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Aquaman Is The Film DC Needed (But Not What It Deserves)

Mera Aquaman and Orm

Not unlike Batman in the Dark Knight trilogy, Aquaman has ended up becoming the film that DC needs, but not necessarily what it deserves. After a somewhat bumpy start - mostly critically rather than financially - to the DCEU, with films like Man of Steel, Suicide Squad, and Justice LeagueAquaman may well be a launching pad for the future of the franchise.

The concept of bringing Aquaman to the big screen has rarely been taken seriously prior to the current iteration. Between a failed attempt in the early 2000s and the fake Aquaman film from James Cameron in the HBO series Entourage, Arthur Curry wasn't getting quite as much respect in realm of superhero adaptations - especially compared to characters like Batman and Superman. The fact that his reputation revolved around the ability to speak with fish certainly didn't help either. Now, the tides have turned.

Related: Aquaman's Biggest Unanswered Questions

Following its critical and box office success, Aquaman is on its way to become one of the most successful movies in the DCEU, alongside Wonder Woman. Despite initial concerns - mostly regarding whether its tonal shift from earlier DCEU films would work, as well as whether or not audiences would embrace Arthur as a leading man - Aquaman has surpassed expectations. How it managed to pull off its growing successes, as well as what sort of effect it'll have on the future of the DCEU, are just two elements of how this DC underdog catapulted itself to the top.

Warner Bros. is Learning from Past DCEU Mistakes

DCEU upcoming Movies

"Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up." This is the running quote (and theme) in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, and even though those movies aren't canon within the current DCEU, the sentiment still applies. When Zack Snyder became attached to the DCEU as the franchise's creative navigator, he was bringing to the table - for better or worse - a style that audiences had become familiar with with films like Watchmen, 300, and Sucker Punch. He was brought aboard to spearhead a new era in DC Comics adaptations, and as inspired as his approach might have seemed, it didn't land quite as well as fans, studios, or even the overall general audience might have liked.

As a kind of antithesis to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Snyder's DCEU was ultimately criticized for its dour approach to the characters and storylines, rushed, and uncoordinated planning (especially compared to the noticeably more structured MCU), and seemingly underdeveloped direction overall. From an artistic standpoint, the criticisms were subjective; but, statistically speaking, the DCEU wasn't nearly as successful as it needed to be, though most of the movies were still in the green. So, like any product, it needed an overhaul, and to keep the DCEU afloat, Warner Bros. needed to make waves with an all-out redesign.

Related: DCEU Complete Movie Timeline (From Man of Steel To Aquaman)

With Aquaman, it's clear that Warner Bros. is far more interested in reading the room, so to speak, than trying to distinguish itself from the competition. This is precisely why director James Wan has ditched the tone of earlier DCEU films (save for Wonder Woman, which more or less began the transition towards a more realized - if not more traditional - direction) in exchange for a campier tone, a more familiar aesthetic, and even old-fashioned happy endings.

The DCEU is Embracing the MCU’s Success

Iron Man Hulk Captain America Hawkeye Thor and Black Widow in The Avengers

It's never easy admitting to a mistake - especially when said mistake costs hundreds of millions of dollars. So, for that, Warner Bros. deserves credit for not only not jumping ship and "rebooting" the DCEU after Justice League failed to meet expectations, but for the willingness to pull a creative 180 degrees, reroute their trajectory, and essentially change their approach entirely for a second round comeback.

Warner Bros. and Snyder initially wanted to set the DCEU apart from the MCU so much so that it differed to a fault. (This is evident with Snyder's five-movie DCEU plan.) While their intentions might have been admirable, they ultimately alienated audiences, turning what should have been a downward slope towards success into an uphill battle. So, considering that Marvel Studios already mastered the comics adaptation formula (its success speaks for itself), Warner Bros. isn't as precious with their unique appeal as they were initially. The DCEU is evidently less worried about its identity than it is about widening its mainstream appeal - which might seem disheartening from one angle, but is ultimately more conducive to the DCEU's overall success and survival.

Related: How Aquaman Impacts the Chances for a Justice League Snyder Cut

That said, adhering to an MCU-style formula doesn't make Aquaman and all post-Aquaman movies within the DCEU sellouts. They're simply adhering to a more user-friendly and familiar template. And, in fact, this very approach is itself just the foundation of how Aquaman has singlehandedly helped reshape the DCEU's entire future.

Page 2 of 2: How Aquaman Is Changing The DCEU's Future

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Key Release Dates
  • Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020) release date: Feb 07, 2020
  • Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019
  • Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
  • Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
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