DC/Warner has finally found a formula for their shared movie universe, damn the forced continuity, get rid of the darkness, and just have some fun. At its core that is what Aquaman is, a fun movie with loads of action a touch of romance, some high fantasy, a bit of horror and a whole lot of action. From start to finish James Wan has crafted an engaging movie that grabs the viewers from the onset and never lets go. It is a visual orgasm of beautifully rendered undersea CGI that is fully aware of its comic book roots, the inherent silliness of some of Aquaman’s Silver Age past, and embraces it in a manner that works in 2018. It is also a film that looks beyond the past, with but a single mention of Justice League, and looks toward a glorious future.
Aquaman the movie is many things. It is an origin story, mostly inspired from the Silver Age of comic books as lighthouse keeper Tom Curry (Temuera Morrison) rescues Queen Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) on the rocky shores of Amnesty Bay during a hurricane. The two fall in love and have a son named Arthur who will go on to become Aquaman (Jason Momoa). The updated take on the origin is that to protect her family Atlanna returns to Atlantis to fulfill her obligation to the throne and marry the King where she bears a second child Orm (Patrick Wilson). In nicely placed flashback sequences we see young Arthur come of age, first at the Boston Aquarium where he learns he can communicate with aquatic life and then training sequences with the Atlantian Kings Vizier Vulko (Willem Dafoe). Vulko is young Arthurs only link to Atlantis and at first it is out of obligation to Atlanna that Vulko trains Arthur but over time he comes to see hope in Atlanna’s first born son and the potential he has to unite the surface and the sea.
Aquaman is also a quest movie as Mera (Amber Heard) and Arthur pursue the ancient Trident of Atlan (who in the movie is an ancient Atlantian King rather than an Ancient Atlantian Sorcerer as created by Peter David) which will allow whoever bears it the chance to become king. This quest takes the duo all across the world and oceans, from the Sahara desert to Italy and eventually the Trench, for one of the films creepier scenes. The quest is fun, it allows for Arthur and Mera to grow closer to one another but is also a nice change of pace from the underwater action that the majority of the movie is submersed in. The quest portion of the film also allows Mera to become more defined as a character, from her intelligence to incredible powers that make her a force to be reckoned with.
In the end Aquaman is a great action movie. There are large scale battle scenes as Orm, the Ocean Master and Mera’s father, King Nereus (Dolph Lundgren) scheme and conspire to take the undersea world to war with the surface world over the centuries of pollution and mistreatment of the oceans (I’ll come out and state it right now, #ORMWASRIGHT). There’s also smaller action sequences, such as the incredible opening submarine sequence that not only introduces the moviegoers to Aquaman but also explains the back-story of Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and his hatred for Aquaman. Aquaman has everything from duals for the throne to all out war sequences that rival Lord of the Rings in size and scale.
I was worried about Aquaman. I was worried the wonderful world that Aquaman has built over the last 71 years wouldn’t translate to the silver screen. I shouldn’t have been since James Wan has directed an incredibly well-rounded movie with an ensemble of actors who embraced the source material. What many could see as a silly concept these actors treat the material with a respect it deserves and Wan has directed what may be the most comic book of comic book movies. The costumes hold true, Mera’s look on the page of comics is the look of the movie. Ocean Master’s distinct mask is the same that Patrick Wilson wears in the film, and they even pulled off the classic Aquaman orange shirt and green pants, which I thought I would never see but Wan, his costume designers, and Momoa pull it off and make it seem as normal as can be. I loved it. Speaking of Momoa, he makes this movie. When he was first cast for Justice League I wasn’t sure. He doesn’t look like the Aquaman of the comics but now I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing Arthur Curry on the big screen. Momoa has taken ownership of Aquaman and given him an edge, a sense of humor, strength, loyalty, and the gravitas of a king. While the cast as a whole was incredible this is a movie that doesn’t work without Momoa completely taking the character and making it his own.
Verdict: James Wan should be proud of the movie he has created. Aquaman is a fun film that has heart, comedy, romance, adventure, and lots of action. It’s a perfect way to spend two and half hours over the holiday season and I know I’m hoping for more in the future.
Director: James Wan
Cast: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Temuera Morrison, and Nicole Kidman