While Warner Bros. and DC Comics have appeared to be dragging their feet in establishing a gallery of superhero movie franchises, the past few weeks have revealed the truth: the studio wasn't sitting on its hands, but planning a veritable explosion of characters and series in one fell swoop. The universe officially launches with Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, with solo films and a (two-part) Justice League movie uniting DC's greatest heroes.
It's fairly anti-climactic at this point to hear that yes, Aquaman is officially joining the movie universe, and yes, Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones, Conan the Barbarian) will be playing him. It's a relief to finally put the rumors to rest, but now knowing that Momoa will be joining the rest of the League as Arthur Curry, the casting will bring more questions than answers for many fans.
Cynics might view this as a case of stunt-casting through and through - casting an actor known to the masses for little more than 'being intimidating.' At this point anything is possible, but we think a closer look at Momoa may surprise the unfamiliar; not to mention prove that his version of Aquaman will be anything but predictable.
The Message it Sends
It would be hard to decide who would have a more uphill battle to big screen success - Aquaman or Wonder Woman - but it was never a secret that the nautical hero had become, for many, a bit of a punchline alongside the likes of Superman and Batman (credit both Super Friends and Family Guy for that). But what casual audiences may not know is that DC Comics already recognized the problem - and solved it.
There is no name in DC Comics more influential today than Geoff Johns, Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment and writer of both "Green Lantern: Rebirth" and "Flash: Rebirth"; two acclaimed reboots that each led to universe-spanning events, ultimately culminating in DC's company-wide New 52 reboot. It was an opportunity for every one of the publisher's 52 titles to make a fresh start, with a style and sensibility that could be directly tailored to contemporary audiences. Out of all the possible titles he could have chosen to relaunch himself, Johns set to work on Aquaman.
And it was clear in the the first pages that he - and DC - were out to prove a point.
With the first issue, Johns put the most well-known insults and assumptions into the mouths of characters on the page, and set the record straight: Aquaman does not "talk to fish," he does enjoy seafood, and is (nearly) as powerful and dangerous as any League member. At sea or on land, something as useless as a bullet won't hurt him - it just makes him angry.
The new Arthur Curry became a central figure in several "Justice League" arcs, reinforcing our belief that an Aquaman movie could be a certified blockbuster (aided by Marvel's lack of a seafaring hero, as Namor's rights rest with Universal), while cementing his role as an indisputable member of the League - in many ways, one of its most dangerous.
The risk of translating that new success to movie audiences is still a challenge, as convincing comic readers and winning over box office crowds are entirely different animals. So how do you convince people - in terms that a larger movie audience can immediately recognize - that the live-action Aquaman will be more than a walking joke? Easy: cast an actor that defies their expectations at first glance.
Jason Momoa's most well-known role is likely still that of 'Khal Drogo' on HBO's Game of Thrones;- a fantasy series that managed to capture the attention of a surprisingly diverse audience of all ages and tastes. Given that level of impact on the cultural zeitgeist, it's safe to assume that those following development of Batman V Superman would likely know Momoa, by face, if not by name.
It's entirely unclear how closely Snyder's version, presumed to debut in the first Justice League movie, will mimic the themes or elements of Johns' reboot, but both creators are after essentially the same goal: convince people the hero isn't who they thought he was (Snyder even called a Detroit radio station to make the case for Aquaman being a certified "badass"). In this case, Snyder can back up his claim by casting an actor the world knows as a bare-chested, muscle-bound warrior.
When compiling our list of potential Aquaman actors, we explained why casting a period/swords-and-sandals action star would be a wise move. And although Momoa wasn't on our list (few guessed DC and WB would really be targeting a tattooed, Hawaiian Aquaman), the casting shows DC is thinking along the same lines. And if the goal is to silence those who turn up their nose at the hero, then Momoa's casting at least questioning their assumptions about the direction a live-action incarnation would take.