With the DCEU currently undergoing a massive change in their approach to their greater Cinematic universe after the critical and financial disaster that was Justice League, one film that was always seen as a giant question mark was the story of Arthur Curry, AKA Aquaman. A character that has been notoriously been one big punchline in pop culture, that is, until the characters relaunch in the New 52 comics line, shouldn’t seem to fit within the confines of a $200 million epic. The casting of Jason Momoa proved to be a sign of what was to come, with the character now known less for his goofy origin, but for the more badass character current comics have seen.
Directed by Horror/Action-maestro James Wan, Aquaman embraces the characters silly upbringing with a Superhero epic that comes together like a big, colorful 80’s Saturday Morning Cartoon sprung to life.
In the role he was born to play, Jason Momoa’s Arthur Curry is a hero that, while brooding and a bit of a sarcastic ass, is relatable to most everyone. He’s the half-breed son of a lighthouse keeper (Temuera Morrison) and the queen of Atlantis (Nicole Kidman) which makes him the outcast in every sense. Not that we haven’t seen these types of outcast characters before, but even with Momoa’s large stature, he’s vulnerable and doubts himself at every opportunity.
When the Princess warrior, Mera (Amber Heard) shows up and warns him of his half-brother, King Orm’s plan to overthrow the world above the sea, he understandably feels unworthy to lead the charge. Momoa’s hero is a nice change of pace among the current clout of heroes.
Director James Wan sets out to show you a world you’ve never seen before. Calling in mind the likes of Avatar and Black Panther, the underwater world of Atlantis is breathtaking and new. The gorgeous visuals help transport you to a world that’s nothing less than imaginative or bold. The bright and vibrant color palette often feel like a comic ripped right off the page.
Wan, per usual, implements his unique style of sweeping camerawork and inventive transitions. The action sequences on display are some of most impressive the genre has seen in years. Too often, action directors use nauseating hand-held camerawork and quick-cut editing to the point where you can tell who’s fighting who. Wan, however, uses numerous long one-takes that showcase the impressive fight choreography executed brilliantly by the stunt team, as well as the actors.
Influenced by a catalogue of films such as Romancing the Stone and Raiders of the Lost Ark, Aquaman is very much an adventure film. When Arthur and Mera set off to find the Trident that could help defeat King Orm, they find themselves using their wits to solve ancient puzzles, avoid death traps and stay ahead of Black Manta, following the orders of Orm.
Wan keeps the pace fast, the tone fun and silly and the scale massive. Despite the 143-minute runtime, the movie rarely drags. Benefitting from the nice chemistry between Momoa and Heard, the leads are charming and the supporting cast is an added bonus.
Patrick Wilson chews the scenery as King Orm, who becomes a surprisingly intimating villain, even if he isn’t as three-dimensional as you would hope.
Nicole Kidman serves as the films emotional core as Arthur’s mother, Queen Atlanna, who was forced to leave her earth life behind. Kidman gets more to do, rather than being stuck with the mother role, than one would expect. An early fight scene with her is one of the most memorable in the entire film.
Willem Dafoe, Dolph Lundgren and newcomer Yahya Abdul-Mateen also get individual moments to shine.
Aquaman is unapologetically silly, (there’s an Octopus who plays the drums for god’s sake) but the script is at times too clunky and features more than a handful of unintentionally cringe-worthy dialogue.
Still, with Wan’s signature style, beautiful visuals, compelling story and inventive set pieces, Aquaman is a triumphant origin story that is certainly one of the best films in the DCEU, not to mention one of the most epic superhero films ever made.