There’s no denying that the DCEU (or World of DC, or whatever you want to call it) hasn’t been the most consistently loved things. But with Wonder Woman (and its sequel), Shazam!, Birds of Prey, and more on the way, it seems like the “ship is being righted”…if you felt it was adrift at all. But, none of that will matter if Aquaman doesn’t hit the mark in the most important way possible. But as you read this Aquaman review, I hope you’ll see that this movie isn’t just good, it’s great, and it’s something you should treasure.
I feel I should start this Aquaman r44eview by talking about how some people I know (and very much respect) went to this movie and didn’t like it, and then started to encourage people not to watch it. I don’t like that kind of thinking, and if I and my family (who I saw this with) had listened to them, we wouldn’t have enjoyed this amazing experience. So let me start off by saying if you want to go see Aquaman, go see Aquaman! And don’t let anyone stop you.
Anyway, onto the movie.
Aquaman had a very, VERY, difficult job ahead of it. It was the first DC live-action movie after Justice League‘s lukewarm run at the box office. What’s more, it starred a character that many felt would never get a live-action film because of his “colorful” history in other media, mainly, his time on Super Friends. But James Wan used his love of the character to build one of the most impressive visual spectacles and fun stories you’ll ever see.
From the very beginning, we see how the parents of Aquaman meet, and it’s both gripping and hilarious, all the while having Jason Momoa narrating why this was of great importance in numerous ways. As we flash through time (through some incredible and seamless transitions), we see how the present is shaped by the love between those parents, leading to their warrior son taking down some pirates on a submarine.
Jason Momoa has honestly done the best he could with the time he had in BVS and Justice League (the latter more than the former obviously), but here, in his first solo film, he gets to shine like never before. He’s as brash as he was in Justice League, James Wan doesn’t pull that back. But, he also infuses a lot of fun and hilarity into the mix that makes him a very rounded character. In fact, as a guy who has read Aquaman since his legendary reboot in the New 52 reboot (by none other than Geoff Johns, whose run heavily inspired this film), I actually enjoy Momoa’s take on the character more than the comic version. Not that there’s anything wrong with that version, it’s just that Momoa’s is more fun and entertaining.
For while Momoa still plays the “I’m a child of two worlds” card, and does it very well, he also embraces the fact that he’s a guy with superpowers, and that he can do a lot of stuff with them, including party, and drink, which he loves to do.
Naturally, things escalate with the return of Mera (played by Amber Heard, more on her in a bit), who warns that the surface is in danger from his half-brother Orm (who later becomes Ocean Master). The quest soon begins for them to take down Orm, and reclaim the Throne of Atlantis (comic book reference!) for Arthur in order to save everyone, who naturally doesn’t want it.
Easily the most important thing about an Aquaman film is the rendition of Atlantis. Not unlike how Black Panther had to show Wakanda in a big way, and Thor with Asgard, or even Superman with Krypton. This is another world, yet one we’ve all pictured and dreamed about. James Wan brought his (and his artists and teams) A-game to it, as Atlantis is not only full of life and wonder, but is beautiful from the top down. Wan embraces the mythology of the comics, and even expands it a buy by talking about the “Seven Tribes” of Atlantis that once ruled under King Atlan. Every tribe is different, and we see a majority of them in the film, and it’s really cool.
Oh, and for those wondering why there are underwater ships in Atlantis when they can breath underwater, they explain that, and it’s actually a really fun explanation.
Most of the film is set in underwater areas, and it’s beautifully rendered to make you think that they actually filmed much of it underwater (a lot of scenes they did actually, Wan wanted practical effects). And yes, while there are some hokey elements (everyone seems to point out the drum-playing octopus…apparently not realizing that’s a callback to a Silver Age character named Topo…), it doesn’t weight the film down.
Aside from Momoa, the rest of the cast shines in every way. Amber Heard already made an impression as Mera in Justice League, but here, she’s given more to work with like Momoa, and she’s awesome. Heard actually mentioned that she wants a Wonder Woman/Mera movie, and I support that! Mera is a boss, and she’s as fiery as her hair is red. She takes no crap from Arthur in the movie, and their dynamic is hilarious and touching at the same time. Plus, she kicks but in numerous scenes, numerous!
