Directors: James Wan
Starring: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe
Length: 2h 23min
With the eventual release of Aquaman’s own origin film, James Wan delivers an epic underwater spectacle which delivers some of the most breathtaking world-building in any comic superhero movie. With a cast that delivers fairly well considering the less than stellar dialogue, Jason Momoa transforms Aquaman’s smaller role from previous DC films into a hero that can can easily, and perhaps for the success of Warner Bros. in the future, impressively stand on his own two webbed feet.
The film follows the backstory and development of Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa), the child of an Atlantean queen (Nicole Kidman) and a mortal man (Temuera Morrison), as he discovers his role in the chaos and power struggle occurring under the seas. His half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) intends to force the other underwater kingdoms to support him in waging war against the land dwellers who he believes can not coexist with their world. With the threat of Aquaman looming over Orm’s head, he hires the pirate and mercenary, Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) who already has his own personal vendetta against the hero to hunt and kill him. However, with the arrival of Mera (Amber Heard) and the support of his childhood mentor Vulko (Willem Dafoe), Aquaman learns he is the rightful king of Atlantis and must find the Trident of Atlan to be able to defeat his half-brother and save the breakout of war between the two worlds, to which he both belongs to.
The standout element of the film is the CGI extravaganza that Wan so ambitiously manages to create. The depiction of the underwater kingdoms, the incorporation of marine life into the story and the battle scenes that occur throughout the film provide an intense and awe-striking display of what a large budget and the harnessing of technology can produce. The underwater world paired along with the humour and easy going nature of Momoa’s character develops a DC movie that is surprisingly light in tone and in literal use of scenery. Praise also has to be given in particular to Momoa, Kidman and Wilson for their performances in portraying a broken family that truly does suck you into their feuding world. The ambition that Wan clearly demonstrates provides a new look for the DC universe, one that they should perhaps intend to continue to help create a cohesive comic book universe that has been thrown into turmoil recently. The climax of the film boasts a CGI heavy war scene that I personally believe is one of the most memorable and aesthetically pleasing in modern cinema, rivalling any previous DC movie; and of course as it will always be compared, just as spectacular than any of its Marvel rivals.
However, the film is not without its downfalls. The writing and dialogue for the film clearly lacks due to the heavy focus upon the special effects, with many a cringeworthy one-liners being used to fill in space; but I suppose what superhero movie doesn’t? The characterisation and portrayal of Mera by Heard is also very questionable, as the dull persona that she exudes seems to be a deadweight upon the relaxed shoulders of Aquaman. This then develops into the cliché romance that for a moment, it appeared the film would avoid, but Wan caves in to the norms of cinema and pairs the hero with his heroine. Although, I must admit, the romance culminates in one of the most visually stunning kiss scenes I have ever seen in a movie, but I’m not quite sure that makes up for the eye roll worthy predictability of the pairing. Overall, apart from a few unnecessary plot holes, and the fact that the film to some extent gives the secondary villain more characterisation than their primary villain which works to little effect; the film stands strong within the DC universe, only rivalled by Wonder Woman.
So, with the exploration of a new style and tone by DC that provides a much more enjoyable experience for moviegoers, it will be interesting to see how Warner Bros. choose their direction for the adventures to come in the universe. With the hopeful second outing of Aquaman at some point in the near future, the audience can expect to witness a character and world that is more than worthy of its own series, and a story that I would love to see be told.
Also, some honourable mentions to look out for and to look forward to in the film; an octopus playing the bongos, a very large crab that would give anyone nightmares and a trip far far underground that is very reminiscent of a film series of the past!