James Wan's Aquaman is a bombastic, cheesy, and beautiful film that is receiving praise from fans and critics alike. Jason Momoa completely owns the role of Arthur Curry (even if it just seems like he's being himself) and Amber Heard is the perfect counterpoint to the brawny king. The story may lack the kind of complexity found in The Dark Knight or Captain America: Civil War, but it doubles down on creating an inventive and alluring world with likable characters (something the DCEU has struggled with, beyond Wonder Woman).
Atlantis, the true star of the film, is a visual feast that seems to require multiple viewings to unpack everything it has to offer. Even then, Wan meticulously placed several Easter eggs alluding to different sects of pop culture (including a nod to his own work), and they're almost impossible to identify without a proper guide.
Hidden within the depths of the film are small clues (whether spoken or depicted) that offer a tiny bit of insight into the movies, television shows, and comics that influenced Aquaman. From a small aside about a major villain in Justice League to an ancient tale of brothers warring for a throne, there are plenty of allusions hidden away in what is perhaps the DCEU's greatest flick.
Though Arthur's parents get inspiration for his name from an impending hurricane, his father mentions its connection to Arthurian myth as well. The stories of King Arthur and Aquaman actually share several parallels: each involves a complicated regal upbringing, the two protagonists are only recognized as kings after retrieving a mythical weapon, and both King Arthur and Aquaman are reluctant heroes thrust into extraordinary circumstances.
James Wan told Deadline that the film and character were both inspired by the story of King Arthur.
When former DCEU architect Zack Snyder dropped the first image of Aquaman, it broke the internet. No longer would this character be susceptible to the jokes that permeated pop culture thanks to his appearances in the Super Friends cartoon series. Now, Aquaman was going to be taken seriously, and luckily, DC was able to snag James Wan to ensure that happened.
For the longest time, the internet speculated about whether the picture's accompanying tagline, "UNITE THE SEVEN," was related to the Justice League's supposed seven members, or the seven seas. This was further complicsted with Justice League's release, as the team only featured six heroes. In Wan's Aquaman, however, it's revealed that there are actually seven underwater kingdoms that all separated after the fall of Atlantis.
This reveal doesn't negate the possibility that the poster was originally talking about the members of the Justice League and its in-development film, but it adds a new shade to the mythos surrounding the DCEU's version of Aquaman.
Pinocchio is referenced multiple times throughout the film, and the allusions apply to both the Disney movie and the short story that inspired it. Arthur briefly mentions the tale when he urges Mera to hide inside a whale's mouth to escape Orm's grasp. When the two arrive in Italy later in the film, Mera is given the book by a child, and she chastises Arthur for betting both their lives on something he read in a children's story.
Arthur, being the goofball he is, says he only ever saw the movie, and he got the idea from that.
The ancient Roman story of Romulus and Remus is a great mirror to the struggles faced by Arthur and his half-brother, Orm. Romulus was the first king of Rome, and he actually slayed his brother over a dispute regarding the physical location of the city. Both brothers were set on building the future city on a distinct hill, but they could never agree on the exact location.
While Arthur and Orm are never shown disputing the location of Atlantis, the two brothers do have ideological differences that only serve to impede the city's progress, similar to the brothers of myth. And to tie the two stories together, a statue of Romulus is the final piece of the puzzle for where Atlan's trident is hidden.