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.
1. King ArthurPhoto: The Sword In The Stone / Buena Vista Distribution
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.Is this a reference fit for a king?
2. 'Unite The Seven'Photo: Warner Bros.
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.Is this a reference fit for a king?
3. SteppenwolfPhoto: Justice League / Warner Bros.
Despite the commercial and critical failure of Justice League, the DCEU seems committed to taking failure in stride and pushing forward with the shared universe concept. Luckily, Aquaman only references Justice League in one scene, when Mera is pleading for Aquaman to return to Atlantis and unseat Orm. She argues that he already prevented a disaster in Atlantis when he helped stop Steppenwolf.
This throwaway line is the perfect way to keep the universe intact without forcing audiences to recall how painful it was to sit through the team-up film.Is this a reference fit for a king?
4. King Atlan HologramPhoto: DC Comics
On their hunt for the MacGuffin of the film, King Atlan's trident, Arthur and Mera come face-to-face with the original king of Atlantis. Of course, the actual king passed eons before this encounter, so it's actually a holographic recording that Arthur and Mera see. The hologram tells them the location of the lost trident of Atlan and says that it rests with the king himself, firmly in his grip.
Apart from being a way to move the story forward, the scene is a nod to a similar panel from the comics.Is this a reference fit for a king?