No, I’m not joking.
Over the last few years, Aquaman has become something of a punching bag for the rest of the comic book community. Whether it’s questions about his sexuality, jokes about his powers, or criticism regarding his costume, no one seems to believe that his story will ever make it to the silver screen. But if Entourage has taught us anything, Hollywood would be wise to give the lost son of Atlantis his moment in the sun.
For a studio, financing a superhero movie is a lot like playing Texas Hold’em. Each potential property is a set of hole cards. For this example, let’s say Batman is like a pair of aces, Superman a pair of kings, Wonder Woman a set of queens, and so forth. When you have a strong hand in poker, it’s easy to throw a lot of early money into the pot. In fact, you want to because the more money you put in…the better chance you have of getting money back. So coupling a solid hand with a favorable flop (a good script, strong cast, and positive buzz), and you’ve got a pretty good chance of making a financially sound franchise. However, ask any good poker player and they’ll spin a dozen examples of losing it all holding “Big Slim” (ace/king). You catch a bad flop (your script sucks, the fan boys hate your lead, and the villain’s non-existent) and sometimes there just isn’t a card left in the deck that will save you.
To me, Aquaman is like ten-nine suited. It’s not a hand everybody plays but combine it with just the right flop (queen, jack, eight) and you’ll be racking in the doe while people applaud your savvy poker skills. Unfortunately, a lot has to fall in your favor for it to succeed.
Logistically, a live-action Aquaman movie has dozens of hurdles standing between it and the red carpet. First and foremost, water-based movies are typically very expensive and potentially dangerous. (If you don’t believe me, watch the behind-the-scenes documentary on the Abyss). Also, this is an action movie. Have you ever seen a fight sequence underwater? Exactly. People don’t move real quick in it and they have an even harder time talking. In order for it to work, you have to find an economically sound way to base the film in reality. A problem many smart people have attempted to solve and one I did not have an answer to… until I saw Beowulf.
When I first heard the notion of doing an entire film in photo-realistic motion capture 3-D, I laughed. There’s no way you could make it work with people. Animals? Sure. Fairy tale creatures? Why not. But People? They won’t feel real. There eyes will be all lifeless and no one will buy it. So when I sat down to watch the movie, I was skeptical. Ten minutes in… I was hooked. The things they could do with the camera. The creatures. The size of the world. It was epic. It literally felt like there was no place you couldn’t go with this technology. It was amazing. And the minute Beowulf fought those sea creatures… there it was. The answer on how to film Aquaman.
Now, all I needed was a story.
An aged lighthouse sits at the base of a jagged coastline. A storm rages across the sea as TOM CURRY (30) mans his post, peering out into the night. Through the gusting rain and flashing bolts of lighting, Tom catches sight of a small boat bobbing amongst the waves. He recognizes it and races down the steps and onto the coast. He staggers along a wobbly dock and dives into a small dingy. This man must be suicidal to brave this severe a storm in such a little boat. He paddles, closer and closer to the capsizing vessel. Something seems to be tearing it open from the inside out. As the wreckage begins to go down, Tom spots someone floating in the water. A body. A person. He dives into the water, pushing past the broken vessel and finds… a YOUNG BOY. No more than three. Unconscious, he pulls the boy into his arms. He looks around for any other survivors… but with the wreckage sinking around him, he swims back towards the surface. He never sees the large tentacles slipping back into the darkness below. Back in the boat, Tom performs CPR on the boy… but it doesn’t look like the child will survive. He was underwater for too long. Until- he awakens, coughing up water. Tom looks down at the boy, thankful. He paddles the boat back to shore… as the storm mysteriously dissipates around them.
Fifteen years later, Arthur Curry has grown into a strong, smart and empathetic young man. He has a few scattered friends but seems to prefer the solitude of the ocean over a crowded beach party. He has always shared a solid relationship with father, but it is one that has become strained as of late due to Arthur’s desire to forgo college and stay on at the lighthouse to carry on the family legacy. Tom would prefer his son get as far from this place as possible and make something of his life, but Arthur can not leave. He has an unexplained attachment to this place, whether it nightmares about a tentacled creature waiting in the deep or the voices that whisper to him each time he ventures into the ocean waters.
After another disagreement with his father about his future, Arthur is dragged to a local beach party by one of his friends. Through the excess of alcohol and debauchery, Arthur finds himself drawn to a beautiful young girl staring at him through the masses. Her name is MERA and she’s like nothing he’s ever seen before. Their connection is undeniable but just as it reaches an apex, she leaves him with these last words. “I will see you again, Orin.”
Haunted by her departure, Arthur is unable to focus. It’s as if she is in his blood. Tom notices the difference in his son, but his words are of little consequence. Finally, after several days, she shows up on the beach… just like that. Arthur begs her to tell him why she called him “Orin”, but she will not. She must show him instead. Mera takes Arthur into the water and dives down with him. However, Arthur begins to panic as he runs out of air. Mera, on the other hand is calm. She holds his hand…soothing him until-
Arthur can hear her thoughts in his head. “Breath. You can do it. You just have to try. Breath. Trust me, Orin.” In a massive panic, Arthur attempts to breathe underwater… and he can. It’s a miracle. Mera leads him by the hand deeper and deeper into the ocean until- she takes him to a mysterious cove filled with wondrous creatures. Things he’s never seen before. Glowing and spiraling animals. Species never seen before by man. It’s a new world. However, Mera soon disappears and leaves Arthur to fend for himself. As he searches for her, a large black tentacled monster emerges and attacks him. Arthur swims and evades, each moment drawing closer to his last until—He DEMANDS IT TO STOP!
