Never in a million years would I imagine an Aquaman movie making over a billion dollars at the box office. This character sure has come a long way, especially since the Super Friends days. As a big comic book nut growing up, I only remember him being referred to as the fish guy. He talked to fish and is unstoppable underwater, but that’s also the downside. Whatever he can do, it’s only underwater. When he’s on land, he’s just… basically a handsome blonde guy wearing a shiny orange shirt. Anyone recalling the jokes from Family Guy? Yeah, they’re pretty legit. Well, at least they were until a six-foot-four Hawaiian actor named Jason Momoa came around. Now, Aquaman has a new reputation, and it’s made him more popular than ever.
I’ll confess, I was a never a big Aquaman hater. He’s certainly an easy target, but if you keep up with comics, you’ll know he’s no push over. I got my first glimpse of his true worth back when DC rebooted their comics with the New 52 back in 2011. When Parademons invaded Earth, he commanded several sharks to rise from the waters and eat them. Oh, and let’s not forget how awesome he is with that trident. Just adding that weapon made the character cooler. His ascension to becoming cooler didn’t just start with comics, though. I remember playing his chapter in the 2013 game, Injustice: Gods Among Us, and whoo smokies, did my respect for the character shoot up. Once I saw that, I knew that an Aquaman movie really did need to happen.
Well, I also remember the day I heard of Jason Momoa’s casting as Aquaman. My first reaction was, “Khal Drogo is going to be Aquaman? Kick ass!” I really didn’t care that he looked nothing like the character, because he’s Jason Momoa. The guy just has a badass look to him and that’s why he’s now a superhero. I pretty much figured that DC wasn’t really going to make him Aquaman, but make Aquaman Jason Momoa. You know what? I don’t think anyone disliked that idea. Evidently, it worked, because look how much money the movie made. They couldn’t of picked a better actor to be Aquaman and now the DC Cinematic Universe is much better because of it.
Let’s pump the brakes for a minute. I’m not just praising Jason Momoa as Aquaman simply because he’s cool. Him playing the character proves that DC is getting the message. That message is loud and clear: we need some long overdue diversity. Diversity has allowed comics to evolve to a point where literally everyone can feel a connection to them. In a time when diversity is needed more than ever, it’s important that we see it everywhere. That includes our movies, and seeing the superhero movies embrace that much-needed diversity is truly inspiring.
How does Jason Momoa’s Aquaman fit that bill? Well, I think we need to understand the character himself first. Before he was Aquaman, he was Arthur Curry, the son of a regular lighthouse keeper and an Atlantean Queen. Biologically, that’s one interesting combination. The idea of Aquaman being a half-breed has always been a crucial aspect of the character’s history. It’s what has driven him forward and made him a more intriguing character. A son of two different worlds that were never meant to meet makes for a compelling character, even if his primary superpower is to talk to fish. The main difference between Jason Momoa’s Aquaman and comic Aquaman, however, is that the comic version has always been a white male. The comic version has short, golden hair, clean-shaven, and has light skin, while Jason Momoa is very clearly the exact opposite of that.
What separates them the most is obviously Jason Momoa’s darker skin tone. This was a different direction for the character and it’s one that actually made him more relatable. Comic Arthur Curry’s father was white, while movie Arthur Curry’s father had darker skin. This now makes Aquaman more than just half-human and half-Atlantean. He’s now a half-breed on a more realistic and relatable level. Jason Momoa himself can relate to this, given that he’s the son of a Hawaiian father and a German-Irish mother. Heck, I can really relate to this, because I’m a half-breed myself.
That’s exactly why I believe Jason Momoa’s Aquaman is one of the DCEU’s most valuable assets. As a guy who’s half-hispanic and half-white, I can relate to Aquaman’s struggle of finding acceptance from both peoples. The Atlanteans won’t accept him because he’s human and the humans won’t accept him because he’s an Atlantean. As contradictory as that sounds, it’s a legitimate struggle that people like me go through. This is why Arthur Curry felt like an outsider his whole life and believed he was better off as a loner. If neither group will accept you as one of their own, then where can you possibly fit in? That was the real struggle he had to overcome in the movie and the way he succeeded was, no pun intended, heroic.
Jason Momoa’s Aquaman chose to become a champion of both worlds. He spent a long time trying to ignore his Atlantean heritage, he forgot to just accept it. In the end, not only did he accept it, he embraced it and became their king. Given that he’s half-human, that would’ve seem impossible, but he proved that being half-human only made him better for the title of king. Why? Because he understood that being human meant to have compassion for others. The oceans were being heavily polluted by the humans, but he understood that the humans were unaware of the existence of Atlantis. He couldn’t choose a side, because he was a part of both worlds, so his solution was to fight for what was right. Now that’s a man who deserves to wear the crown.
DC made Aquaman a hero of absolute diversity. This gives me a lot of hope for the future of comic book movies. They’ve come a long way and now they’re showing signs of catching up to modern day standards. As a guy who relates to Aquaman’s struggles, it was a new experience watching him deal with the kind of issues that I face. What intrigued me the most about his story was that he was a half-breed and that’s something we don’t see enough in movies. It’s rare that you’ll see a half-breed protagonist in movies, and when they do come around, their stories are rather underwhelming. What Aquaman did is give the chance for people like me to tell our stories of equality and acceptance. It goes even further by teaching us to embrace who we are, no matter who tells us otherwise.
People like me, Aquaman, we all have a place where we belong. We just can’t forget who we are, because whatever race we come from is a part of us. These are the lessons Aquaman’s story teaches us and it’s one that I hope to see in more comic book movies. Who would’ve thought that Aquaman, out of all heroes, would have such an impact? It turns out he can speak to humans just as good as he can speak to fish. Long live the king.