It’s no secret that the D.C.E.U has been quite a disappointing cinematic franchise since it began in June, 2013 with the release of Man of Steel. The franchise was meant to be direct competition to the M.C.U which had already done 7 movies at the time, the most outstanding one being The Avengers; a film which at the end of its cinematic run, ended up grossing a staggering $1.5 billion at the Box Office.
Here’s a shocking stat for you. Presently, the D.C.E.U has produced 6 movies which have averagely grossed $4.9 billion; an amount that is only $400 million more than what the M.C.U has been able to achieve since mid 2013 with the Avengers movies alone (yes, I do consider Captain America: Civil War as an Avengers movie).
Whether it is W.B studio interference, badly written stories, miscasts, or basically just a speedy rush to keep up with the success of their rivals, there have been a lot of things that have not gone the way of the D.C film franchise. That said, the superhero origin stories, in my opinion, have been the franchise’s saving grace none more than it’s most recent addition, Aquaman. Yes, Wonder Woman was a good story and was a success amongst critics and fans alike nonetheless, I feel like the James Wan film had a lot more going for it. How so you ask? Well, here are a few reasons why.
1. THE UNDERDOG FACTOR.
Any audience member always wants to experience a compelling and relatable underdog moment in a movie that he or she is watching where a hero is at his/her absolute weakest and has to overcome the shortcomings for the greater good. Superman, despite his immense powers, had a convincing underdog moment in Man of Steel case in point the Smallville fight scene with Faora-Ul and Nam-Ek. However, I wasn’t totally convinced that he was the underdog because in as much as he didn’t have the kind of fight training that Zod’s soldiers had, he was still powerful enough to take the kicks and punches without showing considerable signs of pain e.g bleeding. Besides, you could argue that he was holding back in the fight and didn’t want to kill his fellow Kryptonians because he possesses a sense of morality, as Faora rightly put it.
As for Wonder Woman, she barely had an underdog moment in her film; the Amazonian princess had the situation under control all through. Even in the final battle with Ares, you could argue that she had the ultimate power within her all along to win the fight but didn’t put it to use up until Steve Trevor sacrificed himself.
In Aquaman’s case, he had almost no chance of stopping King Orm from waging war on the surface dwellers without the Trident of Neptune. He wasn’t just a underdog, he was the underdog, and the character knew it. There’s the scene where Orm defeats him in battle and is on the verge of ending him before Mera intervenes. We also have the scene in Sicily with Black Manta basically torturing Arthur with the help of his elite Atlantean weaponry. The two, I believe, should serve as good examples to prove how much physical suffering he had to endure before stepping up to become the ultimate hero.
2. A COMPELLING LOVE INTEREST.
The ‘damsel in distress’ factor in superhero movies has always been a given; almost all of them have a character that embody it. In most cases, the latter so happen to be the love interests of our beloved superheroes. In the D.C.E.U, Man of Steel and Batman Vs. Superman had one in Lois Lane. Even with the roles reversed, Wonder Woman had one as well with Steve Trevor though not entirely since there are a number of instances where he could hold his own, the most significant one being his act of valour in the 3rd Act.
Queen Mera from the Aquaman movie stands out from all the rest simply because she is not your average love interest. First off, she had convincing chemistry with Aquaman all through and you could tell the relationship they built was authentic leading up to that kiss in the final scenes. Also, the rebel Xebel princess fought her way out of a dangerous battle with the Atlantean elite commandos in Sicily on her own, saved Aquaman from near death at the hands of Orm and also saved Aquaman’s father after the tidal wave hit him and his son. Last but not least, she is the one that kick-started the mission to stop the imminent war and saw it through till the end.
3. BETTER C.G.I (COMPUTER GENERATED IMAGERY).
When you walk into a theatre to see a superhero film as an average audience member, you often have certain expectations of it from a visual effects perspective. For an audience member who grew up reading the comics, the expectations are indeed higher hence the need to have the most convincing C.G.I as possible in the film.
The fact that Warner Bros., according to an article in Variety, is developing an Aquaman spin-off horror movie in ‘The Trench’ just goes on to show you that the recent D.C movie did relatively well in the C.G.I department. Most of the underwater scenes were simply marvelous as well though a bit too colourful to my liking.
Man of Steel’s opening sequence at Krypton had some awesome visuals but all that awesomeness was diluted by other scenes that followed most notably that CGI heavy final fight between Supes and Zod.
4. BETTER ACTION SEQUENCES.
I strongly believe that anyone who has watched enough action movies in their lifetime will know how to tell apart a good action sequence from a not so good one. In my view, a good action sequence in a film is executed through a seamless collaboration between the actors, stuntmen, stunt coordinators and the cinematographer with the primary goal being to advance the story, themes or characterization. Additionally, in a hand-to-hand combat situation for instance, you’ll want the sequence to be as convincing as possible i.e well choreographed and not seem like a dance session between the protagonist and the antagonist as I often see in many Kung-Fu movies.
Of the 3 superhero origin films in the D.C.E.U, there’s no doubt in my mind that Aquaman had the better action sequences with better choreography. Man of Steel had some good ones case in point the Smallville fight scene nonetheless there was too much CGI with superhuman elements to it hence the action wasn’t as ‘savourable’. The Wonder Woman movie is guilty of this as well; way too many superhuman elements to make the action uninteresting and largely one sided i.e the Battle in the Village of Veld.
In Aquaman however, the superhuman elements were indeed present in the action but the movie was’t just showing them off to you like in Wonder Woman and Man of Steel. Take the Sicily scene for example, it blended the action with the superhuman/sci-fi elements really well; the action being more dominant. This was quite clever because the movie knew you were getting a whole lot of sci-fi with the underwater scenes alone and hence the need to balance it with more relatable sequences. Additionally, the fight sequences didn’t feel one sided. Aquaman was evenly matched with King Orm up until his trident was broken into two and later on Aquaman was evenly matched with Black Manta up until the villain’s jet-pack started malfunctioning.
In conclusion, I’d like to emphasize that these are just my thoughts and I invite comments from you guys on whether you agree with my views or not. Did I mention something irrelevant in relation to the subject matter? Did I leave out something that I shouldn’t have? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comment section below. This piece is a bit longer than I initially hoped it would be and I appreciate the fact that you have read this far. Thank you.