Let’s Talk About Aquaman

You know, when I first heard that they had confirmed my favorite beautiful barbarian, Jason Momoa, as Aquaman, I had mixed feelings. I grew up with the old school Aquaman. You know, the blonde one. The one that looked like he spent a little too much time hanging out with the surfers in Malibu. And he wasn’t super tough looking either. This is the Aquaman I was used to.

A more traditional take on Aquaman.

A more traditional take on Aquaman.

So given the thought of a tall, darker prince of the oceans – one of mixed ethnicity, I wasn’t entirely convinced. But that feeling was of course, based on my pre-conception and looks alone. And I am the first to admit that when given a good script and good direction, Jason Momoa is capable of great acting. Let’s not forget that his portrayal of a character who raped his wife on their wedding night won our collective hearts and made us feel like that Attila-the-Hun personality might be okay – if only he would look at you longingly and call you “Moon of my life.” Though his time on Game of Thrones was short, Momoa’s portrayal of Khal Drogo made him a household name in only those few weeks.

Conversely, he had the misfortune of portraying the title character in the sad, stupid reboot of Conan the Barbarian. And while he looked the part, for sure, nothing could save that movie from such a truly horrible script. (Rose McGowan’s ridiculous performance didn’t help either.) But everyone knows that even good actors can do bad jobs sometimes; usually when at the mercy of a less than competent or inexperienced director. Which brings us to the subject at hand:

Momoa’s portrayal of Aquaman in Zack Snyder’s upcoming Batman vs Superman; Dawn of Justice.

In case you haven’t seen it yet – here it is; the first look at Momoa as Aquaman.

Jason Momoa as Aquaman

Jason Momoa as Aquaman

Looks pretty awesome, doesn’t it? Of course it does. And based on this photo – I’m in.

BUT.

My concern with this image isn’t the look of it. I have set aside my preconceptions of what Aquaman should look like because this version of the character looks FREAKING AWESOME. I like the idea of Aquaman being more of a badass (and super freaking hot).

My concern is, or rather I should say, continues to be with director Zack Snyder. We all know that Snyder is capable of making movies LOOK AMAZING. Everything he’s given us so far: 300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch, and Man of Steel, have been visually stunning – beautiful to watch and truly inspiring stylized worlds that exist in high contrast and low color saturation. And from the press and teaser photos that have been released so far, Batman vs. Superman looks to be within that same apocalyptic palette. Unfortunately, Snyder’s movies, while beautifully rendered, just aren’t good.

Everything of his that I have seen (with the possible exception of 300, which I thought was actually a pretty entertaining flick but I may have been severely influenced by both Gerard Butler’s and Michael Fassbender’s abs) has been terrible. I mean, not just bad, but really and truly awful.

Let’s look at the evidence: Sucker Punch was nothing more than the misogynist wet dream of a very immature teenage boy. (And I’m not even going to get into the way he portrays women in general.) Watchmen just had too much crammed in – the story rambled, it had a significant lack of focus, and most of the characters were boring versions of their comic book counterparts. And Man of Steel… well, it was just bad. I talked about it a bit here once before, but to recap – essentially we had two fantastic actors, Henry Cavill and Amy Adams, reduced to cardboard cut-outs of themselves. Man of Steel was nothing more than destruction porn under the guise of a Superman movie.

And this, my friends, is what concerns me most about Aquaman. So far, in press releases for this movie, we’ve been given Khal Drogo underwater and a Wonder Woman who looks more like Xena the Warrior Princess than the Amazon goddess, so we’re sure to get another visually epic film from Dawn of Justice.

But the question is, will Snyder stick to his usual formula of focusing more on the visuals than the story?

I love the ideas for Batman vs. Superman that I’ve heard, and what we have been told is the direction this movie is taking. But I simply can’t get excited to see a movie from a director who has proven to be no more than a mediocre storyteller and who seems to have no actual ability to direct his actors to good performances, no matter how badass the characters look in production stills.

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The Problem with Wonder Woman

Earlier this week, the announcement was made that in Zach Snyder’s upcoming film Batman vs Superman, we get yet another important character introduction – in the form of everyone’s favorite Amazon – Wonder Woman. She is to be portrayed by an Israeli model and actress Gal Gadot. In the time since the announcement was made, the internet has blown up with reactions. Some were positive, some were questioning… but most, that I saw, were very negative. But the question I pose to you is this – WHY?

Once again, as it was with the Ben Affleck/Batman announcement – the general consensus is that the actor picked for the role is totally wrong for it. And most of the comments I saw were based on no more than a quick trip to the actress’s Wikipedia page, IMDB page and an extensive array of images of her as an actress, model and most notably – a Miss Universe contestant. While I agree with the fact that I’m not sure that she fits MY vision of what Wonder Woman should look like, I don’t know anything about this woman. And I would venture a guess that most of the more vocal haters don’t either.