And it does. He can control it. Mera returns and leads him back to the surface.
Once there, Arthur confronts her again. Who is she? What does she want? She cannot tell him everything yet, only that she was sent to bring him home. Where is home? “Ask your father.”
Arthur confronts Tom and he does not deny it. He is not Orin’s father. He tells Arthur how he knew his mother and how she died to save him. Tom cannot stop his son from going with Mera but he can give him a warning. His mother was running from something.
The next day, Mera arrives at the lighthouse in a small boat. Arthur leaps aboard and the two throttle out into the ocean as Tom watches his son leave. Once in the middle of the ocean, Mera drops anchor and the two leap into the water. She warns him that they are going deep. Deeper than he’s ever gone before… but he needs to trust her. He does.
Thousands of years ago, Atlantis was the first colony established on Earth by an advanced alien race. Since their initial arrival, they’d lived in harmony with the humans: teaching, hunting, and breeding with us, until we rose up against them out of fear. With their way home destroyed and facing certain death at the hands of the human’s superior numbers, they escaped into the only place they would not be followed. The deep recesses of the ocean. With their organic-based technology, they cultivated and crafted the creatures of the sea to provide for their survival. And it is here they have remained, hidden and safe from the rest of the world.
Once they’ve descended deep enough, Mera tells Arthur to open the gate to their world. Although he claims not to be able to, she continues to push him. Finally, he makes the attempt and with only his mind, the gates part… and Atlantis unfolds before him.
This underwater world is incredible. Spiraling structures of light seem to have been grown out of the ocean floor. Sea creatures of all shapes and sizes swim along. It’s a living breathing city miles long. Mera leads him through the menagerie and directly to the largest structure at its center. They quickly enter the main palace where Arthur will meet the man who sent for him. His father, the king.
Nearly sixty years old, Atlan has been the king of Atlantis since he was but a boy. Born with the mental ability to control and manipulate the creatures of the sea, his extraordinary ability made him of “royal” blood and destined to rule. He welcomes the return of his son with open arms and laments the unfortunate death of his mother, Atlanna. He thought he’d lost his entire family that day… but thankfully one has been returned to him. Arthur is overcome with gratitude and feels at home for the first time in his life.
Unfortunately, not all of Atlan’s advisors are happy to see the return of Prince Orin (His rightful Atlantian name). VULKO, Atlan’s chief advisor, thinks the return of a surface dweller to the kingdom is a bad omen and question’s whether Arthur is of legitimate blood. A test is given… and Arthur responds by showing the ability to control many of the massive sea creatures. Vulko falls silent and King Atlan rejoices. His son has returned.
PRINCE OR PRISONER
Growing closer to both Atlan and Mera each day, Arthur is still haunted by dark dreams and whispering voices. Something is wrong. Despite their hospitality, it isn’t long before Arthur wishes to return to the surface. But his attempts are slyly circumvented. He finally confides in Mera for help… but just as it looks like he will be able to leave, she betrays him.
Arthur awakens to find himself locked in a holding cell with Vulko. Confused and angered with his situation, Arthur screams at the walls until Vulko tells him that he reminds him of his mother. Vulko knew Atlanna well.
THE STORY OF ATLANNA
When Atlan became king, he declared that Atlantis would stay neutral and forbid any of his people from journeying to the surface world. It wasn’t long after that he was arranged to marry a beautiful young girl with “royal” blood. Her name was Atlanna and although she did not love him, she consented to do her duty. But being a bit of a rebel, she frequently ventured out to explore and examine the surface. It wasn’t long before she stumbled upon a young man tending a lighthouse. She fell in love with him and their affair produced a child named Orin. Although she hid the boy’s true lineage from her husband, he eventually found out and had her sentenced to death. Vulko helped her escape with the child, but Atlan’s powers reached too far and it appeared that both Atlanna and her son Orin were killed.
Due to Atlanna’s betrayal, Atlan developed a deep hatred for the surface. It was at this point that he began to grow an army of creatures who were not bound to the water and that could help him conquer the surface once and for all. After fifteen years of preparation, his army was nearly complete… but his powers were dwindling. Due to his age, he was unable to control them. He was unsure of what to do… until someone discovered Orin.
Upon Orin’s return, Atlan’s powers have begun to replenish. His plan for revenge is nearly at hand.
With Vulko and Mera’s help, Arthur manages to escape his captors and confront the first wave of Atlan’s attack. Although the humans send waves of troops, tanks, and plans, these incredible sea creatures are nearly unbeatable. Arthur begins to use his control to send them after one another. Feeling his prescience, Atlan sends his creatures after Arthur. It’s a chase and fight to the death. Finally, cutting through the middle men, Arthur and Atlan square off in a climactic fistacuffs. Atlan is more experienced but Arthur is raw talent… and he defeats Atlan, sending him to his death.
With the battle won, Arthur sends the Atlantian forces back into the ocean and ends the war. However, instead of taking over the thrown in Atlantis, Arthur relinquishes it to Vulko. Many of the Atlantians still desire the power of the surface world so Arthur will remain on land, maintaining the piece between the two worlds. Although he is a child of both, he is forever the outsider. The film concludes with Arthur standing at the lighthouse, keeping watch until he is needed again.
Hit me back. Until next time…