How Aquaman and James Wan Already Saved the D.C. Extended Universe

How Aquaman and James Wan Already Saved the D.C. Extended Universe

Since 2013, there has been a loud puttering sound heard haranguing in movie theaters across the nation. It’s that sound you hear when your car is skipping a beat, coughing to get up a hill, or fades into misery at a stop light.

If you have seen three of the five collaborations between D.C. Comics and Warner Bros., you know that sound has been the panting and guzzling of air from those two desperately — and woefully — trying to keep up with Marvel Studios’ domination of the CBM multiverse.

They’re out of oxygen, and it shows.


When Zack Snyder brought us Man of Steel, a large gasp of relief hushed nerds everywhere. This was the origin Superman deserved — tracing his roots from Krypton all the way to Earth, struggling to find meaning in his convoluted, extraterrestrial experience. They couldn’t have found a better man to portray Clark Kent in Henry Cavill.

But, that was when we all had faith in Warner Bros. to do the right thing with the DCEU.

Then, we see Zack Snyder’s vision get bastardized with Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. It seemed hurried and almost apoplectic as the characters force the uniting of what was to come.

We needed origins. We wanted understanding. What we got was an amalgamation of bureaucracy, suits defining what fans deserved, and oh yeah… Zack Snyder eventually shown the door in the most unceremonious fashion in what was supposed to be his crowning achievement.

But first, Wonder Woman was a box-office smash and showed the kids in the other room (that’s Marvel) that a woman could both feature and direct a comic book movie. What they did in four movies took Marvel 20 to figure out.

And as we just meander around the pothole known as Suicide Squad (because both it and we deserved much better from that ensemble), came the moment when all of that aforementioned sound came to a crashing thud. We got Justice League.


Yes, it was obviously hurried beyond a pace that should have been permitted. The knuckle-headed duo of DC and WB were stressed to compete with The Avengers, so they did what most people do when they are under the gun to complete a test: they answered “C” all the way down the scantron.

While Justice League was better than most people admit, there was the whole Zack Snyder / Joss Whedon thing looming over our heads reminding everyone of the colossal fart-and-fall-down moment we were about to experience in theaters placing us into a comic book coma. You know, until the DVD came out and most of the militant geeks out there realized WB actually did not — and will not — #ReleaseTheSnyderCut

You could almost hear the dimwitted executives shouting at the movie makers — the guys who actually know something about the comics and TV shows — to make Flash funny, make Aquaman sarcastic, amp up the sexual tension between Wonder Woman and Batfleck, and we’ll get to Superman later.

Oy vey! We quit. It’s like we never knew you, D.C. and WB.

Nothing was Stirring, Not Even a Mouse

At this point, Disney and Marvel were fine disseminating the box-office collections plate every single time they made a movie. Think about the run they’ve had: from Iron Man and Captain America: The First Avenger to Avengers: Infinity War.

The unveiling of each character and building of the universal theme — Thanos is coming — was masterful. No wonder Disney paid $4 billion for Marvel. It’s a machine, producing great film after another (you know, with the exception of Thor: The Dark World and Ant Man and the Wasp).

Disney doesn’t interfere with Marvel’s process. Ever.


Why would they? There’s nothing to mess with because every movie fits its space in a master plan. Why can’t D.C. and Warner Bros. do that? Oh yeah, they don’t trust each other to do what they are each supposed to do.

Fans started to give up a little on these two dimwits. Then, off in the distance, a glimmer of light shined upon the horizon. We call it bope.

Those two began planning too, because prior to this point, it was evident there was absolutely no direction at all. They hired Ava DuVernay for Jack Kirby’s Fourth World The New Gods. Batwoman is coming (whether the trolls like it or not). Gotham City Sirens, Birds of Prey, and Harley Quinn will take center stage soon. Matt Reeves’ The Batman and Todd Phillips’ Joker are certainly getting everyone’s attention with “leaked” footage, plenty of cryptic headlines, and that hype train is chugging along.

You can almost detect a cadence, a reason for these announcements.

The Mouse may not be doing anything about it for the time being, but if this plan amounts to anything that remotely smells like profit, Marvel may actually have a fight on its hands.

The Splash Seen ‘Round the World

Then this happened…

That earned more than 2 million views in a little over 12 hours. It’s not a trailer. It’s a fan reel! We have been clamoring for something to come out of this production from horror ingenue James Wan, and much as he exhibited with the Conjuring series, his marketing and messages were done strategically and purposefully.

And, it doesn’t even begin to convey what Aquaman is going to show us. Take it from Wan himself.

We have two months to go. Venom is in theaters now, so D.C. has no competition for the rest of the year. This is the time for that tumultuous team to reclaim the ball they lost in the sewer somewhere after some errant kick or throw. This is the time to reach out to the fans and show them that you two are indeed serious about what you do and how you can stick to canon.

And man, did they ever. James Wan’s vision of Atlantis is majestic. It’s what you would expect a king of a netherworld to be. It captures the essence of who Arthur is on land and in water. His struggle is there. His fight is there. His character is there. And so are we, believing every word.

The trailer is captivating in its imagery. Underwater monsters. Wars between enemies. We understand relationships, hear humor, and detect a sense of belief in what DC and WB are doing again. This is what Wan does best — he draws you in with what could be. Take Saw, Conjuring, or even his work with Fast & Furious. You want to watch it, even if you had no intention to do so.

aquaman poster

Mainstream viewers will appreciate the action. The most self-righteous nerd will see the details in canon (and he’s in the original Aquaman garb). This movie looks like it will appeal to everyone. It’s almost as if someone in D.C. or WB learned from getting their hides handed to them for the past 10 years.

This is what a plan looks like, and in December, they’ll know what it sounds like. They call that sound a cash register. We needed, actually demanded, much more than a superhero movie. We wanted a good movie.

By the look of that trailer, we got much more than expected.

Even before Aquaman hits theaters in its glorious splendor, James Wan has already saved the DC Extended Universe because he gave them the one thing they lost, the one thing that began this whole debacle in the first place, the thing that is emblazoned upon Superman’s coat of arms in the very first film.

The thing is hope. And thanks to James Wan, we have some. Finally.


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