Then there’s William Dafoe as Vulko, Arthur’s trainer and advisor. Though not as long a role as I’d like it to be, he does his job very well. As does Nicole Kidman as Queen Atlanna, who easily gets the nod for one of the best fight scenes in the movie, of which there are several, but her’s stands out. Dolph Lundgren was a big surprise as King Nereus. Like Vulko, his role is small, but he makes his presence felt as a fellow king.
Other characters help bring things to life, and that’s even talking about the villains of Ocean Master and Black Manta.
I could fill this Aquaman review singing the praises of Black Manta (played by Yahyha Abdul-Mateen II), but I won’t, because I’m already over 1000 words! But, needless to say, James Wan and the team killed it with him. The look, the backstory, the action scenes, the teases of the future (of which there are many!), it’s all top notch. And by the end, you’ll understand why he’s Aquaman’s greatest villain.
That’s not to say that Ocean Master wasn’t good, far from it, Patrick Wilson plays a great Ocean Master. And unlike the animated film Throne of Atlantis, he doesn’t ham him up to infinity. Rather, he plays a cunning manipulator who slowly turns to madness the closer he gets to his goal. It’s very compelling, and the twist at the end with him is just as compelling, as it opens ups new avenues for him in the future.
Let’s talk action. James Wan promised a lot in terms of spectacle, and he delivered. From the Atlanna fight scene, to the two duels between Aquaman and Ocean Master, to the fight through the entire town of Sicily featuring Manta and his squad against Arthur and Mera, and of course, the big underwater war at the end, there’s a LOT of action. And it all looks awesome! Seriously, the use of one-shot camera motions is done in a way that will make both sides of the comic book equation happy (as it’s very much like Daredevil in certain ways). There’s so much going on at times that you won’t believe that they made it work like they do, and yet, they do!
But arguably most importantly of all, and I can’t stress this enough in this Aquaman review, is that the movie is just plain fun! Seriously, me and my family enjoyed it from start to finish. A friend of mine named Leia even gave it a better review score than what I’m going to give it! We were smiling from ear-to-ear watching this film. It’s filled with so much visual wonder, hilarious moments, compelling dialogue and story themes, and epic action that’ll keep your heart pounding until the end credits, and then beyond them.
James Wan said that he poured everything he had into this film, and it shows. He took everything “negative” about Aquaman as a character and turned it into a positive. After this film, you won’t think that talking to fish is dumb, you won’t think that a man in an orange outfit is weird looking (seriously, the costume looks awesome), and you will believe that a fishman riding a seahorse is one of the most awesome things you’ll have seen all year.
That being said, there are some small downpoints here. For example, in the beginning, there is some big exposition scenes, especially with Black Manta. Second, Vulko is a key part of Arthur’s story, but it’s never made clear how or when he made contact with him. It’s implied that Queen Atlanna sent him, but his “meeting” with him is never shown, and that felt odd. Also, they note many times that Queen Atlanna was “executed” by her people, but they never show it, and so you know that she is alive, which kind of ruins the return moment near the end a bit.
And yes, there are some moments and lines that are a bit too cheesy, even for Aquaman and James Wan.
But even despite all of that, Aquaman is a triumph of the DCEU. It proves that Aquaman is an A-List DC Comics hero, that Atlantis is a place we all deserve to see on the big screen, and that James Wan can most definitely deliver on his promises.
Aquaman is a true love-letter to those who have believed in the character from the start. Do yourself a favor, go see this film, and believe in the King of the Seven Seas.
Aquaman is the movie that this character deserves. Full of life and visual wonder, a revamped personality, a great supporting cast, epic action scenes, and lots of potential for the future. Home is calling, don’t miss the call.
- Powerful Visuals
- Great Storytelling
- Amazing Cast
- Epic Battle Sequences
- Some Story Elements Not Explained Properly
- Some Excessive Silliness