WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for director Zack Snyder’s Justice League, in theaters now.
Created in 1941 by Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris, Aquaman has been the butt of countless jokes over the decades, and routinely mocked for his superhuman ability to, well, “talk to fish.” Of course, DC Comics fans know that’s an oversimplification, and that the hero’s telepathic connection with all ocean life is a bit more nuanced than that, especially as they’ve seen him summon leviathans from the ocean’s depths to join him in battle.
Nevertheless, he’s been pigeonholed in popular culture as an ineffectual hero who on the animated Super Friends required a lift to the nearest body of water before he could even utilize his abilities. Just as DC Comics has repeatedly pushed back against that image over the past few decades — boosting his power set, transforming him into a grim sea king and even giving him a harpoon for a hand — director Zack Snyder undercut the stereotype in 2015 with the casting of tattooed, bearded actor Jason Momoa as the DC Extended Universe’s Aquaman.
The filmmaker and actor didn’t get to develop the character in his brief cameo in 2015’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but with Justice League laying the groundwork for Aquaman’s big-screen origin, motivations and future, Snyder had to address the hero’s powers, and so he did, exploring Arthur Curry’s cavalier cowboy-meets-biker-meets-rock-star mentality along the way.
In short, Aquaman doesn’t specifically talk to fish in the movie. However, as he reveals to Batman, who asks the question a couple of times, he does have a telepathic connection that allows him to sense the energy and currents in the ocean, recognizing disturbances in, not just the water, but the sea life as well. That’s the gift he tries to use to track Steppenwolf, and is what he deploys in the tunnels beneath Gotham Harbor while attempting to stop a flood with his trident.
When asked by GameSpot whether Aquaman can talk to fish, Moma replied, “Not yet. I think he can hear them and they can hear him. On a larger level, when he was a kid, he knew he had something special, because he could hear them, and they could hear him,” — which ties into the actor’s claims that Aquaman did indeed send whales to save Superman in 2013’s Man of Steel.
Maybe we would have seen more of these abilities in the scenes that were cut from Justice League featuring Willem Dafoe’s character, Nuidis Vulko, serving as a mentor and guide. Instead, Aquaman’s arc is a bit compressed, and we’re left with him visiting Atlantis, fighting Steppenwolf underwater, and being goaded by Mera into recognizing his birthright. He armors up to help retrieve the Mother Boxes and we see him controlling water, swimming really fast, using super-strength, displaying near-invulnerable skin, as he usually does in the comics.
However, the definitive moment of him talking to fish never comes; it’s merely implied. Sure, fans would have loved to see him summoning sharks and sea monsters to eat Parademons like he did in Geoff Johns and Jim Lee’s Justice League revamp as part of DC Comics’ New 52. But for now, when it comes to seeing just how far can he take these telepathic powers as he dives into his aquatic destiny, we’ll have to wait for James Wan’s Aquaman to dive deeper.
Now in theaters, Justice League stars Ben Affleck as Batman, Henry Cavill as Superman, Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, Ezra Miller as The Flash, Raymond Fisher as Cyborg, Willem Dafoe as Vulko, Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta, Amber Heard as Mera and J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon.
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