WB/DC seems to have listened to fans after Batman v Superman about the DCEU’s dark and dour atmosphere and messages. As Man Of Steel veered away from Clark Kent and closer to Kal-El, less Man and more Super, the film turned off a lot of average movies goers, especially those who were looking for a similar vibe to the Marvel Studios movies. But are they going too far towards Marvel with their next release Aquaman? Fans see a few similarities between Aquaman and Marvel Studios’ Black Panther. Can we tell how similar the movies are before one is released? And will they be similar enough to hurt Aquaman‘s tickets sales?
With Wonder Woman and Justice League, WB/DC gave us a lighter view of the characters, brought Superman more in line with the character people expected from the first Snyder film, and made the films a bit more family friendly. While not every movie needs to be geared towards families, there’s little doubt that family movies are where the money is and WB/DC want to follow the money.
Following in the footsteps of Black Panther wouldn’t be a bad idea if you want money. The film grossed $1.3 billion worldwide. None of the new DCEU movies have broken a billion dollars. Hardcore Snyder fans don’t want a lighter themed franchise, but the smart company is going to move in the direction of the money.
But is Aquaman that similar to Black Panther? There are some vague similarities in plot, but the core of the characters are very different. And it’s unfair to Aquaman to judge the film’s similarities to any other film until it’s release in December.
Two reluctant kings fight against antagonists that hold a mirror to their pasts and what mind have been as they try to claim what’s rightfully theirs.
Yes, Killmonger was an evil version of Black Panther, and Orm, Ocean Master, is more or less the evil version of Aquaman, but that’s the usual formula for superhero movies. Nearly every single-character franchise starts off fighting an evil version of themselves. Iron Man fought Ironmonger. Thor fought Loki. Ant-Man fought Yellow Jacket. Hulk fought Abomination. Superman fought Zod. Captain America fights the Red Skull. These bad guys aren’t the only villains for these characters to fight, but we learn most about our heroes by the way they handle the darkest versions of themselves. It’s a great way to start a film franchise and Aquaman is no different.
Black Panther was steeped in a racially-charged message, whereas Aquaman doesn’t have, even with a POC playing him. Aquaman‘s story is more about broken families, accepting responsibility for what came before you even if you don’t accept the blame, and finding that missing piece to the puzzle that is You. That doesn’t mean there can’t be a message about race, that the differences between Arthur Curry and his mother’s family can’t be explored, but that it’s not the central focus of the character’s source material. But Black Panther always knew who his family was. While both characters have to deal with the sins of their parents, they do so for very different reasons.
Even if you flipped the scripts and claimed Aquaman was the Killmonger of his story, the similarities are still only superficial. We can’t really talk on the circumstances behind Arthur’s parent’s union or why his mother left him behind yet. But Arthur’s differences from his mother’s people are what will make him the king they need, while Killmonger’s differences from his father’s people are what splintered them and lead to his downfall. Killmonger wasn’t looking for family or a place to belong or for some missing piece of himself. There was no emotional attachment to anything from Wakanda for Killmonger – it was all about revenge and reparations. Even if we make the assumption that something happens to Arthur’s mother that he ends up getting revenge for, it still doesn’t appear to be a driving force for the character.
More trailers and more information is likely to come out between now and December, but to call Aquaman DC’s version of Black Panther is disingenuous to both movies. Aquaman needs to be given the chance to stand on its own and mean what it needs to mean to those who need the movie’s message. And Black Panther’s importance to its fans shouldn’t be reduced. It’s akin to calling Black Panther a live action Lion King. There are vague similarities, but once you break the surface, the similarities don’t hold up.
Are you looking forward to Aquaman? Do you think the films look more lighthearted than previous DCEU films? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on Facebook or Twitter!