The long, what felt like an eternal, wait is over and Aquaman is finally out in theaters living up to its already glowing reception with critics and audiences. I’m here to tell you this movie is everything you could hope for if you were let down by Zack’s Snyderverse and Justice League. It is a fish that can definitely swim and steer the DC version of the shared universe concept at Warner Bros. in a better direction.
Choppy waters were the norm after Man of Steel and the obsession to shoehorn so many characters together in a short period of time to try and compete with Marvel. While they don’t look to be repudiating that continuity or its foundation, we are getting a return to formula, one started by Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and perfected at Warner in Wonder Woman, that allows us to invest in one character’s story at a time.
Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) and his parents’, Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) and Tom “Keeper of Lighthouse” Curry (Temuera Morrison), star-crossed romance are the heart of the plot. The action and drama arise when Atlanteans show up to retrieve Atlanna and force her to return, leaving her son and the man she loves behind. Years later, Metahumans are out of the bottle and Mera (Amber Heard) shows up again to coax Arthur to Atlantis to stop his long-lost brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) from declaring war on the surface world. To do this, they have to act in secret to track down the fabled Trident of Atlan — a weapon only Atlantis’s true king can possess — and beat up assorted bad guys and henchmen along the way, including Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II).
Often a movie is only as good as its villains. Manta gets a fair amount of time as a recurring threat, establishing backstory and creating his trademark armor, but Orm is the one everything revolves around. Patrick Wilson does a fair job as Orm, who also goes by Oceanmaster, and plays against type for himself. He usually plays a nice guy role with a likability, sometimes a dopiness, hiding a mean streak just beneath the surface. Playing Owl Man in Watchmen, Wilson is a veteran of both DC films and Zack Snyder’s work. Wilson is a favorite of director James Wan, having starred in most of his films of the last decade. Here, he suits up into full comic book villainy with the right amount of megalomania.
Orm’s motives for attacking the land are paper-thin enviro-cliches put to better use in Avengers: Infinity War, but his conflict with his half-brother Arthur gives the script the dramatic weight it needs. And it’s a fully loaded storyline, borrowing heavily from New 52 Aquaman. The Trench figures in as one of the Kingdoms of the Ocean — and that could occupy its own movie as it did its own comic saga in 2012. Wan has so much fun with everything available to him throughout the character’s storied history he adds more than he has to. There is enough world building for multiple movies. A fraction of the content could have sated fans and moviegoers between now and the next installment.
Words like “sprawling” and “spectacle” get thrown around a lot in early reviews and those words aren’t to be taken lightly. The world of the deep is given its due; each location and fiefdom having a distinct look and feel. Atlantis proper is expectedly on the Hellenistic side peppered with futurist Oz-like architecture and some steampunk at times for good measure.
The Look and Feel
Color schemes are vibrant as can be. Where there aren’t bright neon colors lighting the waterways, rivaling anything from Thor: Ragnarok, tonal colors pop off the screen, an effect probably geared more toward IMAX and 3D. But it works just as well in standard-def. The Atlantean throne room and other royal palaces are this striking, polished white motif reminiscent of a sterile environment. Military uniforms and arms reflect a similar sense of keeping their stuff looking polished and brand-new.
Taking another page out of Ragnarok is the impressive synth-rock score. Music with 80s flavor is all the rage, something you’ll also notice about Bumblebee. The nostalgia comes a decade too late as far as VH1 retrospectives are concerned but it fits the mood of Aquaman’s nonstop action and modern-day sword and sandal appeal. Aquaman himself gets a new theme for when he springs into action, a metal guitar lick that is quite impressive. Thankfully, he doesn’t have to pay rights to The White Stripes for it either.
Aquaman ushers in the new beginning for the DCEU, whether that includes anymore Superman, Batman, or not. As with Wonder Woman, this should mean more solo adventures and more characters who don’t normally bask in the limelight. Marvel built its studio and reputation on such a model. Warner is finally getting how it is supposed to work. That includes, yes, a mid-credit scene.
- Jason Momoa
- Black Manta
- James Wan's vision and creative freedom in guiding the ship
- Little too much for one movie
- Resembles a Marvel movie almost to the point it could hold the movie down in the long run