Superhero sincerity and why you should be excited for Aquaman
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The rise of superhero sincerity has been a long time coming. Like clockwork there has been a shift from dark to light-hearted depictions of superheroes in film. Until the MCU launched with Iron Man in 2008, most superhero films did well with audiences, but not with critics. Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy was an exception to this rule - Nolan proved that superhero films could be real contenders for awards, but he did this by stripping back much of the comic-book world and making the films “realistic”. They seemed like films embarrassed to be themselves. Then the MCU happened. Love or hate the MCU, without it, the superhero genre would have remained in flux from dark and realistic, to goofy with comic-book tones. They proved that comic-book films about super-powered individuals could be sincere in their premise and enjoy themselves, alongside being good films. Until recently, the DCEU failed to act on this tonal shift. Zac Snyder’s vision was dark and allegorical, but it constrained the diverse characters of DC and, in some cases, resulted in huge mischaracterisation. With Justice League (2017), Warner Brothers panicked and tried to remedy this…They didn’t recognise that it's sincerity that hits the mark with audiences, and instead believed the movie had to be lighter and more quip-filled. A faintly traced over image of The Avengers (2012). Swapping in Joss Wheldon at the last minute, they ended up with a film half Synder’s and half Wheldon’s. A Frankenstein film that delighted no-one. Aquaman’s trailer is a relief as it, alongside Shazam's, show that DC finally understands that people want the characters to be shown in a sincere, funny, and emotional way. They’ve done it with a character who, until recently, was seen as pretty rubbish by the public. Due to his kitsch portrayal in the 1970s Super Friends, many people believed that Aquaman sucked. This can be seen in shows like Family Guy and The Big Bang Theory, which both mock him and state that even comic-book fans hate him. Unlike Superman, who is both seen as a sincere, complicated, beautiful character, and as a goody-two-shoes boy scout, Aquaman to the general public just wasn’t cool.
The 90s-00s DCAU cartoons began changing this among comic-book fans by making Arthur over as a long-haired, tough, and one-armed badass. Non-comic fans still held the old views of him however. Aquaman could be acknowledged as goofy while being a good character. It was the cartoon depictions that the DCEU took inspiration from when they cast Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry/ Aquaman. Momoa, who is part Hawaiian, comes from a culture with heritage heavily tied to seafaring and the ocean. His casting made a statement that Aquaman is not defined by being white. Also Jason, edgy rape jokes aside, is considered one of the coolest guys in Hollywood and thus best suited for making Aquaman as sincerely cool as he is elsewhere.
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