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Leonardo DiCaprio Planning to Make a Splash as Aquaman?

Well, it’s been a busy week for Leonardo DiCaprio. First his production company snaps up the rights to make a Twilight Zone movie. And now the word on the street suggests that his company, Appian Way, has picked up the rights to develop an Aquaman movie with Warner Brothers. Though that doesn’t necessarily mean anything, it does indicate that DiCaprio may be interested in taking up the mantle of the character. Even if he isn’t, it does mean that an Aquaman movie is coming closer to happening.

aquaman

Somehow I doubt it's smooth sailing ahead...

I can see myself enraging a whole heap of Aquaman fans by saying this, but… really? Aquaman? The dude who lives at the bottom of the ocean and talks to fishes? Aquaman has always been a bit of niche character – the guy who even geeks make fun of. Sure, maybe he’s had an occasional good run in the comic books, he’s still very much a D-Lister and one who the general audience are most likely to recognise from the spoof movie in Entourage rather than any comic book or storyline.

The concept does have the potential to be an interesting project – perhaps more interesting than most adaptations – but I doubt it. General movie audiences have not reacted well to niche comic book properties (because they don’t really make fantastic movies, look at Constantine, Punisher: Warzone, Ghost Rider, Daredevil, Electra– arguably the most successful niche property was Watchmen, and even then it didn’t set the box office alight). Couple that with the fact that most of Aquaman’s pop culture awareness comes from a television show which revels in his ridiculousness, and I don’t see the project working.

In fairness, DiCaprio is generally fairly shrewd in picking his roles and his projects. I don’t think he’d be banking on this if he didn’t think it had potential. He hasn’t really been a massive box office star since Titanic, preferring critical success and relatively small-scale films, so maybe he isn’t hoping to make a massive commercial hit (though it would seem that there are better choices for adapting prestige films – A History of Violence and Road to Perdition worked well as comic-to-screen adaptations that garnered critical and awards-season success). Still, it’ll take a lot of power to pull of the film as either a credible drama or blockbuster.

What’s quite possible is that DiCaprio is horse-trading for something he wants more. Darren Aaronfski famously took an adaptation of Batman: Year One under his wing in order to get the leverage to make The Fountain. Maybe DiCaprio is doing something similar here, helping Warner Brothers with Aquaman in return for something he wants to do.

Still, to bring me back to my original point… Aquaman? There are dozens of more well-known and, frankly, better respected characters in the DC pantheon for Warner Brothers to play with. Sure, the Batman franchise may be stalled at the moment, but there’s a now a reason for DC Comics to push ahead with Superman. With a Green Lantern movie in development, now may be the time to kick-start that Flash movie we’ve been hearing murmurs about. Wonder Woman is in desperate need of being reintroduced on the big screen, and remains the only one of the “big three” not to have her own franchise.

For those unfamiliar with the character Aquaman isn’t one of those easy-to-example characters like Batman, Superman, Spiderman, The Flash, The X-Men or Green Lantern. He’s had about half-a-dozen different origins over the years – he’s been a fully-human son of an explorer, part-Atlantean, completely Atlantean. He’s been king of the undersea domain, full-time Justice League member (and leader) and also has abandoned all these positions at various points (and has occasionally reclaimed them). At the moment, the “original” Aquaman is dead, having effectively sold his soul to save his people and was reduced to an ominous-sounding Dweller of the Deep, only to be replaced by a human granted dominion over the sea (similar to his original origin). As you can imagine, that’s quite a mess and there’s a huge difference between the various depictions of the character – he can’t really be summated in a sentence in the same way other heroes can. I imagine he’ll be a heck of a character to adapt and distill, not that I don’t think it can be done. It’ll just be tough.

Those with a fondness of the character point out that he polices 70% of the world’s surface; they also observe that he is a fairly large part of the Justice League (and presumably any Warner Brothers movie based up on it). This is true – but he is also most associated with the franchise’s Dork Age. Aquaman booted the more famous members of the League – Batman, Superman, etc. – off the team because they tended to be busy and then moved the Justice League off their space-age satellite and into a warehouse in Detroit. I get what the writers were attempting – to turn the series in a launchpad for lesser-known characters and to return a ‘common touch’ to the team, but it didn’t work. Looking at the history of the character, it seems to be a case of moving in one new direction and then changing when it becomes evident that that particular style doesn’t work. Aquaman is a character in search of a direction. There is no definitive version of the character that lends itself to being distilled to the silver screen.

Arguably Aquaman's most successful iteration...

Arguably Aquaman's most successful iteration...

Just to give you an idea of the kind of messed-up complex, interwound continuity the character seems to thrive on – and the writers of the movie would have to detangle – the most successful and popular iteration of the character was arguably the 1990 run by author Peter David. That’s pretty cool – David is a very good genre writer. The problem is that the arc involved Aquaman having his had eaten by pirhannas, replacing it with a harpoon gun (which he later upgraded) and had him eschew his traditional look (he scrapped the costume and grew his hair longa nd had a beard). It worked on the page very well, but I don’t think it’s a development that will transition well to the screen.

Still, I guess I felt the same way about Marvel’s Thor when it was announced. A movie featuring a low-tier hero relatively unknown (as a comic book character) outside nerd-dom. However, Kenneth Branagh has (slowly, mind you) managed to arouse my interest in the project. It’s by no means on my must-see list, but I am somewhat less negative about the idea now than I was when it was first announced. Perhaps Leo will have the same effect on me over this.

I don’t know, maybe this comic book adaptation craze is getting out of hand. Or maybe this is one of those little news stories that won’t ever go anywhere. Still, it peaked my interest this morning.

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4 Responses

  1. […] if DC Comics can seriously propose an Aquaman movie, […]

  2. Pssh, this movie won’t go anywhere; I’m currently making my OWN re-imagining of the Aquaman mythology, & without spoiling anything, it’ll be a much, much bigger splash than anything Warner Bros. can trench up from the ocean floor. It is an independent film, written in the same style as the classic era of american film from the late 70’s. Get ready, for a tidal wave’s approaching….

  3. Meanwhile, in the not so distant future… https://www.digitalspy.com/movies/a871093/aquaman-movie-dc-avengers-infinity-war-record/

    “Pssh…”

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