Aquaman Taught Warner Bros. All The Wrong Lessons

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

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After many delays, Aquaman 2 will finally premiere, though the circumstances could be better. The first Aquaman movie made over a billion dollars and showcased how the DCEU could thrive as a franchise. Now, Aquaman 2 will be the last gasp of the failed DCEU before James Gunn launches an all-new DCU in 2025.

Some fans are hoping this sequel will impress audiences as much as the first, but we’ve got some bad news. Even if the sequel slaps, the first film’s legacy has been tainted because we now know it taught Warner Bros. all the wrong lessons for the DCEU.

Bad Humor

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The first Aquaman is not a funny movie in the same way that, say, Shazam is a funny movie. However, the film had a generous dosing of lowest-common-denominator humor. Atlas having to stick his head into a toilet to breathe, Aquaman noting that he “could’ve just peed” on a console that Mera activated with water, and so on. The producers were apparently so enamored of the humor that they tried to make Aquaman 2 more of a comedy, and we’re already cringing thinking about how much stupider the sequel’s potty humor will get.

However, because the first Aquaman earned over a billion dollars at the box office, its bad humor had a ripple effect (so to speak) for future DCEU films. Remember all those awful jokes Joss Whedon added to Justice League or the insanely kitschy humor that made Wonder Woman 1984 so tonally different from its predecessor? All of that and more can arguably be traced back to Aquaman’s fishy sense of humor making Warner Bros. think future movies needed to be funnier.

Snoozeworthy CGI

Not all of Aquaman’s cinematic sins are truly unique. We hated the fact that the third act descended into a boring CGI slugfest, but that’s something that even Marvel movies are guilty of. But while it took Marvel’s CGI a while to start visibly dropping in quality, the DCEU has been rocking sketchy VFX for much longer (we all remember Doomsday looking like a troll from Lord of the Rings, right?).

And the success of Aquaman at the box office despite its shoddy CGI final battle sent a clear message to the powers that be that they can phone in the CGI on even the biggest DCEU films.

CGI In The Flash

The greatest example of this is The Flash. Once, this film was going to be the DCEU’s version of Endgame, but frequent delays and the implosion of Ezra Miller’s career transformed it into the biggest box-office disappointment in WB history.

While there was plenty wrong with The Flash, the one thing everyone from professional critics to casual fans pointed out was the crappy CGI. The poor CGI quality seemed shocking, but it shouldn’t have been for the simple reason that Aquaman (the DCEU’s most successful film) proved that these films don’t need to be visually impressive to be financially successful.

Another Boring Villain

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As a film, Aquaman effectively hedged its bets by giving us two different villains. The secondary baddie was Black Manta, and he was one of the best parts of the film thanks to his cool background, straightforward motivation, and killer costume design. However, that led to an ironic problem. Black Manta was so compelling that he made the film’s true Big Bad King Orm.

More Terrible Villains To Follow

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Once again, though, because Aquaman was such a box office success, Warner Bros. walked away thinking that future DCEU films wouldn’t need compelling villains. Think about it: Wonder Woman went from fighting a god to fighting a disgruntled salesman, Harley Quinn went from fighting a Superman-level threat to hitting a crime lord with a bat, and The Flash went from fighting a world-threatening alien to fighting his own bad decisions.

We don’t want to lay all the blame at Aquaman’s fins, but maybe if his first film had a better villain, future DCEU antagonists might have seemed a bit more threatening than the average Superfriends villain.