Although the DC Extended Universe has accumulated a passionate fanbase over its short existence, there's no denying that the franchise has found itself in a pickle. The three movies released so far have earned mixed-to-negative reviews as a whole among regular moviegoers and critics. Both the solo Batman movie and The Flash have lost their directors, and lately it seems like Warner Bros is more concerned with announcing DC movies than making sure their existing schedule is working. Some might say that Wonder Woman and Justice League later this year might be the movies that will help turn the tide, but that's not quite true. In terms of properly implementing changes post-Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it's actually Aquaman that stands the best chance of making a difference.
Aquaman was part of the original DCEU slate announcement from late 2014, and lately the movie has been making a splash announcing castings like Patrick Wilson as Ocean Master, Nicole Kidman as Queen Atlanna, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Black Manta and Temuera Morrison as Thomas Curry. It's also the only movie DC officially scheduled to be released in 2018, as The Flash has been delayed as the script is rewritten and the search for a new director continues, while there's no guarantee yet that the Batman movie will find a new director in time to keep a 2018 release date. So for now, Aquaman is the only thing keeping the DCEU afloat (pun fully intended) in 2018. But more importantly, because of its distance from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (and Suicide Squad, to a lesser degree), Aquaman is the first DCEU movie that has had enough time to analyze the complaints that have been directed towards the franchise. Because of that, not only will it still hopefully be a unique product, but it also stands a better chance of properly handling the criticism the DCEU has received so far.
Why doesn't this apply to Wonder Woman and Justice League? Well, even though Wonder Woman was co-written by Geoff Johns, the man who is now DC Entertainment's president, the Amazonian's solo movie began shooting in November 2015, four months before Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released. Even if Warner Bros scheduled reshoots for Wonder Woman ahead of time, there's only so much the crew could have changed or fixed. Besides, Suicide Squad proved that frantically reshooting and re-cutting material isn't always the best approach. Then there's Justice League, which began production only a few weeks after Batman v Superman was released. There were reportedly numerous changes made to the script, but the basic framework of the movie, from plot to sets, was already set in stone. This isn't to say that Wonder Woman and Justice League will be bad movies, but it's impossible for them to tackle any issues about the DCEU that emerged in 2016 effectively.
The Jason Momoa-led Aquaman, on the other hand, has had more than enough time to learn from certain mistakes. Last July, it was reported that Will Beall had been brought aboard to write the movie, based off a story treatment from Geoff Johns and director James Wan. Those two had at least four months, if not longer if they were working on the treatment before Batman v Superman was released. Even better, Geoff Johns wrote a successful Aquaman run at the start of the New 52, not to mention tackled the character during the Brightest Day event and on his Justice League run. The man knows his way around the aquatic hero, so ideally we can count on something that's both faithful to his mythology, while also fixing certain problems the DCEU has dealt with, be it narrative, tone, etc.
Beyond how it will learn from its DCEU predecessors, let's also not forget that Aquaman will offer something that no other superhero movie has yet: an underwater setting. Although Justice League will introduce a few members of Aquaman's supporting cast and reportedly even visit Atlantis for a bit, much of the Aquaman movie will take place in areas of the Seven Seas. Our planet's oceans remain unexplored in these comic book movie universes, and there are a lot of monstrosities and secrets that lay underneath. Marvel could have done this with Namor the Sub-Mariner, but because that character is tied up in undisclosed rights entanglements, he won't be brought into the MCU anytime soon. Enough superhero movies have been released that it's no longer enough to tell a simple "save the world" kind of story. The chances of them succeeding improve when they bring something new to the table, and Aquaman will do just that. With that and the extra time it has to properly handle constructive criticism, Aquaman may hold the key to fully reversing the DCEU's fortunes. Considering how ridiculed that hero has been for years, that would be one hell of an achievement.
Aquaman swims into theaters on October 5, 2018. Let us know if you agree with us about how important this movie is to the DCEU's future or if we're completely wrong on the matter in the comments below.