Last night, Warner Brothers made waves across the geek-o-system by finally announcing a director for its solo Aquaman movie, due in theaters on July 27, 2018. James Wan — who took the wheel of the Fast and Furious franchise from Justin Lin and steered the franchise into record-breaking, billion dollar box office territory — has been tapped to helm the most intriguing film in the DC Cinematic Universe.
Starring Khal Drogo himself as the titular King of Atlantis, Aquaman is the rare blockbuster superhero movie that is unafraid to defy comic book convention and place a person of color at the center of its narrative. And now, DC/WB is the first studio to entrust a person of color to direct its superhero franchise. Your move, Marvel.
I’m not going to lie, I haven’t always been happy with DC’s approach to their movie universe. That said, Aquaman has always been the exception. Even though I wanted Jason Momoa to play Captain Marvel opposite The Rock in the Shazam movie, his casting as the Aquaman in Batman v Superman is the lone bright spot for me thus far. With Momoa — who is Native Hawaiian — in the role, not only will audiences finally see a badass Aquaman — ensuring the character will no longer be the butt of jokes from uninformed fans — they will also see an Aquaman who is as much a representative of the Pacific Ocean as he is the Atlantic. He is the king of the seven seas, after all, and not just off the coast of Europe.
The fact that DC/WB was willing to reinterpret one of their oldest and most iconic superheroes as a person of color deserves our praise. This is a bigger deal than Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm or Idris Elba as Heimdall. Jason Momoa’s Aquaman isn’t a sidekick or a bit player. He’s going to be the guy. With his own movie. That’s something the current incarnation of Marvel Studios either hasn’t figured out or is unwilling to try1. I know they have Black Panther — coincidentally also premiering in July 2018 — on the way, but would Marvel be willing to racebend one (or two) of their best known main guys? I don’t think so.
Having an Asian director in charge of a superhero film with a Pacific Islander in the lead is just icing on the cake, and further proof that DC is seriously committed to not only diversifying their superhero lineup, but the people charged with bringing these heroes to the big screen. And Wan is no slouch, either. An experienced genre director — Wan launched the Saw and Insidious horror franchises in addition to refreshing F&F — he will also be in charge of a live action Robotech film for Sony as well.
Also, since Wan was born in Australia of Chinese Malaysian descent, it’s possible that he will be able to imbue Aquaman with the Oceanic and Polynesian mythology that was hinted when Momoa was first revealed in his superhero regalia.
Now that Aquaman is being set up to be the POC-iest movie ever, let’s hope that the director fills up the rest of the cast with a similarly diverse group of actors. It would be a perfect opportunity to introduce the Kaldur’ahm version of Aqualad into the cinematic universe and Black Manta kind of has to be the villain, right? Since he didn’t get Black Panther, maybe Chiwetel Ejiofor for Manta? More importantly, I think Alfred Enoch (How to Get Away with Murder), aka Dean Thomas from the Harry Potter films, would be a great choice as King Arthur’s young partner.
But the one role, I really want to see recast with a person of color would be Aquaman’s queen, Mera. Some friends on my timeline suggested that an Asian American or Pacific Islander actress should play the character, but I want to go another way. Since Queen Mera is another one of DC’s most iconic redheaded characters, it only makes sense to cast a Black woman in the role. And I know the perfect actress to play Aquaman’s truest love because she plays the part in real life. That’s right, my next big push — because really, I just want to be a Hollywood casting director — is to have Lisa Bonet play Queen Mera!
— Keith Chow 周樂文 (@the_real_chow) June 3, 2015
C’mon! Let’s make it happen, people!
- You’d think — since Blade is the movie that kicked off the whole modern superhero movie renaissance — that Marvel would be more willing to populate their movie slate with POC superheroes, Black Panther, notwithstanding. ↩