Aquaman Review: Finally, a DC movie that’s worth diving right into.
It’s no secret that DC comics has gotten off to a more than shaky start with both lackluster audience and critical appeal. Thankfully, James Wan’s Aquaman carries some fun heroic moments that deliver a truly epic adventure filled with imaginative CGI and some solid comic book fan service.
Taking place after the events of Justice League, we catch up with the legendary aquatic hero, Aquaman (Jason Momoa), as he must now stop his home-world of Atlantis from starting a war with the surface world. With the help of Mera (Amber Heard) and his trainer Vulko (Willam Dafoe), Aquaman must not only reconcile with his past of being both part of Atlantis and the surface world, but stop his brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) from becoming too powerful and becoming the Ocean Master. This won’t be so easy, though, as past decisions have created new enemies in the form of a hunter (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) that will make this journey that much more challenging for Aquaman.
What feels so unique about Aquaman is how incredibly well the world is built and how different it feels to other superhero films. When we first dive into Atlantis for the first time, seeing all of bright lights, sea animals, and different kingdoms got me hooked. It literally feels like a different world and I found more and more appreciation for the different sea creatures that flew across the scene and how they impacted the Atlantis environment.
Not to mention, it all leads to one of the most epic battle sequences I’ve even seen towards the end of film. If you thought that there isn’t any cool way for a war underwater to be amazing to watch, Aquaman will make you think twice. Seeing a Mosasaurus do battle with deadly Great White sharks while Aquaman and Ocean Master to battle with tridents is both brutal and amazing all at the same time. Honestly, as a whole, there’s just such a great brutality felt throughout the whole film that makes a strong punch with each action sequence.
Momoa puts power behind each of these punches with some dumb wit and charming personality attached. He’s definitely more brawn than brain, but this leads to some funny and fun moments that anyone would want in an action-packed superhero adventure filled with both heroics and villainy. For those heroics, Aquaman is not alone as both Heard and Dafoe back him up in a mostly fine way. They don’t break the mold or anything, but they have their own enjoyable things about them to make them pleasing to see on-screen.
As for villains, there’s also some fun and interesting villains seen in both Wilson’s Ocean Master and Abdul-Mateen’s Black Manta. Both have strong personalities and carry a look that is extremely similar to their original comic book looks thanks to Wan’s determined spirit to stay true to the comic. Frankly, they were probably one of my favorite things about the film and seeing them on-screen felt pretty captivating thanks to Wan’s direction in action-sequences.
Honestly, after seeing the film, I don’t think that anyone other than Wan could’ve really adapted Aquaman so effectively. Wan captures both the joy and silliness of the Aquaman story as well as the brutal and vicious nature of the ocean. That vicious nature is definitely best captured when Aquaman and Mera make it to the trench and Wan’s horror background is made to great use. Not to mention, Wan leaves something to be desired with a solid post-credit scene that shows that Aquaman is still in hot water.
Now, I’d be lying if I said that there wasn’t anything wrong with the film and that there couldn’t be things that could be improved. There’s definitely a lot to learn about Atlantis and even after watching the film, I still couldn’t tell you everything that’s going on in that world. Everything is nice about Atlantis at face-value, but when looking deeper into the culture of Atlanteans things either feel shallow or get pulled into a riptide of gargled dialogue because of Wan’s audio effects of people talking underwater. I also wouldn’t say that Aquaman doesn’t push the genre forward or anything like that, but rather is just an immense step up from previous iterations in the DCEU.
It’s also worth pointing out that there’s definitely an over-emphasis on the use of slow-motion and some repetitive shots. While slow-motion works sometimes for some of the underwater segments, on land it just becomes kind of tiring to see and doesn’t make any of the shots it’s used in any cooler. Wan also does this thing where he will have people having a conversation that gets interrupted by an explosion that supposed to come off as surprising, but after a while just loses its effect.
For those who have been let down by the potential of the DCEU, Aquaman is definitely a nice refreshing dip in what could be the film universe’s future. While it doesn’t nail every single part of its epic superhero adventure, Aquaman still breathes enough life into a dreadful series of films for people to actually want more and, perhaps, be a firm believer in Wan and DC’s future.