent complaints about Justice League is the special effects being subpar. To some degree, this seems to have to do with the reshoots. After all, the movie was heavily reshot just a few months before it opened in theaters. This provided very little time to touch up the special effects and get them looking as impressive as possible.
However, Aquaman wrapped production in October 2017, a full 14 months before it opens in theaters. And right now, there is no sign that any major reshoots will be needed. So assuming the production continues to be relatively drama-free, we should expect Aquaman to look more consistently visually impressive than Justice League.
In addition, although the world of Atlantis felt somewhat empty in Justice League, it will likely look better in Aquaman, as Wan has access to a whole cast of characters whereas Justice League only really had Amber Heard as Mera.
8. It might be even more optimistic and hopeful
Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice were both quite grim. But the DC universe became much more hopeful with Wonder Woman and funnier with Justice League. Still, even with the added comedic moments, there’s a lot of darkness left in Justice League stemming from Snyder’s original vision. However, there’s reason to believe that Aquaman will be even more uplifting and less serious than Justice League.
After all, Vulture reported earlier this year that from the beginning, DC Comics CCO Geoff Johns has been advocating for the DC movies to be light, funny, and optimistic. For a while, he wasn’t really listened to. But after Batman v. Superman‘s failure, Johns was asked to co-run the DC films going forward.
By the time he was hired, Justice League was already filming. But Johns advocated for bringing in Whedon to rewrite and reshoot large chunks of the movie. He also worked on the script for Wonder Woman, widely considered to be the best and most hopeful of DC’s recent films.
Aquaman will be the first movie in the DC universe to be completely produced after Johns took control. He also has a “story by” credit on the film. Seeing as he’s always talking about the importance of optimism and heroism in these movies, we should expect that to be a focus.