Justice League may have disappointed critics around the world, but it did offer the audience their first proper taste of Ezra Miller’s The Flash, Ray Fisher’s Cyborg and Jason Momoa’s Aquaman. Sadly, the latter’s character left a lot to be desired.
That’s because Aquaman came across more like an Aquabro, as Momoa’s interpretation of Arthur Curry, to put it bluntly, acted like a bit of a misogynistic douchebag. From pretty much the minute we were introduced to the seafaring hero – whose home has changed from Amnesty Bay in Maine to some Scandinavian sea town – it’s clear he doesn’t really care about the world, or the people in it, and would rather spend his time heavy drinking and saving the occasional fisherman than joining Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and his superhero dream team.
That attitude could have been forgiven if Arthur hadn’t acted so contemptibly to two of the female characters in the film. When Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) – the movie’s Big Bad – attacks Atlantis, Arthur dives down to help but both he and Mera (Amber Heard), seemingly the underwater city’s acting ruler, fail to stop him getting what he wants. At this point we see Aquaman acting rather obnoxious towards his future love interest as he moans about his mother, Queen Atlanna and insults her and the city. Backstory-wise, Arthur is the son of the former ruler of Atlantis and was “abandoned” to live on dryland by his mother, according to Mera, in order to protect him from those who would want to destroy him.
Arthur clearly has a chip on his shoulder about it and hates the Atlanteans just as much as he hates humans who are destroying the planet, and acts like a dude-bro throughout his interaction with Mera until he finally steps up to save the world. Well, after he demands some armour and his quindent from her.
Later, as the Justice League discuss their plan of action, Aquaman shows his frustratingly snarky side as he lists his team’s skills and their likelihood of winning this final battle against Steppenwolf. When it comes to Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) Arthur says “well you’re just gorgeous” before saying something along the lines of, “our people might have their differences but I would totally bang you, Diana.” Of course, these aren’t his exact words but that was the basic implication, which he offered rather creepily because he was sat on Diana’s Lasso of Truth.
The lasso then makes him reveal some his darkest fears, which helps to show that underneath the bravado is a scared little Aquaboy, but it wasn’t really enough to improve his overall impression on the movie – something Momoa was obviously aware of.
“It may be tough for a lot of fans to watch what they’re gonna see, how I portray him,” he told Comic Book Movies, “but you gotta wait until we get to the solo movie to really know.
Momoa continued: “He doesn’t believe in himself, he doesn’t know what to do with the powers he has. He’s going through tons of loss. He hates Atlanteans. The fact that people are calling him ‘Aquaman’ right now — he couldn’t give two s***s about anything Atlantean. So he’s really not quite there yet.”
That excuse would have worked if he was the only character experiencing loss. Victor Stone was literally killed and then turned into a machine by his father, using alien technology, but he’s not drowning his sorrows at every opportunity, objectifying his teammates and making the same lame jokes.
This made the interaction with Wonder Woman so jarring as her solo movie established a narrative that saw the misogyny towards women called out and defeated. The fact that Aquaman, a hero, was objectifying her just didn’t fit with the new tone of the franchise. It wasn’t just Aquaman who was guilty of sexualising Diana; there’s that awkward moment when The Flash lands on her during the final fight and the continued hints at a romance with Bruce Wayne. Positioning Wonder Woman as an object of desire seems to be the biggest contribution that Joss Whedon made to the movie.
But Whedon’s involvement also meant that a lot of Aquaman’s scenes that were seen in the marketing were left on the cutting room floor, and, by doing so he failed to provide context for the hero’s obnoxious attitude. Willem Dafoe’s Vulko was in Zack Snyder’s original cut of the film but he was missing from the final theatrical edit.
“What Zack and I did, we were kind of trying to establish that he was taken down there as a boy, and he was an outcast, he was a half-breed,” Momoa told Gamespot. “And he was built up as a young boy because he was fed all these ideas by Vulko – that he was the rightful king.
He added: “And he gets down there and he’s a half breed, he’s impure, and I’m just made to feel like I’m this disease. So after that, I was like, ‘F*** you, f*** you, I’m on my own.’”
This certainly explains Aquaman’s dude-bro attitude but without the context it makes the hero come across in a less than flattering light.
So hopefully, Momoa is right and we’ll see a whole new side to Arthur Curry in his solo movie – written by Will Beall and directed by James Wan – that will see him turned into a more well-rounded, intelligent and empathic character. And just maybe, by December 21, 2018, Justice League’s weakest character will become its strongest.
Justice League is in cinemas now.