I’ve never seen her act. At least not in any English-speaking roles – I do remember (only because it was on TV yesterday) she played the Israeli girlfriend of Mark Wahlberg’s security operative in Date Night. But most of her screen time was 1) spoken in Hebrew and 2) pretty much focused on the fact that she wasn’t wearing much. That was her role – the hot non-English speaking girl in the room. And she was cute in that role, if not very memorable. But then again, that was meant to be a throw-away role set as a bookend to accentuate Mark Wahlberg’s awesomeness compared to Steve Carrell’s NOT awesomeness so in fairness, I really can’t base an opinion on that.

Having no information on Gal Gadot’s acting history aside from that one small role, I looked her up. Apparently she’s been in a Fast & Furious movie or two. I can’t speak to that, having not seen the films from that franchise that she’s in. Again, I’m pretty sure most people who are hating on the choice haven’t seen her act much either. So let’s not talk about whether or not she’s a good actress. What I really want to get into here is the commentary that she is “too skinny” or not the right look for the role.

Let’s see how she stacks up against the description of the Amazon tribe Wonder Woman comes from:

1. Amazon women are meant to be tall. She’s 5’9″ according to her IMDB page – so throw her in a pair of stack heeled boots and BAM – SHE IS TALL.

2. Amazon women are meant to be strong and athletic – well – this girl is a former member of the Israeli military – arguably one of the most well-trained and most capable military forces on the planet. Having lived in Israel – I have known more than a few Israeli soldiers. You do not want to fuck with them. Trust me. So I’m pretty sure she will be doing most of her own stunts. Or at least she’ll be able to, even if they don’t let her.

3. Amazon women are meant to be beautiful. Check. No one is disagreeing with that. The girl is beautiful.

Now let’s look at the character more specifically.

1. Wonder Woman should have ultra dark hair and blue eyes. Okay. So, no one in Hollywood has ever dyed their hair or worn colored contact lenses to portray a particular character, right? I’m pretty sure if they can turn Christopher Eccleston into an evil white elf with glowing crystal blue eyes and seamless super pointy ears, they can handle a box of L’Oreal blue-black hair dye and some Acuvue tinted lenses.

2. Wonder Woman should be voluptuous. Okay, I’ll give you that – Ms Gadot is not particularly voluptuous. However, we have seen more dramatic body transformations in Hollywood than on the Jenny Craig website, so let’s again, give them the benefit of the doubt. It’s not only men who can bulk up, build muscles and gain or loose weight as needed. So there is no reason to assume that just because she’s thin now, she won’t be bulked up for the role. There is no reason you can’t be curvy AND athletic. And with the wealth of nutritionists and trainers available to her, I’m confident, that she can alter herself physically to fit the more curvy and buff look of Wonder Woman.

3. Wonder Woman’s accent won’t be right. No, not kidding. Not a huge concern I’ll grant you, but I saw one hater post that said “She talks funny.” Um, have you ever heard a woman from the long-lost Amazonian colony speak? Yeah, neither have I – so who’s to say what she should sound like. As long as they don’t give her a misplaced psuedo-British accent, which as we all know, is the go-to “you’re not from American, but we shouldn’t know where you are from exactly” accent, then it really doesn’t matter. Also, dialect coaches. Hollywood has them. Bet hers has already been hired.

Not one of the arguments I saw about this announcement had anything to do with Ms. Gadot’s ability as an actress. They all had to do with what she looked like. So, based on the lists given here, all of your shallow and pointless arguments are now invalid. Could we all agreed to let it be until we actually see how GOOD Ms. Gadot is or isn’t in the role?

My concern with this role, isn’t the look of the actress, but with the way that Zach Snyder seems to treat female characters the way an adolescent boy envisions them. Even his most empowered and strong-willed women tend to give up their power to a man at some point in the narrative. That is something that Wonder Woman would never do and I cringe to think at what may be going through Snyder’s head in planning her portrayal.

And what worries me more, is that I just don’t think that Snyder is a very good director. I mean, look at Man of Steel. He took several talented and proven actors and turned them into walking cardboard. Granted, they’re pretty walking cardboard but still cardboard. Man of Steel would have been a more engaging movie if it’d just been Henry Cavill standing shirtless in front of the broken landscape of Krypton for 2 hours. At least I would have enjoyed it more.

Who knows if Gadot will be a good choice for Wonder Woman or not? There is no way to know if the role is something that she (and Snyder) can handle with the respect it deserves. But let’s also remember, no one thought that Heath Ledger was going to be a good Joker. And a lot of people hated the idea of Christian Bale as Batman too.

Okay, so now that we’ve got that all out of the way – let’s talk about what the uproar is really about.

After months of speculation, discussions and and teasing on the part of any number of entertainment and comic book “insiders” – the problem you’re all having with the new Wonder Woman is simply this:

She’s not Jaimie Alexander.