“Aquaman” stars Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Nicole Kidman. Released on December 21, 2018, the film has Arthur Curry leading his people against his half-brother and a ruthless mercenary.
The film is directed by James Wan, who also directed films such as “Saw”, “Insidious”, “The Conjuring”, and “Furious 7”. It is based on the DC Comics character of the same name created by Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris. It is also the sixth installment in the DC Extended Universe. Just because the DC cinematic universe is still suffering from its problems, it doesn’t mean that it’s willing to give up so easily. Last year, the DCEU was finally able to find some sort of footing thanks to the success of “Wonder Woman”, but later on, it fell back to square one due to the underwhelming results of “Justice League”. This year, the superhero franchise is looking to regain its footing in the form of “Aquaman”. Not only does it serve as another solo film in the DCEU, but the film also serves as the first full-length feature film centered around the DC character who’s known for swimming around with a trident and communicating with fish. Is he related to King Triton from “The Little Mermaid”? I was pretty excited to see how it turns out because I thought Jason Momoa was really enjoyable in his role in “Justice League”. Another reason is the addition of director James Wan, who proved to me that he can handle the action genre just as well as he handled the horror genre. So far, I happened to enjoy every installment in DC’s divisive cinematic universe, so let’s see if this latest chapter sinks or swims.
Taking place a year after the events of “Justice League”, the story follows Arthur Curry (Momoa), a half-Atlantean/half-human who continues to live his own life. He then comes across Mera (Heard), an Atlantean warrior who seeks his help in overthrowing his half-brother, Orm (Wilson), before he sends the seven underwater kingdoms to destroy the surface world. In addition to Orm, Arthur and Mera will also have to battle a technological hunter known as Black Manta (Abdul-Mateen II). In order for them to complete this task, they’ll have to retrieve a magic artifact that belonged to the first ruler of Atlantis so that Curry can reclaim his rightful place as king. This is another DCEU installment that relies on the light-hearted and adventurous tone as opposed to the dark and violent approach that was shown in “Batman V Superman”. It does look like that DC is copying Marvel in terms of the tone, but that’s practically one of the reasons why the DCEU is still standing after taking in a few major blows to its head. I mean, it worked well for “Wonder Woman”, so why not “Aquaman”? As I mentioned before, this is the first time we see this superhero take center stage in his own film after showcasing his impressive powers in “Batman V Superman” and “Justice League”. So how in the world is he going to impress his audience again without the help of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman? Simple, by making the movie just as cool as he is, which is exactly what he did for the most part. Despite a few silly moments and its messy pacing, the film has enough charm and entertainment value to keep me underwater for almost two and a half hours, which is far more easier than actually staying underwater for two and a half hours. As for the story itself, let’s just say that this is what happens when DC made its own version of “Black Panther” and have it set underneath the sea. I know it sounds dumb, but that’s exactly what I thought of while watching this film. There were some elements I found from “Aquaman” that reminded me of “Black Panther”, including the characters using technology in a city that no one believed existed. Don’t believe me? Watch both of these films back-to-back and see for yourselves…or not, that’s completely up to you. Going back to the story, it didn’t offer anything new to the superhero genre that’ll impress anyone outside of its target audience, but that’s hardly the case since James Wan was able to provide a suitable narrative that fits well with the film’s visual style. Jason Momoa once again delivered a fresh and fun take on the DC superhero while also staying true to the character’s nature. Momoa still retains the sense of humor that he’s known for from “Justice League”, which I liked, but he never lost sight at giving his audience actual reasons why they should care about his character. Amber Heard and Willem Dafoe were also a delight to watch as Mera and Nuidis Vulko, respectively. Patrick Wilson had a few good moments as Orm, the film’s main antagonist who had a pretty understandable reason why he’s declaring war against the surface world. A bit stupid, but understandable. My only flaw with the characters is Black Manta himself, who is played by Abdul-Mateen II. I liked the character design for Black Manta, but his motives were pretty generic to me and he’s only there to set up a sequel or two if this film does well at the box office. Similar to “Furious 7”, “Aquaman” has plenty of action sequences that require Wan’s unique direction and some wide-angle panning to make them easier to follow, whether they’re fighting underwater or on the surface. The action was fun, a bit intense, and well-choreographed. The visual effects were astounding in terms of the set designs and the sea creatures, especially the horrific beings known as The Trench. Yikes, talk about nightmare fuel. The CGI can be a bit chaotic at times, especially during the third act, but everything else that relies on it will make you want to visit that world yourself.
Overall, “Aquaman” was able to swim its way to the top despite its familiar elements and messy pacing. It doesn’t top “Wonder Woman” as my favorite solo film in the DCEU, but I had fun watching it, regardless. The cast worked well together, especially Momoa and Heard, the action and the visuals were top-notch, and the narrative was cliched, yet effective. Looks like the DCEU’s road to recovery is off to a pretty healthy start...again. Here’s hoping it will continue with next year’s “Shazam!”. If you’re a fan of the DC character and if you enjoyed Momoa in “Justice League”, there’s a good chance you’ll like this one as well.