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Kevin J. Harty, La Salle University, reviews Aquaman for Medievally Speaking

Cinema arthuriana is not a film genre.  Rather, it is a form of film medievalism that lately can be found in more and more cinematic genres.  Cinema arthuriana had its beginnings at least as early as 1904 when Thomas Edison, with mixed success, brought a version of Wagner’s Parsifal to the screen for New York audiences, thereby not only establishing cinema arthuriana as a new form of medievalism, but also reworking an already established form of medievalism, opera arthuriana, into a new genre. 

Twain has remained the most frequent source for cinema arthuriana on both the large and on the small screen, with nods (often more alleged than real) to Malory informing any number of other Arthurian films.  And Arthurian films (and television programs) have at times proven to be fades, and the current decade seems no exception. The 1950s, for instance, gave us The Adventures of Sir Galahad (a serial), The Adventures of Sir Lancelot (a television series penned by blacklisted Hollywood writers), The Black Knight, at least three television versions of Twain’s Connecticut Yankee, Knights of the Round Table, Knutzy Knights (a Three Stooges’ vehicle), a Spanish Parisfal, and Prince Valiant.

More recently, Arthur, or Arthurian motifs, can be found in some unexpected films: in the Kingsman franchise, in Ready Player One, in Mad Max: Fury Road, in Transformers: The Last Knight, even in the latest (and supposedly last) installment of the Syfy Channel’s Sharknado franchise. And now in James Wan’s 2018 Aquaman.

Like Arthur, Aquaman has had a complicated legacy. The DC Comics’ hero first appeared in 1941 in a supporting role, but his character subsequently came into its own when Aquaman became a founding member of the American Justice League. As his character developed, his appearance also changed from wimpy kid to wonder boy to buff, often overly so, super hero—sometimes blonde, sometimes not; sometimes bearded, sometimes not. Originally, his foes were Nazi submarine commanders and other Axis villains. Eventually, his identity was fleshed (fished?) out: he was Arthur Curry, son of a lighthouse keeper and of an outcast queen of the underwater world of Atlantis. By either his mother or his father, he had a troubled, or trouble-some, half-brother, with whom he would eventually come into conflict. His super powers included an ability to communicate with marine life and to live both on land and under water. Aquaman’s character has appeared not only in print, but also on television and on film, and as the butt of a long-running joke on HBO’s series Entourage, in which Adrian Grenier’s Vince Chase was cast in a fictional version of Aquaman directed by Titanic’s James Cameron, but not in its sequel. (For more on Aquaman’s development as a superhero across multiple genres, see Alastair Dougall’s The DC Comics Encyclopedia.)

In James Wan’s Aquaman, Jason Momoa plays the title. ... READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE



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