Latest DC Comics Film, Aquaman, Echoes Aspects of Advent and Wisdom From C.S. Lewis

By Aaron Welty Published on December 26, 2018

Since 2013, Warner Brothers has tried to copy the success of Marvel Studios’ related films. Using DC Comics characters — such as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman — has yielded mixed results. With the release of Aquaman, a brighter future for DC Comics films seems possible. 

Although Aquaman is a solo origin story, Arthur Curry (Jason Mamoa) has appeared in related films. Both Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League feature him, but here both character and actor own the screen. Unlike previous films, this one wants you to enjoy it.

 

An Ocean of Mythic Adventure Come to Life

Set after the events of Justice League, Aquaman provides background on Arthur. His mother, Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), is forced to marry Atlantis’s king. She escapes to the surface world, falling in love with a lighthouse keeper who rescued and cared for her (Temura Morrison).

Eventually, Arthur is born in the lighthouse. The family’s time together is short, as Atlanna returns to Atlantis for their safety. Years afterward, his mother’s advisor Vulko (Wilem DeFoe) teaches Arthur about Atlantis.    

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In the present, Arthur wants nothing to do with his royal heritage. Only after hearing of how his half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) plans to take the throne does Arthur visit alongside Mera (Amber Herd). Unexpectedly, Arthur challenges Orm in single combat for the throne.

Escaping Orm sets them on a quest to recover the Trident of Atlan. Long thought to be myth, they learn the artifact actually exists. Along the way, Arthur crosses paths with Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). Manta blames Arthur for a tragic family loss and allies with Orm for revenge.

This quest for “myth as reality” echoes the writings of C.S. Lewis in Myth Became Fact. Lewis wrote:

The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth, come down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history … Christians need to be reminded … that what became fact was also a myth, that it carries with it into the world of Fact all the properties of a myth. We must not be ashamed of the mystical radiance resting in our theology.

A Different Kind of DC Comics Film 

What sets Aquaman apart from related DC Comics films is that it dispenses with the darker tone. It wants to have fun, on purpose. The visuals are bright, beautiful and, bold.

Underwater sequences echo the visual wonder of Wakanda in Black Panther and the underwater city in Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Visually, Aquaman is the undersea version of Avatar. Characters and costumes embody comic book pages come to life.

 

A King’s Advent

As a child, Arthur is told of a coming king. A prophecy spoke of one who would “use the power of the trident to put Atlantis back together again” long after The Great Fall. This king of Atlantis would be of two worlds, able to bridge the divide between the sea and surface.  

It recalls the words of Psalm 2 and Revelation, of a future king ruling with an iron scepter. Ancient prophets spoke of a coming king who would bridge the divide between God and Man: Jesus. He too was unexpected and of lowly origin, born beneath a light showing the way.

Arthur experiences a death-like encounter, descending into the darkness of the Kingdom of the Trench. He rises as King of Atlantis, to rule a united kingdom. Even in defeating his enemies he tempers justice with mercy.

While the restoration of Atlantis in Aquaman is an enticing plot point, we live in the “not yet.” We await the return of the King alluded to in Scripture. We look forward to that day just as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others anticipated the Advent and Incarnation many celebrate at Christmas.   

 

Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action violence and language, Aquaman is in theatres now. Explore The Stream’s complete films coverage, and sign up to receive top stories every week.    

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  • ConspiracyPup

    Aquaman is a water demon. Atlantis is also a New Age teaching by Edward Cayce, a medium, and others. It’s not a Christian movie by any stretch.

  • Excellent sleuthing of modern myth to find parallels…
    “We must not be ashamed of the mystical radiance resting in our theology.”

  • sc_cannon

    “The heart of Christianity is a myth”? I don’t think that is the heart of Christianity. I think the heart of Christianity is Jesus. Who he was, what he did for all faithful believers, that they might have life, and have it more abundantly. C.S. Lewis also stated, ( according to this guy) the myth became fact and what he meant by that who knows.

    • I’d recommend the “Myth Became Fact” essay that Lewis wrote (that’s where the quote came from). You can likely find it in PDF online or in the “God in the Dock” essay collection in book form. J.R.R. Tolkien also wrote on this in his “On Faire Stories” essay from 1947. That’s one that is available in PDF. At its heart, what both of these authors are saying is that the story of Christ shares a mythic quality – an otherness that both Tolkien and Lewis called “numenous” that manifests in The Lord of the Rings via references to the “Men of Numenor” – similar to pagan myths, but the crucial difference is that the story of Christ actually happened. Tolkien talks of this similarly, of how the Incarnation and Resurrection are the “euchtastrophies” of human history (the moments where the story unexpectedly turns for the better) in the “On Faire Stories” essay.

  • Another aspect of the film worth noting, that I decided to cut for length, is the relationship between fathers and sons and what one generation passes on to the next. Arthur’s father encourages him in his messianic role to assume the throne, rebuild Atlantis, and reconcile the underwater kingdom with the surface world. His father believe’s in his potential and pushes him toward his heroic destiny, in part, to honor his mother. Something that Arthur humbly resists (as all heroes do, except Christ in the Garden). On the other hand, there is the assumed relationship between Orm and his father King Orfax of Atlantis (who never appears in the film and is only referred to). Based on that, Orm grew up in an opposite environment: an environment of entitlement that allowed him to do as he pleased. He became indigent towards any resistance or denial of his wishes. It shows in his attitude towards his half-brother Arthur. and the leaders of other undersea kingdoms. It’s a similar dynamic between Clark Kent and Lex Luthor in Smallville, where the relationship that those characters had with their fathers – Jonathan Kent and Lionel Luthor – was crucial in their development and, ultimately, a reflection of the hero or villain they became. Amidst this similar parallel between character’s stories sits the pirate Black Manta and his father, who both belong to a generational line of high seas pirates. Because his grandfather was forgotten and dismissed after his service in WW2, he turned his skills towards piracy, handing it down two generations. Again selfishness, entitlement, and anger surface, similar to Orm, but all rooted in a sleight generations old. Amongst all the other things this film is, it’s also a lesson in humble fatherhood, the importance of that, and the generational effect of/on family – especially if that isn’t handled well.

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