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 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.
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
Like 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.
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.