There’s nothing wrong with Warner Bros’ Aquaman strategy


Perhaps seeking inspiration from one of their most recent successful franchises, Warner Bros. is pitting two screenwriters against each other for the right to have their treatment used for the live-action Aquaman movie and a lot of folks aren’t happy about it. I think it’s great for all of us who want to see the best version of Aquaman brought to the big screen.
Kurt Johnstad, whose most acclaimed work of his three films thus far is 300 and 300: Rise of an Empire is competing against Will Beall, the Castle writer whose first film was the underwhelming Gangster Squad.

But in this case, competition is great and here’s just a few of the reasons why:

Aquaman fish army

Aquaman is a tricky character to pin down

While most characters need a massive universe-spanning crisis to warrant a relaunch, Aquaman’s comic book run has been stopped and started more than any top-tier DC hero not named Hawkman. If some of DC’s best including Peter David, Erik Larsen, Dan Jurgens and Will Pfeifer couldn’t sustain the book for decades, it’s clear Aquaman is a lot more challenging than letting another Rogue run loose in Gotham.

If anything it’s amazing WB was able to narrow the potential screenwriters to just two.

Warner Bros. doesn’t want another superhero bomb 

Back in 1984, Helen Slater’s Supergirl bombed terribly bringing in a measly $13 million from its pedestrian $35 million budget. Keanu Reeve’s Constantine had a $100 budget, yet only brought in $75 million. Catwoman Sharon Stone and Halle Berry

Halle Berry’s Catwoman fared even worse earning an awful $40 million despite a +$100 million budget. Green Lantern’s $116 million gross sounds better until you realize it cost $200 million to make.

Even the completely irredeemable Batman & Robin managed to cross $100 million and it nearly killed off the comic book movie genre!

With so much money riding on these films, another non-Superman/Batman bust could derail legitimate WB attempts at starting its own comic book movie universe just from a worthwhile investment perspective.

Aquaman is an essential Justice League set-up film

aquaman super-friendsLike Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk and especially Thor, Aquaman absolutely has to be done correctly. Had Thor came across too goofy or silly, it would have been a huge hit to The Avengers build-up. Audiences already have a preconceived notion that Aquaman is the loser who talks to fish while Superman and Batman get the job done.

Breaking that unfair mindset is partly why Jason Momoa was (supposedly) cast as opposed to say a Alexander Skarsgård. Momoa isn’t a miracle worker — see Conan the Barbarian — so a strong script that will forever change people’s perception of Aquaman is vital so we don’t find ourselves asking why Aquaman didn’t make the cut for Justice League.

aquaman saving batman

Who has the edge?

A brawny, gladiator style king of the sea does seem to give Johnstad the advantage. You’ve gotta figure his treatment could essentially be ‘Think 300 … underwater!’ Beall is likely the dark horse, but he may be inspired to create something no one has ever considered with the character…

In the end, audiences are going to be the ones to benefit from the stronger Aquaman script getting the green light and hopefully we’ll have another solid building block toward Justice League.


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  • Aside from me not being a fan of the character, I like the strategy. Of course, the way just about everything with DC Films works, the implementation is screwed up. Why pit two people against each other who are both tied to movies with bad scripts? Does anyone think Gangster Squad or either of the 300 movies were well written? If you’re going to do something like this, at least pick people who have proven to be good at their craft.

  • Ben

    I think it’s a good idea too. The alternative is one does a poor job and the other rewrites or starts a new screenplay anyway. I also think Mamoa is a great choice and Aquaman is a decent hero, if he’s presented more like a reluctant king of the sea than a weedy fish-guy.

  • I enjoyed both 300s for what they were, but I HATED “Gangster Squad” something fierce!

    Who would you have preferred to have seen given a shot at the script?

  • Exactly Ben!

    And there’s so many films that get rewritten it seems like this avoids an extra step.

  • It’s not that I didn’t like 300, because I did. It’s just that the script was the weakest part. Hard to reconcile that with them really trying to create the best possible representation of the character. Sadly, I don’t have any actual suggestions (I suck, I know), but those dudes don’t sound like the correct answer.

    Side note pertaining to Supergirl. Back in 1984, $35 million was hardly a pedestrian budget. That was pretty big. A few movies released the same year with smaller budgets: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Ghostbusters, Once Upon a Time in America, Beverly Hills Cop. Or put another way, when Batman came out five years later, its $48 million budget was considered exorbitant and WB was pissed because it has originally slotted it for $30 million. /rambling