WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Justice League
Aquaman may talk to fish in the comics, but the new superpowers he gets in the Justice League movie mean those days are over. To say that the powers and abilities used by Jason Momoa's character are a break from the comics could prove to be a massive understatement, and making even more action and heroics possible in the DCEU. So even if Justice League reshoots erased Aquaman's story, the explanation and demonstration of his water-based powers means fans of DC mythology have plenty to discuss. Especially since some of those powers seem to be lifted from his longtime partner, Mera.
It was never a secret that Zack Snyder wanted to silence the haters and make Aquaman a star of the DCEU's future. So when the first trailer showed Bruce Wayne asking the king of Atlantis if he really "talks to fish," his angry response showed this Aquaman wasn't to be teased. While also hinting that his most iconic power - the ability to command fish - was too silly to work in a movie.
The good news is that Aquaman's power over the sea is confirmed in Justice League. The most exciting news is that the movie version explains his powers are much, much greater.
He Doesn't 'Talk To Fish' - Well, Not Exactly
Bruce raises the issue later in the film (in a much more respectable way), when Arthur offers to take note of the ocean's tides to help track Steppenwolf's mysterious plans. Asking if he can, in any way, 'talk' to marine life, Arthur breaks from the DC Comics canon. On the comic book page, Arthur is able to mentally command sea life to do as he wishes, on a primal, instinctual level (most lack the intelligence to even understand they're being manipulated).
In the movies, Arthur never calls upon massive sharks to offer support, or swarm Steppenwolf with a school of fish. But that doesn't mean he couldn't if he wanted to: as he explains to Bruce, "the water does the talking." And pulling on that fictional thread of Arthur's powers affecting the water, not the life within it... the result is an explanation for Aquaman's powers that some may actually find more compelling than the comic version.
If that line of dialogue was all we had to go on, then it would be possible to interpret Arthur's connection to water to the line that follows - in which he assures Bruce that if "the currents change" he will alert him. In other words, brushing aside the notion of talking to fish at all, and assuring Bruce that the water itself will give any information they need. But this line isn't all fans have to go on, since Arthur Curry is shown to have significant control over water on more than one occasion.
Aquaman's Control Over Water is New
The tremendous feat of smashing his tride-- sorry, quindent into the concrete of an underwater tunnel and holding thousands of gallons of water at bay was spoiled in Justice League marketing. But the trailer and TV spots of Arthur roaring a war cry to hold back the tide didn't reveal everything.
When slamming down his forked weapon, it isn't the impact that sends a shockwave in the opposite direction, nor is it a clear demonstration of mystical power contained in the weapon itself. It gives under the pressure - like Arthur's own feet - as he appears to will the waters away from himself. Up, out, and back, until the pressure is too strong for him to bear. That might seem like a standard power for a superhero of the sea, but make no mistake: the Aquaman of DC Comics can't do any of that.
In fact, that's exactly the kind of superpower that only Mera, Arthur Curry's partner and eventual wife can wield. As a resident of Xebel, and not Atlantis, Mera is able to manipulate water into hard constructs, or move entire swells if the need arises. That power over water (hint, hint) is also what allows her to swim at immense speeds without showing any exertion. She wills the water to move her, expending as little physical energy as Superman would when flying through the sky (or water, we suppose). Now, Aquaman seems to do the same...
New Mythology & Powers For All Atlanteans?
From the looks of it, Zack Snyder may have granted Aquaman the skills for simplicity's sake, anchoring him as a serious aquatic powerhouse among the larger Justice League. It may seem unfair, given that water control is kind of Mera's thing, but the reasons for it are clear. In the comics, as any fan of Aquaman is quick to point out, Arthur Curry and soldiers of Atlantis are almost as strong as Superman. Almost as tough, almost as athletic, and in almost all ways, comparable as a superhuman species. But when translating that fact to film, it quickly shifts from distinguishing Aquaman to... well, making him seem just like Superman and Wonder Woman. Respectable, sure, but not nearly as interesting - unless his link to Atlantis and the ocean can set him apart.
Arthur makes a reference to wars between the Amazons and Atlantis, and Diana obviously knows about the underwater kingdom. So when she rushes to protect Arthur from falling debris in the film's final act - highlighting the fact that his strength and durability aren't spoken to or established in the rest of the film - it suggests Aquaman's strength and fortitude emphasize attacks, not necessarily defense. That's all well and good for the action-packed Justice League, but when Arthur enters the spotlight in James Wan's solo Aquaman movie, the powers he's shown in the team-up could mean big changes for the mythology of DC's Atlantis.
Will his power over the water be equally shared among all denizens of Atlantis? Probably not, even if the Aquaman movie teaser footage showed Atlantean soldiers turning sharks into transporation. Will Mera share his unique gift? We certainly hope so. Amber Heard may only make a small appearance in League, but Mera's ability to create crushing waves and vacuums still seems to be beyond Arthur's talents. Before he gains whatever boosts or greater mastery are reserved for the true King of Atlantis, of course.
Whether or not he retains his edge by commanding colossal sea life, or "letting the water do the talking"... that's a surprise worth waiting for. Let's just forget about Aquaman and Mera's conversation bubble.
- Justice League (2017) release date: Nov 17, 2017